Works published by Pierre Kovalevsky: the professor and the story (Father Jean-Louis Guillaud)

How to talk about a very secretive man, even for his own brother who has been with him for 75 years? How to approach his innumerable little-known works and get an idea of ​​them? How to get your hands on his unpublished secret archives, archives that left the Villa Notre Dame where he ended his life after his birth in heaven?

Yes, I am one of those who knew him: having finished my theology studies the year of his birth in heaven, I had the honor of having him as a professor of Church history, but as he was in fragile health, I had to hear him on this pulpit only 2 or 3 times (Father Jean-Siméon Rocher having taken over the course of the history of the Church).

I also have the advantage of having a dedication of his book “Saint Sergius and Russian spirituality” published in 1969 by Editions du Seuil. One day that I spent at the Villa Notre Dame, I had asked him, he had kindly received me in his room: the current well-lit secretariat where Sister Yéléna works in a very orderly fashion was at the time a dark shambles or heaps of books and files piled up in all directions! But the carefully guarded dedication will not shed any more light on a character whose sobriety and modesty is legendary: “With the best memories of the author. P. Kovalevsky” . I seriously thought about unraveling the mystery by attempting a graphological study…

Fortunately, there are writings, testimonies and his most famous works of which it is possible to say a few words. Previously, some biographical elements that we can recall, at the risk of repeating ourselves.

Birth on earth and birth in heaven

Pierre Kovalevsky was born on December 16/29, 1901, he is the eldest child of Inna and Eugraph Kovalevsky. Inna Strekalova is one of the first women in Russia to study at university. In 1899, she was 22 years old. His godfather has responsibilities at the Ministry of Public Instruction and rubs shoulders with Eugraph Kovalevsky senior, a 34-year-old bachelor. It comes to him the idea that the 2 young people could make a good couple. Eugraph father was appointed by the Ministry to organize the Russian section of Education and Fine Arts at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1899. And the godfather made sure that Inna was also sent there to organize the Russian section. of women's education. The future parents of the 3 Kovalevsky brothers meet in Paris where they become engaged, and where they even receive decorations from the French authorities.[2] . Even if the 3 Kovalevsky brothers were born in Saint-Petersburg, we can say that France and Paris, particularly, where they will live all 3, are at the origin of their birth. And more precisely, the reason is a universal exhibition, where the parents were both in charge of teaching, of instruction: the 3 offspring will therefore each work to teach, to instruct, and more especially in the field of the Orthodox Church, emphasizing the universal dimension of the Orthodox Church.

Two dates can be enough to illustrate a biography, it is the summary which one often finds on the tombstones: the beginning and the end! After the birth of Pierre Kovalevsky on the earth of Russia, let us consider immediately his birth in heaven in Paris.

Pierre was born in heaven on April 27, 1978 at the age of 77. According to the calendar of the Russian Church, it was Maundy Thursday, the day when Christ gathers his disciples in the upper room and shares with them the Passover meal establishing the Eucharist, the heart of the divine liturgy. Peter would therefore also be a man of Holy Thursday, in the line of the disciples who perpetuate the Eucharistic life in the world.

He is so to a lesser extent than his two younger brothers, Mgr Jean and Maxime, who were associated in the field of liturgy, through reflection and practice, to bring about a prophetic return to the roots of the Orthodox liturgical tradition. beyond its late fixations, both in the East and in the West. The first, Mgr Jean, was particularly so by the accuracy of the verb, by the truth of the verb, the second, Maxime, particularly by the beauty of the song, servant of the word, both to make the Western world rediscover the truth and the beauty of the liturgy. In this sense, Bishop Jean and Maxime were apostles, some have even compared them to new Cyrils and Methodius, since they have, for our West, transmitted, reinterpreted, renewed the liturgical meaning, as Saints Cyril and Methodius did by translating and rewriting the Byzantine Liturgy into Cyrillic for the Slavic peoples in the 9th century. They are apostles, in line with the disciples present at Holy Communion on Holy Thursday, and even, for Bishop John, present on Good Friday, since he was born in heaven on a Friday at three o'clock in the afternoon. as his Master, the Christ.

