Posted: 18.05.2023 12:03:00

Defender of the faith, comforter of hearts

Righteous Sofia Slutskaya is prayed for healing, peace and new addition to the family

The ringing of bells announces the beginning of the church service. Strings of parishioners flock to the Church of the Holy Righteous Sofia Slutskaya in Minsk. Believers love this place for a special atmosphere of solemnity and peace. There are goodness and peace even in the singing of the choir. It is a great joy to be part of this. Bow to the icon of the saint, ask for help or thank — everyone chooses his own. Sofia Slutskaya protects and instructs even four centuries after her death. Legends still circulate about her spiritual feat.

From the Olelkovich family

Sofia was born into a noble family, she is the daughter of the Slutsk prince Yury Olelkovich (a descendant of Grand Duke Olgerd). Sofia’s grandmother is the famous Anastasia, who led the defence of Slutsk after the invasion of the Tatar Khan Bahadır I Giray. No less heroic was the fate of her granddaughter: “Sofia lost her parents early, at the age of two she became an orphan. And a rich heiress: she got the third part of the family fortune. When her uncles, Alexander and Jan-Simeon, died a few years later, the rest of the possessions of the Olelkovich family passed to the girl. Sofia has become the richest bride in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Then there was the issue of guardianship. But this is just the beginning of an exciting story,” Father Dmitry, the priest of the Church of the Holy Righteous Sofia Slutskaya narrates about the intricacies of fate.
Many wanted to become guardians of the heiress. But the right was defended by relatives on the maternal side — the Khodkeviches. They brought up the orphan in strict Christian traditions. Sopfia’s father, by the way, was also a pious man. Like all Olelkoviches, he supported Orthodoxy in his lands, although the faith was persecuted.
Wealthy grooms claimed for a fabulously rich bride. The guardians married her to Janusz Radziwill, the son of the noble Krzysztof Radziwill, nicknamed Perun. It is worth mentioning: before, the bride was not asked what she wanted, and the existence of the marriage contract was hidden. Although some historians say that Sofia was treated more noblely: the 19-year-old groom often visited the Khodkeviches Palace in Vilna, where she lived. The newlywed, by the way, just turned 14 years old.

Marriage for peace

The Church of the Holy Righteous Sofia Slutskaya
The wedding was scheduled, but the unexpected happened. Sopfia’s guardian quarreled with the groom’s father, Krzysztof, because he wanted to keep part of the girl’s inheritance for himself. And she herself, according to rumors, opposed marriage. Litigation began. The situation was overgrown with rumors, people were waiting for bloodshed. Both sides were seriously preparing for war, “The troops of the Radziwills had already approached Vilna, where the Khodkeviches lived. Huge 20,000th regiment. Only 1,600 cavalries and 600 foot soldiers were preparing to meet them. A three-day prayer service was announced in churches and monasteries to resolve the situation,” Father Dmitry explained. 
Until the last moment, Sofia tried to reconcile the warring parties and, finding no other way out, nevertheless agreed to marry Janusz. As they write in her biography: ‘In the name of peace, she accepted the feat of bearing the cross in marriage’. The parties withdrew any claims to inheritance, and the property went to the husband and wife.
At the insistence of Sofia, it was written in the marriage contract that their common children with Radziwill would be baptised in Orthodoxy. Unthinkable audacity! Uniatism was then spreading on the territory of Belarus. Janusz is a Catholic, so the chances that the girl will be able to pull it off were zero. But her will was carried out.
Soon, Prince Janusz went to Livonia to fight the Swedes. Then he was elected ambassador to the diets, became one of the leaders of the gentry uprising against King Sigismund III. Sofia had to spend a lot of time alone. She selflessly defended the Orthodox faith in her land. This is her feat and an example for us, Father Dmitry specifies, 
“Sofia Slutskaya fought against the imposition of Uniatism, dealt with the problems of ordinary people, donated money to the poor and prayed a lot. Information has been preserved that the princess embroidered golden robes and priestly vestments as a gift to churches. During her lifetime, Slutsk became a refuge for all who are persecuted because of their faith.”

Miracles of faith

Righteous Sofia Slutskaya Icon
The princess died young — during her third birth at the age of 25. The child also did not survive. The whole of Slutsk mourned for their good mistress and her poor child. A few years earlier, Sofia had a son and a daughter, but they died in infancy. What led to the tragedies is unknown, but historians mention the poor health of the righteous woman.
Miracles began to happen at the tomb of Sofia on the territory of the Slutsk Holy Trinity Monastery. She was considered the patroness of sick women, especially women in childbirth. But everyone came to the place of rest for healing.
“Interestingly: at the end of June 1812, the townspeople made a procession with the relics of St. Sofia, waiting for the troops to approach. The soldiers in Slutsk did not kill or rob anyone. Only in the Holy Trinity Monastery did the French take away all the food supplies. However, who will argue that this is the least of the losses,” Father Dmitry says. 
That case is not the only one when intercession was asked by the whole world. In 1848, cholera raged in Slutsk. Residents again decided to seek help from their patroness. The authorities allowed the relics of the saint to be carried through the city, crosswise. The epidemic has ended.
Unusual events associated with the name of Sofia Slutskaya continued. Once a peasant boy Samuil Shilovich from the village of Mikheyki was struck by lightning, and he stopped walking. The doctors couldn’t help. The villagers told their parents that their poor boy Samuil will remain unmoving and sick. But a miracle happened. 
Sofia appeared to the desperate mother in a dream and ordered that the child be brought to the Holy Trinity Monastery. He went home on his own! And this is after four years of paralysis.

Reverence through the ages

Inside the Church of the Holy Righteous
Sofia Slutskaya
Sofia Slutskaya was included in the Assembly of Belarusian Saints on April 3rd, 1984 — with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Pimen of Moscow and All Russia. Believers come to the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk to bow to the relics [however, some of them are located in Slutsk]. 
Another relic is kept in the capital — an icon painted with paints with crushed precious stones. The image is in the Church of the Holy Righteous Sofia Slutskaya. Father Dmitry talks about it with special warmth, noting that his wondrous face seems to glow from within. There is a particle of her relics in the wall icon of Sofia Slutskaya, donated by parishioners.
The temple itself delights with beauty. It was built with donations from the residents of the capital in the early 2000s. People still come here for comfort and help. Believers turn to the heavenly intercessor and ask to convey their prayers to the Lord. Does he hear? Father Dmitry wisely answers, “The scriptures teach us that God and the saints always hear prayers and answer them if we deal with kindness and faith. The main thing is not to keep anger, envy in your soul, to let go of bad thoughts. Then miracles happen. For everything that is impossible for man is possible for God.”

By Olga Nevmerzhitskaya
Photos by