The Codex Sinaiticus and the Manuscripts of Mt Sinai in the Collections of the National Library of Russia

THE HISTORY OF THE ACQUISITION OF THE SINAI BIBLE BY THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT IN THE CONTEXT OF RECENT FINDINGS IN RUSSIAN ARCHIVES

A.V. Zakharova

Confrontation of Archbishop Cyril and Mt Sinai Brethren

Archbishop Cyril provoked increasing discontent among Mt Sinai community by tyrannical governing30. He tried to weaken the community council in every possible way, sent away the elders he disliked, broke many rules and his own promises and embezzled community property and revenues. Between 1860 and 1865 the Archbishop formalized his life long interest in communal rent in Bessarabia31. His stock embezzlement alone amounted to an astronomical sum of 58 383 Austrian ducats (by other estimates, 62 683 ducats) which at that meant about 180 000 silver rubles; in addition, there were multiple valuables, church utensils and documents he removed from St Catherine's sacristy and Cairo House32. In the winter 1865-1866 the confrontation ended up in open clashes. The Archbishop and his assistants subjected some monks to beating, confinement, and exile. The monks often complained to the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Greek Consul, and Cyril took retaliatory measures33. Finally, Cyril was deposed by Community Council decision of 24 August /Old style/ 186634, and a new father superior was elected on 21 January /Old style/ 1867 under the name of Callistratus35. It must be emphasized that this extracanonical act was not easily recognized by ecclesiastical and secular authorities. Cyril Patriarch of Jerusalem called a Local Council to consider the matter on 21 June /Old style/ 1867, summoning Archbishop Cyril who made default. Judgment was then pronounced in his absence, with Cyril's deposition confirmed by Council Decree of 24 August /Old style/36. On 30 August /Old style/ 1867 the Patriarch of Jerusalem ordained Callistratus as the Archbishop of Mt Sinai37. Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory did not acknowledge the event until 11 January /Old style/ 186838. A year later Callistratus was acknowledged by Viceroy of Egypt39. Until that date Cyril stayed in Constantinople as the Archbishop of Mt Sinai, struggling hard to defend his title40.

Due to ambiguous standing of Archbishop Cyril and Archbishop Callistratus, Russian minister in Constantinople, Count N.P. Ignatyev, made arrangements to withhold community revenues received from Russia via Consulate General in Egypt. The resources were detained by the Consulate from January 1867 to August 1868. Details are found in message from Alexandria no. 15 of 26 January / 7 February 1868 by Consul General in Alexandria, I.M. Lex, to Director of the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, .. Staal:

<> Mt Sinai brethren appealed to me, asking to pay out the monies detained on request of Right Rev. Cyril by Consulate General, considering that Ecumenical Church acknowledged their elected Right Rev. Callistratus as the Archbishop of Sinai. The monies due to the community are detained by Consulate General on direction of Imperial Embassy instruction no. 5 of 4 January 1867. If Right Rev. Callistratus is actually approved by Ecumenical Church as Archbishop of Sinai, it seems possible to allow the claim of Mt Sinai brethren but not until the Right Rev. arrives in Egypt41

N.P. Ignatyev informs Chancellor A.M. Gorchakov of controversies in Mt Sinai Monastery in his message42 from Constantinople of 25 July / 6 August 1867, saying:

<> Subordinates of Right Rev. Cyril press multiple charges against him, among the more important the case of his using community revenues for his own purposes. Among others, the Archbishop is accused of surrendering the Sinai Bible manuscript to the Imperial Government without obtaining a steamboat in return as St Catherine's monks had expected. It is not easy to determine whether the complaints are at all fair. Yet the former is repudiated by Right Rev. Cyril saying that any extraordinary expenses associated with his election were covered by the community proper; in all other cases, he is prepared to provide documentary evidence to justify his actions and go to the law. I could only approve of this position of the Archbishop and suggest that he should determine the abnormal relations with his diocese actually consisting of a single monastic community.<> Meanwhile, considering the wishes of both litigants, I delayed payment to St Catherine's community of sums due delivered via our Consulate General in Egypt until the conflict is settled (See the message)

As seen from the message, in the summer 1867 N.P. Ignatyev still shared the opinion of the Ecumenical Patriarch who supported Archbishop Cyril. To all appearance, the latter informed the Russian minister in person, representing events in the monastery to his own advantage.

