The Story of Vladimir the Great

The Primary Chronicle reports that in the year 987, after consultation with his advisors, Vladimir the Great of the old kingdom of Rus, sent envoys to study the religions of the various neighboring nations whose representatives had been urging him to embrace their respective faiths. The Viking king was also not content with his own faith in Paganism as it lacked any value on people. He said: “My people are not in love with one another, they isolate themselves with tales of fancy and wooden carvings. this is not good for my people of Rus”. The king sent his envoys along all the Viking trade routes searching for a faith that suited the king and his people.

Of the Muslim nations the envoys reported there is no gladness among them, only sorrow and a great stench. They also reported that Islam was undesirable due to its taboo against alcoholic beverages and pork. Vladimir remarked on the occasion: “Drinking is the joy of all Rus!! We cannot exist without that pleasure.” The envoys also reported the Muslims argue too much with each other over petty things. Vladimir was not sold on Islam.

Vladimir Then sent envoys to consult with Jewish envoys as well as the Kingdom of Khazar. Questioning them about their religion but ultimately rejecting it as well, saying that “Their loss of Jerusalem was evidence that they had been abandoned by God.” He Also said: “There is no flexibility with so many rules, We can not exist with out personal Freedom”. Vladimir wasn’t sold on Judaism.

While Vladimir sent envoys as far as China he did’nt bother commenting on their reports when he heard from his envoys from Constantinople – where the full festival ritual of the Byzantine Church was set in motion to impress them. They found their ideal: “We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth,” they reported, describing a majestic Divine Liturgy in Hagia Sophia, “nor such beauty, and we know not how to tell of it.” The envoys also said “Christianity being flexible, Wine was greatly abundant, The people were friendly- Even as strangers we were invited into homes. we can not find fault with the works of this faith”. Ultimately Vladamir Settled on Orthodox Christianity. As a Result Of Vladimir the Great converting to Christianity, Half of Europe abandoned paganism entirely. The first churches outside of Byzantium/Greece were built in the Ukraine, Poland and Germany by the Viking King of Rus.

The tale of Vladimir the great was he took a literal search of the world to find faith. He understood the best way to judge a faith was to judge a society that held that faith. He was looking for a faith that would give his people love and respect for each other. A faith that embraced beauty and joy, but also had respect for a moral code of conduct. As we all have traveled the world in our own way, in search of faith, we can look to saint Vladimir wise use of envoys to discern for ourselves what makes Christianity so great.

At the same time, what I love about this particular figure is- He is direct evidence that Christianity is not solely based on Roman Catholicism. It is absolutely not true, perhaps I will do a blog on the Apostles and how Christianity spread all over the world. What I also like here is Not so many people really know anything about Viking History and how they became Russian or converted to Christianity. Indeed it is because of this kings conversion, The vikings began to stop raiding villages and took up honest trading. Another great example of how Christianity civilizes people. Of some of my favorite role models, Vladimir is one of the greatest.

(true story, based on The Primary Chronicle 987ad)

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