Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the «Diamond Owl» intellectual game «What? Where? When?»
Liberal ArtsNomina
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ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
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Petroo Mohyla (1596-1647) – Ukrainian political, church and educational leader, Metropolitan of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Metropolitan of Kyiv, Halych and All Rus’. He was canonized by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow and Kyiv Patriarchates.




It is good and noble to leave your name for centuries, giving it to some worthy institutions, which is destined to live more than a person lives – to build a museum, erect a cathedral, design a bridge … And to found a university where people will be taught for centuries is wonderful …

The London missionary who emigrated to New England died of tuberculosis at the age of 30, but managed to bequeath half of his inheritance, a whopping £ 780, and 400 books from his research library to a local college. Now it is the university that bears his name – Harvard.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
John Harvard

The son of a poor man from the Ardennes made a church career and became the confessor of Saint Louis. But we remember his last name because of the college he created, which became the center of the formation of the University of Paris. It is in honor of Robert de Sorbon that it is called the Sorbonne University.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
Robert de Sorbonne

Is there anything similar in our country? Yes, of course! A respected and well-known university outside of Ukraine, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, is already approaching its 400th anniversary. It also bears the name of the person who founded it – we will talk about it now.




At birth, he had the surname Movila and the name Petrou, coming from an old Moldovan family. His grandfather John was the logophet of the Moldavian principality, his uncle Jeremi at the time of his birth was the Moldovan ruler, and Jeremi’s successor, albeit for a short time, was his father Simion.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
Simion Movila

Twice his father also occupied the Wallachian throne, fighting against the unifier of the Danube principalities, Michael the Brave, but he was significantly inferior to him in military talent and was expelled both times. After the death of his brother, the Moldavian ruler Jeremi, he expelled his son and himself took the throne of Moldova, but his brother’s widow Elizabeth poisoned him. Typical for those places and times …

The brothers Petro, Moise and Michael, later became rulers of the Moldavian principality, albeit for a short time, another brother, Gabriel, became the Wallachian ruler. But that was much later, and Petrou, with the majority of his family, fled from the Nogai Khan Kantymir-Murza, who had seized Moldova, and never returned.

Having emigrated to Poland, where the husband of his uncle Jeremi’s daughter, Mykhailo Vishnevetsky, lived (this is his son, named after Jeremi’s grandfather, was the worst enemy of Bohdan Khmelnytsky), he received a proper upbringing and education at the Lviv brotherhood school and completed his studies in Europe.




Having become Petro Mohyla instead of Petrou Movila, which was more in line with Polish standards, he chose a military career that was quite natural at that time. As a young officer, he took an active part in the Polish-Turkish war of 1620-1621, where the Moldavian principality was Poland’s ally.

The war began with the victory of the Turks in the famous battle of Tsetsor – Hetman Zholkevsky and Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s father Mykhailo were killed, Bohdan Khmelnytsky was captured, was sold in a slave market and was a galley slave for two years until he was bought out. Petro Mohyla, fortunately, avoided this.

But a year later, he had a chance to fight in the famous Khotyn battle that lasted more than a month, during which the Polish hetman Khotkevich died of an illness, and the Cossack hetman Sahaidachny – from his wounds, but the Turks suffered huge losses and lost the battle.

But after the Khotyn victory, Petro Mohyla makes a decision that is not standard for an officer of the victorious army – he leaves the army and becomes a priest. It is believed that he did this under the influence of the Kyiv Metropolitan Job Boretsky, a zealous defender of Orthodoxy.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
Battle of Khotin





A man of such considerable abilities and, to be honest, a princely family, quickly moved up the church career ladder. Already in 1627, he was elected archimandrite of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, who was directly subordinate to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Metropolitan Job Boretsky continued to patronize him all his life, and dying, appointed him his executor and bequeathed his library. But with his successor in the post of metropolitan, Isaiah Kopinsky, the relationship between Petro Mohyla did not work out at all.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
Job Boretsky

Archimandrite Petro was active and active in his post. Under him, the Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God was renovated, the holy caves were decorated, the Hermitage-Nikolaevsky Monastery was returned under the control of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the Goloseevsky Hermitage was founded, and an almshouse was set up at his expense.

In addition, he created a new school in the Lavra “for the teaching of the liberal sciences in the Greek, Slavic and Latin languages”, which was opened in 1631. For poor students, he organized a hostel, donating several of his villages to the school.

Soon, when the Kyiv brothers recognized him as the guardian and guardian of their school and subordinated it exclusively to the power of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Petro united his Lavra school with the brotherly school. This was approved by the most distinguished clergy and Lavra brotherhood.




