Theodore of Novgorod

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The Righteous Theodore of Novgorod, Fool-for-Christ, was an ascetic of the fourteenth century in Novgorod, Russia who, through "mimical" warfare with the Blessed Nicholas Kochanov, strove to end internecine strife between citizens of the Torgov and Sophia sides of Novgorod. His feast day is January 19.


Blessed Theodore of Novgorod was the son of pious parents who were wealthy citizens of Novgorod. Raised in strict Christian piety, he took on himself the ascetic deed of foolishness for Christ's sake when he reached the age of maturity. He gave all his possessions to the poor, and lived in great poverty until the end of his life, not even having a roof over his head, nor warm clothes on cold days.

Having discovered a mutual enmity between the citizens of the Torgov quarter of Novgorod and those of the Sophia quarter, Theodore pretended to be feuding with the Blessed Nicholas Kochanov who lived in asceticism on the Sophia side of Novgorod. When Theodore would happen to cross over the Volkhov River bridge to the Sophia side, Nicholas would pushed him back over to the Torgov side. Theodore would do the same thing when Nicholas chanced upon crossing to the Torgov side. Thus, while spiritually in agreement with each other, by their unusual behavior the blessed ones reminded the people of Novgorod of the folly of their own internecine strife, that often ended in bloody skirmishes.

Theodore also possessed the gift of clairvoyance. By warning people to see to their bread, he was actually predicting an impending famine. Another time he observed, "This will be bare, it will be fine for sowing turnips," thus predicting a fire that devastated the streets of the Torgov quarter. Blessed Theodore also foresaw his own end when he said to the people of Novgorod, "Farewell, I'm going far away."

During his life, the citizens of Novgorod had a high regard for Theodore and saw him as a saint pleasing to God. At his request, the holy fool Theodore was buried at Lubyanitsa in the Torgov quarter after his death in the year 1392, in the church of the holy Great Martyr George at the porch where Theodore usually spent his time in unceasing prayer. A chapel was later built over his holy relics.