The matter of delivering the sums detained at Russian Consulate General to Mt Sinai community was gradually settled in 1868. Subsequent events are described in draft letter by E.E. Staal from St Petersburg, 13 February 1868, in response to the letter by I.M. Lex quoted before:

<> As you know, Imperial Embassy instruction of delaying the payment depended on solving the complications due dismissal of Right Rev. Cyril and ordination of Archimandrite Callistratus as Archbishop of Sinai.
Regretfully, the complications persist today.
Appreciating the insistence of the Blessed Cyril of Jerusalem, the Porte intends to issue the usual berat to him, acknowledging ordination of Right Rev. Callistratus as the Archbishop of Sinai. On the other hand, considering the Viceroy's displeasure with this arbitrary and disagreeable election of the new Archbishop, the Porte decides to advise Ismail Pasha that acknowledgment of Right Rev. Callistratus in his new dignity is left to his own discretion and, should His Grace disagree, the election will not be acknowledged.
His Eminence Cyril, in his turn, despairing to retain the archbishopric wished, to spare his self-respect, to have Callistratus removed as irregularly ordained and his successor elected in accordance with cannon law.
<> Considering all these, Dear Sir, you will certainly decide that payment of the sums detained at Consulate General, as well as appointment of the new chairman and member of Abedye school eforia, should be delayed until the matter of the new Archbishop's acknowledgment and establishment is determined43

As mentioned before, the Egyptian Government did not acknowledge Callistratus as the Archbishop of Mt Sinai until early 1869. The Russian Government, however, acknowledged Archbishop Callistratus as early as the summer 1868; and Russian Vice-Consul in Egypt, A.N. Nikolaev immediately delivered the detained sums of 3535 rubles44. The register of delivery indicates interest in community bank deposits in Russia45.

Along with the sums delivered through Consulate General in Alexandria, Mt Sinai community collected income from their lands in Russian Empire through their commissioners. The greatest income was provided by landed property in Bessarabia for which Archbishop Cyril had assumed the right in 1860-1865. After the ordination of Archbishop Callistratus, Mt Sinai community was long at law with former Archbishop Cyril to reverse their rights (detailed below).

Thus, informing the Most Holy Synod of Russian Orthodox Church about the ordination of Callistratus, and asking for all kinds of assistance, Cyril Patriarch of Jerusalem wrote in his message to St Petersburg, 21 September /Old style/ 1867:

<> As this holy community earn their living in this Russian Empire protected by God and elsewhere, we desire and hope, daringly and fraternally, for Your continued love and zealous protection, assisting His Eminence [Callistratus] where necessary, and regarding every action of former Archbishop of Mt Sinai pertinent to the profit of this holy community as ineffective and illegitimate46

Some days later former Archbishop of Sinai Cyril wrote to St Petersburg, remonstrating against his deposition, illegal (in his opinion) interference of the Patriarch of Jerusalem and ordination of Callistratus, and likewise asking the Most Holy Synod for assistance47.

In view of this contradictory information the Most Holy Synod evidently took certain measures with regard to St Catherine's land estates in Bessarabia entrusted to Cyril's agents48.

Anyway, while neither the detention of St Catherine monies at Consulate General in Alexandria (between 4 January /Old style/ 1867 and 20 August /Old style/ 1868), nor the sequestration of community land estates in Bessarabia (from late 1867 (?) to June 1870) had anything to do with the presentation of Sinai Bible to Alexander II, both were related to Archbishop Cyril's deposition and delayed acknowledgement of Callistratus as Archbishop of Sinai.

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30 Detailed description of the conflict and charges brought by Mt Sinai brethren against Archbishop Cyril is published in: Τὸ Κανονικὸν δίκαιον τοῦ πατριαρχικοῦ θρόνου τῶν Ἱεροσολύμων ἐπὶ τῆς ἀρχιεπισκοπῆς Σινᾶ ἐπιμαρτυρούμενον ὑπὸ ἐπισήμων ἐκκλησιαστικῶν ἐγγράφων. Ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει, 1868. Cf. A. Voronov, "Sinajskoe delo", in Trudy Kievskoj Dukhovnoj Akademii, 1872, February, pp. 273-315; July, pp. 594-668. (back to the text)

31 Τὸ Κανονικὸν δίκαιον, pp. 281-282, 286. (back to the text)