In 1632, the Polish king Sigismund III Vasa, the former king of Sweden, who was elected to the Polish throne, but soon lost the Swedish because of his desire to make Protestant Sweden Catholic, died. And in the Polish kingdom, he oppressed Orthodoxy for the sake of Catholicism.

Sejms were convened: Convocation – to discuss the affairs of the past reign and Electoral – to choose a new king. One of the delegates of these Sejms was Petro Mohyla – Metropolitan Isaiah was old and sick, he had to agree to such a replacement.

It was difficult to guess so with the candidacy – and because of the noble birth, and because of diplomatic abilities, and because of the firmness of convictions. Petro Mohyla did the almost impossible – he convinced the future King Vladislav of the need to completely change the irreconcilable attitude towards Orthodoxy that had developed by that time in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Despite all the protests and outright intrigues of the Catholic and Uniate clergy, the Orthodox received a diploma from King Vladislav, which confirmed the free confession of faith, the performance of the sacraments, permission to restore churches and build new ones, to create brotherhoods, almshouses, schools, seminaries and printing houses in churches and monasteries.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
King Vladislav

The Sejm ordered to end all disputes and strife, to destroy all the sentences of the previous Sejms against the Orthodox, and to continue to live in peace for everyone without oppressing each other. All Kyiv monasteries were transferred to the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Metropolitan of Kyiv. These decrees, despite the protests of the Uniates, were approved by the king and the Diet on November 1, 1632.


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Against the background of such success, one should not be surprised that Petro Mohyla was elected Metropolitan of Kyiv, and the Patriarch of Constantinople legalized the election by sending him his archpastoral blessing. But Metropolitan Isaiah, removed by these decisions, was still alive and more than dissatisfied, and he had many old and convinced supporters.

Therefore, Petro spent his consecration not in Kyiv, but in Lviv, where his ordination was headed by the bishop of Lviv, who has the power of the exarch of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Only after that did he go to Kyiv, where he was solemnly greeted with two eulogies.

But all the same, it was not without forceful solutions. The priests who stood behind Isaiah were banned from serving and deposed, and Isaiah himself was seized at night and in one hair shirt, thrown over a horse, “like some sack”, was transported to the Kyiv-Pechersk monastery, where he was imprisoned.

Soon, however, he was released, and lived life relatively calmly. Obviously, Petro Mohyla received from his predecessor, in one form or another, a promise not to act against him. A coup is always a coup, and the actions under it are about the same in politics and in the church.




Petro Mohyla understood well that in order to effectively argue with a highly educated Catholic clergy, one must have an equally educated Orthodox clergy. Since the Catholic practice of education was effective, Mohyla just borrowed this idea.

At the head of the institution was the rector, his assistant was the prefect. In addition to these two superiors, a superintendent was elected for a certain term, observing the dignified behavior of the students. Some of them, more well-behaved, were supposed to help him in this matter. Some of the students lived at the expense of the college in its house, the so-called bursa.

Teaching and upbringing in the collegium of Petro Mohyla was based mainly on competition. The pupils were seated in the class according to their success, – the best occupied the front bench, called the “Senate”. Very often there were disputes and essays were written.

In written works, the students usually indicated what they thought to surpass their comrades: by diligence, spelling, beautiful handwriting … Some of the poorest students wrote what they would like to receive for their labor – bread, candles, boots, a shirt, and so on.

If the work with such an inscription was good, then the teacher, in favor of the writer, exacted what was required from the students who were sufficient, but lazy and unsuccessful. On Saturdays, the lazy students were punished. In a word, the entire system of the school was exactly the same as that of the Jesuits.




All subjects, except for Slavic grammar and the Orthodox catechism, were taught in Latin. Even among themselves, the students had to speak Latin – the common language of science, in which essays were written, disputes were held, courts and Seimas of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth worked.

Notats were introduced into everyday life – sheets on which the name of the student was written down, who, instead of Latin, spoke at least a word in a different language. The sheet of paper remained with the guilty person until he managed to catch a companion on the same offense – then he handed this to him to the notat and his name was entered there. And the one with whom the notata stayed overnight was punished with rods.

Such dominance of Latin once even brought danger to the college. Rumor has spread that the mentors want to seduce students into Latinism. Once a violent crowd under the leadership of the Cossacks began the collegium and threatened to burn it and kill the mentors. It was hard to bring them to their senses.

