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The Conversion of Vladimir the Great (1) : A succession of religious leaders came to Kiev, hoping to win the wild barbarian Prince to their cause.
The Conversion of Vladimir the Great
Part one

Based on The Primary Chronicle (The Tale of Past Years) attributed to Nestor the Chronicler (?1056-?1114), translated by Samuel Hazzard Cross and Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor.

The Christianity that spread across England in the 7th century spread to Kiev in the 10th, but there it had to compete not just with paganism but with Islam, Judaism, and other flavours of Christianity — and also with Prince Vladimir, who liked his religion spicy.

PRINCE Vladimir of Kiev was a superb general, but not without his faults. He was given to drink, kept several wives and hundreds of sex slaves, and encouraged the people to sacrifice their sons and daughters to his idol gods. And all this despite having a Christian grandmother, Olga.

The Muslims of Bulgaria were the first to try to tame him. Vladimir liked the idea of Allah supplying him with seventy fair women, but circumcision and abstaining from alcohol were deal-breakers. Next came emissaries from the Pope, but they reduced Christianity to mild fasting, hardly Vladimir’s idea of red-blooded religion. The Jews fared no better: the warlike Prince had little time for a religion whose homeland had been conquered.

The only one to arouse any curiosity was a learned Greek from Constantinople, who took Vladimir step-by-step through the Bible’s gripping tale of redemption. But still he wavered, so his noblemen suggested sending emissaries to each place, to observe these competing religions at first hand.

Based on The Primary Chronicle (The Tale of Past Years) attributed to Nestor the Chronicler (?1056-?1114), translated by Samuel Hazzard Cross and Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor.

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Picture: Vasily Petrovich Vereshchagin (1835-1909), via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
‘Vladimir chooses a religion’, by Vasily Petrovich Vereshchagin (1835-1909). Vereshchagin specialised in religious scenes and in decorating churches, including the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow (demolished by the Communists in 1931) and the Assumption Cathedral of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, a monastery dating back to the 11th century. His patron was Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia, uncle of Tsar Nicholas II.

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