And I would see Peter as one of his servants who holds the linen or the basin when Christ washes the feet of his apostles, after he has said: "Who is greater: the one who is at the table or the one who serves ? Isn't it the one who is at the table? Now I am in the midst of you as one who serves [3] . » ? Pierre was also a servant of the liturgy, a discreet servant, less known than his brothers and acting in the shadows.

This was remarkably expressed by his brother Maxime:

“The essential motives which animated his existence are on the one hand a total devotion to the Church, and on the other hand the love of historical truth linked to the need to go back to the sources. To understand Peter's almost loving devotion to the Church, we must not forget that he belongs to the generation whose adolescence lived through the first years of the Russian Revolution. In a world whose political, social and cultural structures are collapsing, only the Church remains. It reveals itself as a new reality, as the only permanence. We love it with its beauties and its weaknesses, some sublime, others disconcerting. This love could be compared to that of a knight for his Lady. We admire it, we serve it and we defend it….The most urgent task, the noblest, is therefore the concrete service of the Church in the liturgy and in its organization. …

Transplanted in France, Pierre retains this chivalrous devotion to the Church seen as a structure surviving the cataclysm, which is not easy in emigration, a world where collapsed structures are conventionally reconstituted. Faithful to this ideal of youth, ordained sub-deacon in 1921 by Metropolitan Euloge, he voluntarily remained in this state until the end of his life, for 57 years. He organized in all the parishes of the Russian emigration a practical and theoretical teaching of the liturgy, by forming around each church a group of minor clerics who undertook to serve the services. For the Saint-Alexandre-Nievsky cathedral alone, at least three hundred young people were thus trained by him. In 1936, the minor clerics of the Paris region are united in a brotherhood (Confrérie Saint-Alexandre-Nievsky). In this youth organization over which Pierre presided until the end of his life, the tradition of chivalrous devotion to the Mother Church is transmitted and still remains alive among those who knew him.

In addition to his active participation in offices and the training of minor clerics, a large part of his time is devoted to the teaching of dogmas, canons and the liturgy [4] which he dispenses in the form of courses, conferences, pamphlets and printed or typewritten works of varying magnitude. The number of these events is so large that it is hard to believe that a single man, otherwise in fragile health, could have carried them out [5] .

The historian of Russia, witness to its turbulent history in the 20th century

Maxime spoke of the "second essential motive which animated [his] brother: this love of historical truth which pushed him towards the search for sources [6] ".

The search for sources was the essential element of his method as a researcher in history.

In his introduction to the History of Russia and the USSR [7] , for 8 pages, he quotes the main works of Russian history, written in Russia and abroad.

“The author of this book has consulted the works published to date. He also read a large number of journal articles relating to the history of Russia [8] ”

Pierre is the man of sources, and I wonder if we can't talk about the Kovalevsky brothers' triad in their relationship to time and by analogy to the Three Divine Persons. Audacity for audacity! Peter, the first, is the historian who scrutinizes the sources of the past (he is in the shadow of the Father, Source of everything). Maxime, the second, is the cantor of the present, the man who listens to the Word sublimated by such ephemeral song, the liturgist (he is in the shadow of the Son, of the Word of God). Eugraph, the third – Monseigneur Jean – is clearly the visionary prophet who notably sees the Church of the West transfigured and the beings in their future, in their dynamics (he is in the shadow of the Holy Spirit, the living Fire).

Pierre cites the numerous sources from which he draws, and, what is more, he gives an appreciation of many of them, proof that he has made a detailed analysis and a synthesis of them.