“We have already confessed and expected that they will begin to feed the Dnieper sturgeons with us, but, fortunately, the Lord, seeing our innocence, dispelled prejudices and illuminated the hearts of our compatriots … and since then the inhabitants of Kyiv and other places not only stopped us hate, but they began to give us a large number of their children,” the mentor wrote.




Petro Mohyla resolutely opposed the Uniate Church and even strove to recognize it as non-canonical. He was an active participant in church polemics and published several religious and polemical books defending Orthodoxy and criticizing Uniatism.

However, his activities have always raised many questions and ambiguous interpretations: on the one hand, he socially legalized Orthodoxy in the Commonwealth, on the other, many of his innovations are considered as a result of the influence of the Catholic Church and Western culture.

“For his Little Rus’ Church, he rendered the greatest service by defending it most important rights before King Vladislav IV, outraged by the Latins … restored in it much that had previously been overthrown or destroyed by enemies, and laid the foundation for a better order of things in it!” Metropolitan Macarius wrote about Petro Mohyla in his History of the Rus’ Church

But there are also reviews that condemn him. Some Orthodox hierarchs expressed the idea that “Tomb and his companions were outspoken and determined Westernizers … It was a new generation that went through the Western school, for which it was the West, not the East, that was their own. And there were reasons to suspect that this Westernism is a kind of Uniatism … “

I do not presume to judge the church leaders in this matter. But it seems to me very difficult to argue that the search for a compromise in a conflict is always a blessing, that under Petro Mohyla the position of Orthodoxy improved and that the recent canonization of his merits confirms.




It was thanks to Petro Mohyla that a number of monasteries and churches were returned to the Orthodox Church, including the St. Sophia Cathedral, which they began to restore during his reign. He ordered to clear the remains of the Tithe Church, where the relics of the Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir were found.

He personally planted a linden tree near the ruins of the Tithe Church. And he renovated the old Church of the Savior on Berestove at his own expense, having ordered the Italian architect Octaviano Mancini for restoration. Artists from Crete were invited to paint the temple.

It was under the leadership of Petro Mohyla that the first Orthodox catechism, The Orthodox Confession of Faith, was created. After his death, the complete version of this work was published in Greek, Latin and Polish, and in 1696 in Moscow and in Russian.

Not a small merit was also a new edition in 1646 of the Trebnik, which set out not only prayers and rituals, but also instructions on how to behave in one case or another. He also revised the Service Book, reprinted in 1623 and 1639, and this is only part of his works …




A long life was not destined for him – he died at only 50 years old, on January 1, 1647 (old style). It is interesting that he was born on December 31, but already in a new style – an amazing coincidence! Before his death, he bequeathed to his beloved brainchild, the Kyiv College, a significant amount of money and his library, including books left to him by Job.

Petro Mohyla was buried under the left choir in the middle part of the Assumption Cathedral of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. Unfortunately, in November 1941, he was blown up, and the explosives were placed near the place of his burial, and the coffin with the remains was completely destroyed. During excavations in 1982, only silver plates with his family coat of arms and epitaph were found.

After restoration, a black granite slab with a corresponding inscription about his death was installed on the site where his burial was located. There is an opinion that the memory of the Metropolitan also requires a more worthy arrangement of the place of his burial, and it is quite possible that this will be done in the future.

But at least one remarkable monument remained after him – the collegium, which even during his lifetime began to be called the Kyiv-Mohyla Collegium, and in 1701 was renamed the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. In independent Ukraine, it was revived and became one of the best universities.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
Kiev-Mohyla Academy now


The church honored Petro Mohyla of canonization. On December 6, 1996, the Synod of the UOC-MP canonized him as a locally revered saint, less than a week later, the Council of the UOC-KP canonized him as a saint, on December 8, 2005, with the blessing of Patriarch Alexy II, he was numbered among the venerated saints, and now he is canonized by 15 Orthodox churches of the world.

Petro Mohyla is immortalized on the Novgorod monument of the sculptor Mikeshin “Millennium of Russia”. Monuments to him have been erected in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and in a number of other places. Two countries – Ukraine and Moldova – have immortalized it on their postage stamps.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
Monument in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra

There are streets of Petro Mohyla in a number of cities in Ukraine – Brovary, Vinnytsia, Kovel, Lviv, Lutsk and Rivne. The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine has approved a badge named after him to encourage those who have made a special contribution to the development of higher education.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Metropolitan of All Rus’ Petro Mohyla — the founder of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
Chest sign

But all the same (sorry, I repeat) the most lively and promising monument to him is the university he created, the famous Mohyla Academy  in which thousands of young men and women have already received and will receive a high-quality education, remembering the person who laid the foundation for this.


All illustrations from open sources

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