Cyprian (Pyzhov)

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Archimandrite Kyprian (Pyzhov) was a monastic and icon painter of the twentieth century Russian emigration under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Known for the iconography of many churches in the United States of America, he led the icon-painting studio at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York until his repose.


Kyrill Dimitrievich Pyzhov (Кирилл Дмитриевич Пыжов) was born on January 20, 1904 in St. Petersburg, Russia to Dimitri Mikhailovich Pyzhov and his wife Alexandra Konstantinovna, nee Strinskaya. His father was appointed the regional supervisor of the Bezhetsk district in the province of Tver soon after Kyrill Dimitrievich's birth. His mother, who died in 1912, was an artist. She had graduated from the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture and worked in the studios of Makovsky, Polenov, and Perov. She followed in the foot steps of her father, who had graduated from the Academy of Art in Florence.

After the February Revolution in 1917, Dimitri Mikhailovich and his three sons, Eugene, Kyrill, and George, moved to Petrograd, where they endured hunger and cold. Late in 1918, they moved to Shchigri in the Kursk province. Then, when the White Army arrived in Kursk, the Pyzhovs made their way to Simferopol in the Crimea. While in Simferopol, Kyrill, 15-years old volunteered as a soldier and was sent to the front and endured the tribulations of the Volunteer Army, including evacuation from the Crimea and service at Gallipoli. There, Kyrill joined the Alexandrov Military School at which he studied for three years until it was closed in 1923. Then traveling through Bulgaria, Kyrill moved to France where he joined his older brother, Eugene.

In Paris, Kyrill worked in a studio that made toy horses before he joined a designers workshop in the Russian studio "Films Albatross," where he participated in creating the film Don Quixote, in which Feodor Chaliapin playing the lead role. After Kyrill moved to Paris, he was soon joined by his father and brother George. The three then began working as painters, while during the evenings, Kyrill and George attended Montparnasse School of painting and drawing, where professors from the Ecole des Beaux Arts taught.

While living in Paris, Kyrill began feeling ill. Diagnosed as suffering with tuberculosis, he was advised to move south. The French design firm sent Kyrill as an expert to its office on the Riviera, where he soon regained his health and began decorating fashionable villas. In Nice, Kyrill lived with his brother, Hieromonk Gregory. Kyrill became an ardent parishioner of the local cathedral, where he befriended priest Alexander Elchaninov. Under Father Alexander's influence, Kyrill immersed himself in the study of the Orthodox faith, and he begins sensing a pull towards the Church and church services. He began to study the techniques of icon painting under Fr. Alexander's matushka, a student of the artist Sofronov.

During the summer of 1932, Hieromonk Savva (Struve) arrived in Nice to collect donations for Ladomirovo Monastery in Czechoslovakia. As Fr. Savva showed photographs of the monastery, Kyrill awoke to the desire to help distribute its publications. Fr. Savva's response was that the best way to help the monastery would be that Kyrill go to Ladomirovo and apply his abilities there. When Kyrill noted he lacked an international passport, Fr. Savva offered to write an appeal to Archimandrite Vitaly to accept Kyrill as a novice, and to send an invitation to him. Fr. Savva added that Kyrill could paint frescoes in their new church an idea that Kyrill liked. Arriving during the winter of 1933 before the Nativity of Christ, Kyrill began his first frescoed decoration of a church, a canvas of his talent, that was completed in 1934.

That autumn, Bishop Vitaly tonsured the Novice Kyrill to the rassophore with name Kyprian. His tonsure to the Mantiya as stavrophore was performed in 1937. In 1938, Monk Kyprian was ordained a hierodeacon. In 1940, with Europe at war, Metropolitan Anastasy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, arriving from Yugoslavia, ordained Fr. Kyprian to the rank of hieromonk.

As the Soviet army began to approach Czechoslovakia in 1944, the monastery's brethren evacuated through Bratislava to Berlin, where they found shelter in a half-ruined house. Fr. Kyprian, suffering from pneumonia, was sent to a convent dormitory across from a church, whose rector was Archimandrite John (Shahovskoy). While recuperating, Fr. Kyprian entered the church and noticed on the candle desk printed copies of icons he painted for a Dresden commission. After his recovery, Fr. Kyprian and the monks continued their escape from Berlin, first to Geneva, then the United States, to a final destination after his wanderings, Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York.

"My very first days in Holy Trinity Monastery," remembered Fr. Kyprian, "reminded me of my first days at the Monastery at Ladomirovo in Carpathian Russia". This feeling did not last, as he soon had set up an icon-painting studio and was joined by the Novice Nikolai whom he had met in Germany before their escape. Nikolai, who had been tonsured with the name of Alypy in honor of the icon-painter of Pechersk, became an irreplaceable helper, both in the studio and in obedience, as an emulator of the ancient monk of Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, Hieromonk Alypy.

In 1946, the monastery began building a brick church dedicated to the Holy Trinity of which Fr. Kyprian and Mk. Alypy painted the interior. In 1950, the church was completed, including the iconographic painting of the interior, and consecrated by Metr. Anastassy. Fr. Kyprian continued his painting of the newly built four-story monastic residence at the monastery, which also contained the monastery print shop, offices, and refectory. Then, Fr. Kyprian continued with the icon-painting of a small church dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God, designed by V. Glinin, and built in the monastic cemetery.

During the following years, Fr. Kyprian fulfilled commissions for painting the interiors of a number of churches. These included, in the United States, the Entrance into the Temple Church in Syracuse, New York, St. John of Kronstadt Memorial Church in Utica, New York, the Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco, California and, in Europe, in 1982, the newly built Church of SS Peter and Paul in Luxembourg. In 1988, he painted the frescoes in St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, New Jersey, that was built with the blessing of Archbishop Vitaly.

During his tenure leading the icon-painting studio at Holy Trinity Monastery, Fr. Kyprian educated a generation of iconographers throughout the world who painted icons in the canonical ecclesiastical style. As the spiritual father of monks and seminarians, Fr. Kyprian also educated many future archpastors and pastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Fr. Kyprian reposed in April 15, 2001, and is buried in the crypt under the altar of the Monastery Cathedral.