He speaks of “the difficulty of coordinating the mass of documents and publications…in the fact that they have been published in about fifteen languages ​​[9] ”

In his many books on the history of Russia, he not only searches for sources and arranges them, he writes something new, criticizing 4 traditions rooted in Russian historical science [10 ] :

Studying Russia as a world apart (Pierre K. proposes to establish links with Western Europe, and he therefore often establishes " chronological parallelisms between Russian and Western events" )

Confusing Russia with the Grand Duchy of Moscow (he also looks at the history of other major Russian centers to see Russia in all its diversity)

Neglecting the Byzantine revival in the 14th century (he sees that the Byzantine revival under the Palaiologos had a great influence in Russia, and it is precisely the century of Saint Sergius of Radonezh)

Neglecting the interpenetration with the other sciences (he includes the fields of arts, thought, language, archaeology, historical geography as evidenced by his Historical and Cultural Atlas of Russia and the Slavic Countries published in 1961; he broadens the frameworks of history by using "the results offered by the subsidiary sciences")

He also adds that he uses "an analytical-synthetic method, involving the study of documents and facts, and eliminating any detail not essential to the understanding of events."

Pierre Kovalevsky is a careful researcher and historian.

Around 1970, he describes the Russian Revolution of 1917. This is what he writes at the beginning of a chapter on the subject:

“ The five-year period that we are going to study is still too recent to be able to be exposed in all the details and especially with a historical perspective. Given its importance, not only for Russia, but for the whole world, we will have to give the most objective general picture possible and present the facts in their sequence, without drawing definitive conclusions [11] ” .

Pierre does not want to draw conclusions on this event, of which he says the importance for the whole world. He experienced it from the inside: he was in Saint-Petersburg in 1917 and until the summer of 1918, then in Kharkov in Ukraine, a city that the family left in November 1919, and, after a stay in the Crimea, in February 1920, they embarked in Istanbul for Marseilles on the Russian liner Alexandre III.

Two anecdotes given by Bishop Jean who was only 15 at the time.

On the day of departure, he slips under the door of all the Russian churches in Constantinople a sheet where he sets out his view of the events: "The Russian Revolution is permitted by God in order to purify the Church and for the universal explosion of the 'orthodoxy… [12] '

The boat stops in Thessaloniki. They attend vigils, and the Metropolitan addresses the three children, blesses their trip and tells them: "You are going to a country, France, which is not Orthodox, but don't forget that the French have two qualities: their soul is orthodox and their spirit loves the freedom of Christ. They gave us, the Greeks, national freedom and we did not know how to give them in return the taste of the freedom of our Church. [13] »

Pierre therefore experienced the Russian Revolution a little from the inside and a lot from the outside, as an emigrant. In 1951, he will write a book on Russian dispersion throughout the world and its cultural role .

He says of the Russian Diaspora that it can only be compared to the Jewish Diaspora, even though it presents a unique phenomenon of its kind [14] . Dispersion is the exile of a large part of the intellectual class (more than three quarters had secondary education), ranging from the far right to the far revolutionary left. And it was Paris that was the undisputed center of “Russia beyond borders”. Paradoxically, he writes, the class of the population which produced the fewest expatriates was that of the clergy, with only 10% of bishops and barely 0.5% of priests having left Russia. The clergy of the Russian Church mostly remained with the Russian people, and they suffered with them the yoke of communism, giving rise to innumerable martyrs.

The historian connoisseur of holy Russia

Dedication to the Church, love of history, this is what led Pierre to write his work on Saint Sergius, entitled “Saint Sergius and Russian spirituality” . Pierre Kovalevsky wrote this work in 1958. Saint Serge is very honored among the Russians, and admired in his family, since his mother Inna had already translated from Russian into French the work of Boris Zaitzeff, Saint Serge de Radonège (Coll.: “Le Roseau d’Or”, Plon, 1928 [15] ).

Peter's work is not only a life of Saint Sergius: out of 190 pages, about 70 are devoted to his life, preceded by 50 pages on Russian spirituality before him, and this life is followed by 70 pages on his heritage. witty.