32 Ibid, pp. 237-239, 256-257, 292-293, 312-314. (back to the text)

33 Ibid, pp. 295-305. (back to the text)

34 Ibid, pp. 181-184. (back to the text)

35 Ibid, pp. 196-199, 200-202. (back to the text)

36 Ἀπόφασις τῆς ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις συγκροτηθείσης τοπικῆς ἱερᾶς συνόδου πρὸς ἐκδίκασιν τῆς μεταξὺ τῶν πατέρων τῆς τοῦ θεοβαδίστου Ὄρους Σινᾶ ἱερᾶς Μονῆς καὶ τοῦ ἡγουμένου αὐτῶν καὶ ἀρχιεπισκόπου κὺρ Κυρίλλου τοῦ Βυζαντίου ἀναφυείσης διενέξεως. Published in: Τὸ Κανονικὸν δίκαιον, pp. 329-334. For other documents related to the trial of Archbishop Cyril see: ibid., pp. 261-328. Council records were distributed to other Orthodox Church authorities including the Most Holy Synod of Russian Orthodox Church, cf. RGIA, fond 797 (Kantselyarija Ober-Prokurora sv. Synoda), opis' 37, II otd., 1867, delo 160. Delo po povodu raznoglasij voznikšikh meždu arkhiepiskopom Sinajskim i monastyrem sv. Ekateriny (hereinafter: RGIA, f. 797, op. 37, II otd., d. 160), fols. 22r-33v, 52r-53v, 56r-57r. (back to the text)

37 Τὸ Κανονικὸν δίκαιον, pp. 343-347. (back to the text)

38 Ibid., pp. 375-376. (back to the text)

39 Archbishop Callistratus communicated this to the Most Holy Synod of Russian Orthodox Church in a message from Cairo, 8 March 1869 (RGIA, fond 796 (Kantselyarija Synoda), opis' 150, 1869, delo 539. O vstuplenii preosv. Kallistrata, arkhiepiskopa Sinajskogo, v upravlenie Sinajskim monastyrem, fols. 2r-3v). (back to the text)

40 In particular, relying on the assistance of Ecumenical Patriarch, and secular Ottoman authorities, in the summer 1867 Archbishop Cyril published in Constantinople a pamphlet, attempting to deny the accusations. See Ὑπόμνημα τοῦ ἀρχιεπισκόπου τοῦ θεοβαδίστου ὅρους Σινᾶ. Περὶ τῶν αἰτίων τῆς διαταράξεως τῶν καθεστώτων ἐν τῷ Μοναστηρίῳ, καὶ τῆς ἀληθοῦς τῶν πραγμάτων καταστάσεως. Πρὸς τὴν Αὐτοῦ Θειοτάτην Παναγιότητα καὶ τὴν περὶ Αὐτὴν Ἱερὰν Σύνοδον. Ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει, 1867. (back to the text)

41 See AVPRI, fond 180 (Posol'stvo v Konstantinopole), opis' 517/2, 1868, delo 1081. Alexandria (hereinafter: AVPRI, f. 180, op. 517/2, d. 1081), fols. 3r-4v. (back to the text)

42 AVPRI, fond 133 (Kantselyarija MID), opis' 469 (tom 2), 1867, delo 32. Constantinople (Ambassade, Général Ignatiev), III, R. VI-IX, 1867, fols. 263r-265r. (back to the text)

43 AVPRI, f. 180, op. 517/2, d. 1081, fols. 196r-198v. (back to the text)

44 See message no. 143 of 20 August / 1 September (ibid., fols. 132r-134r), dispatched from Alexandria by Vice-Consul in Egypt, A.N. Nikolaev, to N.P. Ignatyev. (back to the text)

45 Register of sums due to Mt Sinai Monastery and arrested at Consulate General by Embassy Direction no. 5 of 4 January 1867 (ibid., fols. 135r-v). (back to the text)

46 RGIA, f. 797, op. 37, II otd., d. 160, fols. 56r-57r; Russian translation: ibid., fols. 103r-104r). (back to the text)

47 Message of Cyril Archbishop of Mt Sinai to the Russian Most Holy Governing Synod, 9 October 1867, Constantinople (ibid., fols. 98r-99v). (back to the text)

48 Letters by N.P. Ignatyev to Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin) of 4/16 March and 10/22 June 1870 (RGIA, fond 1561 (N.P. Ignatyev), opis' 1, delo 16. Pis'ma N.P. Ignatyeva k arkhimandritu Antoninu (Kapustinu) s 1861 po 1870 g. (hereinafter: RGIA, f. 1561, op. 1, d. 16), fols. 28v-29r, 31r), and report of Russian Vice-Consul in Egypt, N.L. Obermiller, to N.P. Ignatyev from Alexandria, 25 June / 7 July 1870 (AVPRI, fond 180 (Posol'stvo v Konstantinopole), opis' 517/2, delo 3393 (1870-1871). Delo Sinajskogo monastyrya o raspryakh i soglashenijakh byvshego mitropolita sinajskogo Kirilla s bratieju Sinajskogo monastyrya (hereinafter: AVPRI, f. 180, op. 517/2, d. 3393), fols. 41r-43r), indicate that St Catherine's land estates in Bessarabia were de-sequestered by June 1870. However, who and when sequestrated them so far remains uncertain. The matter is detailed below. (back to the text)

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