Joannicus and Sophronius Likhud

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The hieromonks Joannicus and Sophronius Likhud, also Ioannikios and Sophronios Leichoudes, were two learned Greek brothers who in the seventeenth century led the establishment of the Slavo-Greco-Latin Academy, the first higher educational institution in Moscow and predecessor to the Moscow Theological Academy.


Joannes and Spyridon Likhud were born on the Greek Ionian island of Cephalonia, Joannes in 1633 and Spyridon in 1652. They received the names Joannicus and Sophronius when they were tonsured into a monastic life. They received their education in Venice, studying philosophy and theology in Greek-run schools. In 1670, Sophronius received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Padua. Between 1670 and 1683, the brothers worked as teachers and preachers in Cephalonia and in other Greek communities within the Ottoman Empire. In 1683, they arrived in Constantinople and taught and preached in the court of the Patriarch of Constantinople.

In 1682, Patriarch Joachim of Moscow wrote to Patriarch Dositheus of Jerusalem asking him to send to Russia some educated Orthodox scholars to open an academy that would offset the influence of the Latin party in Moscow. Dositheus responded by dispatching the brothers Joannicus and Sophronius. After their arrival in Moscow in 1685, the brothers established the Slavo-Greco-Latin Academy on the premises of the Zaikonospassky Monastery, and became involved in a heated debate concerning reforms in the liturgy known as the Eucharist conflict that had arisen around the Kievan reforms of the monk Sylvester Medvedev.

The brothers taught in the Academy until 1694 when they were discharged for attempted flight after a scandal involving one of their relatives. The following years in Moscow for the brothers proved to be turbulent as they worked as translators in the Moscow Printing Office and as tutors of Italian. Their situation was made worse when they were also accused of heresy by one of their former students. Between 1698 and 1706, they were transferred to various monasteries, both in Moscow and in other towns, where they continued their literary activities.

In 1706, the brothers were sent to Novgorod, where they established a school under the supervision of Metropolitan Job. In 1707, Sophronius was recalled to Moscow where he worked at a Greek school. Joannicus continued to teach in Novgorod until 1716, when he joined his brother in Moscow. Joannicus died in 1717. After his brother's death, Sophronius continued teaching until 1723, when he was elevated to archimandrite of the Solotsinsky monastery in Ryazan, a position he retained until his repose in 1730.


The two brothers authored or coauthored many polemical, philosophical, and theological works, in addition to sermons, panegyrics, and orations. More importantly were the textbooks for their students of which a large part were adaptations of those used in Jesuit colleges. Through their educational activities, the Likhud brothers, though Orthodox, presented to their students the Jesuit interpretation of Aristotelian philosophy and the Baroque culture of contemporary Europe. As such, they contributed to the westernization of the Russian elite and prepared them to accept the reforms of Peter the Great.