For Peter, Saint Sergius is “ not only the greatest saint in Russia, but a spiritual master whose importance in our day is only growing. [16] ” He shows it to us on the front page with the image of a 19th century painting called The Holy Russia, a painting whose reproduction adorns thousands of Russian homes. Christ travels the plains and forests of Russia, he attracts people eager for his words, and behind him, Saint Nicolas, Prince Boris and Saint Sergius. Saint Nicholas of Myra was adopted, Prince Boris is the first saint of the Russian Church, the first martyr of Russian land (killed by his brother in 1015), and Saint Sergius is the one who allowed a new development in the 14th century of Christianity in Russia, like Saint Martin for Gaul a millennium earlier.

It is necessary to tell the miracle which directed his life [17] . At school, the young Barthélémy (that's his first name) can't learn. He can't read. He gets scolded…and he prays for God to give him the gift of reading and understanding books. In a field, he meets an old monk, who gives him some holy bread and announces that from that day on, he will read better than his brothers and classmates. He takes her to the family chapel: to everyone's astonishment, he reads the Hours without difficulty. The frightened parents question the old man who says to them: “Rejoice, this child will be great before God and before men…He will be a servant of the Holy Trinity. [18] »That is why the monastery he founded in Zagorsk was founded under this patronage, and today it is called the Trinity Sergius Lavra.

How does Pierre Kovalevsky draw the lines of Russian spirituality? Each people has its genius. Pierre sees three of them for the Russian people: freedom of spirit but limited by a sense of community, detachment from material goods, and a love of wandering. He says that the Russian people have accepted the message of the Gospel and want to apply it with extreme radicalism. The Russian is attracted to extremes: good or bad. He is aware of being a sinner, so he rushes towards holiness, he has a desire for purification and transfiguration which must reach, not only humanity, all humanity, but the whole creature. Hence his ardent desire for universal and idealistic salvation. "The name of Holy Russia is not an empty word ," he said., because for the Russian people the ideal of holiness represents the supreme value. The ideal towards which he tends is not an ideal of well-being, but an ideal of holiness. This is the basis of Russian spirituality. [19] »

He cites the example of the first saints canonized in Russia, Boris and Gleb, who identify with Christ by going freely to face martyrdom, and whom the Russian people canonized, before the hierarchy, by naming them "saints who suffered innocently passion. [20] »

The passionate critic of a painter of the Russian soul

Finally, I would like to say a few words about another work by Pierre.

When I discovered it, rummaging through an old box in the cellar of the Villa Notre Dame, I was puzzled: “NSLESKOV, unknown painter of Russian national life” . I was surprised that Pierre Kovalevsky wrote about a painter. And it was while leafing through the book that I realized that Leskov was a writer. I had also forgotten one thing: for Russians, whether you are painting a picture or writing a book, the verb used is the same. Russian paints a book and writes an icon. The recent book written in Russian L'émigration russe en France 1919-2000 [21] , a very complete dictionary of these emigrants, gives a slight variant for the title which can be translated without ambiguity as "Leskov, auteur [22]underestimated of Russian life” . I suppose that it was voluntarily that Pierre used the appropriate French term of painter for his work on this writer who, in the 36 volumes of his work, draws numerous frescoes of the Russian people. This work is his doctoral thesis presented at the Sorbonne in January 1926, the work having been published by the Presses Universitaires de France in 1925. Pierre was therefore 24 years old when he wrote it, well documented and in remarkable French, whereas he has been in France for barely 5 years. There is a dedication for his mother to which he will be very attached all his life: " To my mother, Mrs. Inna Kovalewsky, pedagogue and writer ."

Why Leskov? We know Gogol, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky... but who has heard of Leskov, who died in 1895, some time after having said to a professor of his friends: "When a man stops advancing and perfecting himself, he must die [23] . »?

Leskov was widely read in the provinces of Russia, his books were found among village priests, among teachers, among slightly educated merchants, in small provincial libraries. But he is too Russian, "the most Russian of all Russian writers, " [24] and, in Pierre's expression, he is not " specially filtered for European tastes." [25] ”, unlike the better known authors published in the West.

