1681 – 1736
Who was Theophan Prokopovich?
Feofan/Theophan Prokopovich was an archbishop and statesman in the Russian Empire, of Ukrainian descent. He elaborated and implemented Peter the Great's reform of the Russian Orthodox Church. One of the founding fathers of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Prokopovich wrote much religious verse and some of the most enduring sermons in the Russian language.
From a merchant family, he distinguished himself at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy of Kiev, subsequently completing his education in Poland, and at Rome in the College of the Propaganda. Primed with all the knowledge of the West, he returned home to seek his fortune, and, as an Orthodox monk, became one of the professors at, and subsequently rector of, the academy of Kiev. He entirely reformed the teaching of theology there, substituting the historical method of the German theologians for the former Orthodox scholastic system.
In 1709 Russian Emperor Peter I, while passing through Kiev, was struck by the eloquence of Prokopovich in a sermon on the Battle of Poltava, and in 1716 summoned him to St Petersburg. From henceforth it was Prokopovich's duty and pleasure to explain the new ideas and justify the most alarming innovations from the pulpit. He became so invaluable to the civil power that despite the determined opposition of the Russian clergy, who regarded the "Light of Kiev" as an interloper and semi-heretic, he was rapidly promoted, becoming, in 1718, bishop of Pskov, and finally, in 1725, archbishop of Novgorod.¹
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