Metropolitan Serapion and the fire in Kyiv in 1811

Metropolitan Serapion and the fire in Kyiv in 1811

As you know, in 1811, in three days, from 9 to 11 July, due to a fire that broke out near the Zhytnii Rynok [Rye Market] in Podil, much part of Kyiv was simply destroyed.

This event impressed the contemporaries so much that it gave rise to many rumors and conspiracy theories, which, incidentally, have survived to the present day. According to one such theory, the fire was staged by French spies who tried to undermine Russian influence in Kyiv. Well, such thoughts are interesting, but not more…

One of the witnesses of that ancient fire was the then Kyiv Metropolitan Serapion Alexandrovskyi, who left voluminous diary entries. Among other interesting information, there are records related to the Great Fire.

His personal impressions of that event are found in the record only on July 14 (part of the diary is lost): “There was a fire: and on the Pechersk church almost opposite the Volodymyrska church, and the house of wójt Rybalskyi burned down: and this fire caused such fear that everyone chose all their estates from their houses; and they took it out into the field: so we also carried the entire sacristy of the Bishops out into the exit, which we didn’t sleep in the barn, and we didn’t sleep almost the whole night: they carried my boxes, wine and vodka in the basement.” This record testifies both to the strong personal impressions of the metropolitan, which he received, and to the general mood that prevailed in Kyiv at that time.

After the Great Fire, having already recovered, Serapion was forced to join the process of rebuilding Kyiv. He met on this issue with both the Kyiv administration and his clergy. So, on August 11 the metropolitan met with the Kyiv architect (the surname isn’t specified in the diary, but, most likely, – it was Andrii Melenskyi) with whom he discussed plans of restoration works: “… there was an architect with the plan of the local case where singers and bell ringers live; which he would do for academics: and said that in the former fire of July 8, burned 1240: yards; and in place of them, according to the new plan, only up to 300 yards can be relied on.”

On August 28, Serapion Alexandrovskyi made an inspection visit to the monasteries of Kyiv affected by the disaster, in particular, he visited Florivskyi, Hretskyi and Bratskyi ones. On the same day he also met Archpriest Ioann Levanda. The latter was noted for his active support of Kyiv residents in the fight against the fire and its consequences. As the metropolitan wrote: “… Archpriest Levanda appeared for the first time after the fire, and as a burnt he was given 100 rubles.”

The fire was mentioned in Kyiv for a long time. The following year, April 14, 1812, the Metropolitan noted in his diary his trip to the Assumption Cathedral in Podil (better known as the Church of the Mother of God Pyrohoshcha), where he conducted a service of gratitude for the 34 200 rubles allocation of Emperor Alexander I to the Kyiv clergy who suffered during the fire. Quite a sum…

Metropolitan Serapion’s diaries also mention other fires that sometimes occurred in Kyiv, but the Great Fire of 1811, of course, left a special mark on his memory…


Prepared by Oksana Lastovska