Barlaam of the Kiev Caves

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Our venerable father Barlaam of the Kiev Caves was a companion monk of Anthony of the Kiev Caves and the first hegumen of the Caves monastery. His feast day is November 19.


Barlaam was born in Kiev, as the son of the chief boyar of Prince Iziaslav, John Vyshatich. The date of his birth is not known. He was a strong, tall young man who, although he was decisive, bold, and practiced martial arts, was also religious and lived a pure life. He often visited the monks who lived in the caves of Kiev. The Gospel made a deep impression upon him. He did not look for glory and found in the lives of the monks the Christian life he was looking for. Barlaam decided to join this life and become a monk.

When he approached the Venerable Anthony to join him, Anthony, while affirming his worthy and blessed desire, expressed concern that the riches and honors of this world would cause Barlaam to turn away. Barlaam returned to his home with greater resolve. He returned the next day finely attired and on his horse, accompanied by servants leading other horses loaded with expensive goods. As the monks came out to greet him he fell to the ground at their feet. He took off his fine boyar garments and placed them before Anthony. He went on say that all his worldly goods he was giving to the monks to do as they willed. He further said he was doing this to acquire Christ and to live in the caves of the monastery. He then affirmed that he was not going home.

After Anthony urged Barlaam to consider his decision seriously, Barlaam said he would not return to the world even if his father beat him. He, then, asked for immediate tonsure. Even though Anthony knew Barlaam’s deep faith he did not want to be responsible for his soul and firmly urged him to return to the world that he had left with such firm resolve. Barlaam did not relent. So, that day Barlaam was granted the monastic tonsure. That was in 1056.

On learning what his son had done, his father came in force to the caves, chased off the monks, dragged his son out of the cave, and forcibly stripped him of his monastic habit. His father then had him clothed in the manner of a boyar, and took him home. For three days his father tried all means to sway him from his decision, but without avail. In the end his father relented and Barlaam returned to the monastery.

As the cave monastery grew to twelve monks Anthony moved to another cave that he had dug on a nearby hill. Upon leaving what became the Far Caves he named Barlaam the hegumen and his successor in the monastery. In 1058, Barlaam began the construction of a small wooden church over the caves dedicated to the Dormition of Our Lady. In 1062, Prince Iziaslav Yaroslavich established the monastery dedicated to the Holy Martyr Dmitrius and asked Barlaam to be the Father Superior.

Barlaam twice made pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the Holy Land and later to Constantinople. On his return to Kiev from the visit to Constantinople he became ill. He finally reached the Zymne monastery near Vladimir-Volinsky, where he died peacefully on November 19, 1065. He was buried in the Kiev Caves Monastery. He was glorified in the eleventh century.

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