Why did Pierre Kovalevsky choose to do a thesis on Leskov? He expresses it in the introduction. Obviously, he is still under the shock of the Revolution which he calls “contemporary chaos” , but also “temporary fall” , because he has the vision that sooner or later this parenthesis of the history of Russia will be erased. And when Russia rises from its ruins, what will survive is the " true national character", "the depths of the national genius" painted by Leskov. And Pierre Kovalevsky wants to make it known to European readers so that they " stay in touch with the Russia of the future" , so that they can"to know the strength and the weakness of Russian life, to understand and admit it, not only as an exotic curiosity, but as an essential factor in the destinies of mankind ." [26] »

He acknowledges that the task is difficult, because Leskov's work is complex and uneven in quality, and because his Russian language includes unexpected expressions that are difficult to translate or even incomprehensible for some Russians. Pierre Kovalevsky succeeded in this, by consulting numerous works in France and abroad, and by obtaining first-hand information from members of the Leskov family and contemporaries who knew and followed him.

Leskov was brought up in the provinces, in the rural world, he was marked by his grandmother, a woman who took him to monasteries and described life to him with charm and poetry: he had first dreamed of becoming a monk , then to devote himself to science, then to become a philanthropist. He is an autodidact who begins with a career in commerce. In this capacity, he travels in all directions of Russia and observes the life and customs of his contemporaries. And it was from the age of 30, when he moved to Saint-Petersburg, that he began to write, with his first not very good great novels which alternated with a few masterpieces. And he then flourishes in works where the real ingeniously mixes with the imaginary, where the richness of the subjects prevents the attention from concentrating, and from embracing the whole at a glance.

At random in his thesis on Leskov, Pierre Kovalevsky reveals himself: "The quality that makes our hearts beat in unison with his is that he gives us the impression of loving everything he describe. He seems to say to us: 'Here they are – this mentality, this national soul, as I know it; accept them without omitting anything, and try to like them before concluding anything'. [27] »

Like Leskov, Pierre Kovalevsky likes the Russian mentality, with its greatness and its weaknesses, and he does not judge: he describes, and does not rush to conclude.

There seems to be a common thread in Leskov's work: “Where is the salvation of the Russian people? For some, his most notable, or at least, most original work is the novel Soboranie ( The Clergy of the Cathedral ). Leskov is a Christian, he began to translate Origen into Russian, he frequented ecclesiastical circles where he had many friends, and he wrote many stories about the clergy and the monks, in particular Menus facts of episcopal life , a work which aroused the displeasure of the Procurator of the Holy Synod [28] and which Pierre considers cannot be"appreciated and tasted only by people who know this environment thoroughly...a book for amateurs which is not made for the general public [29] ". It is because you are such connoisseurs that it seemed good to me to quote three tasty true stories painted by Leskov (alas, doubly abbreviated here for lack of French, and not in the author's colorful language) , stories that Pierre Kovalevsky appreciated and abbreviated before us.

Metropolitan Philaret of kyiv was known for his great Christian charity, for his kindness. A famous artist, who had become almost an atheist, who had spent his childhood working in the Lavra of kyiv always fondly remembered the man who was called the “good little grandfather”. He said of him: “He is the only link that binds me to the faith. There was a fruit garden at the Metropolitan's. The young painters take advantage of the absence of the very severe Father Irinarque to go and pilfer some fruit. Very astonished and frightened, they heard the voice of the Metropolitan coming out of a cell: “Save who can, Father Irinarque is coming! The boys expect a punishment and tremble in advance to go to penance with the Metropolitan. But two days later“They are young, let them have a little fun. » [30]

The following story concerns Saint Philaret of Moscow, who died in 1867. He was the one who translated the Bible into Russian. As the Bible was published with the assistance of the Anglican Bible Society, the latter was suspected of wanting to bring Protestantism into Russia; publishing was discontinued, and Bibles destroyed. The metropolitan had to wait for the accession to the throne of Alexander II in 1855 to continue. He was an ascetic, with a lively and piercing look, a general expression full of intelligence, but impenetrable for his interlocutor.

A general from Moscow, a brave man who is a bit vain, goes by chance to a church in a distant district and finds himself shocked by the indistinct and unharmonious singing of the cantors. He complains to the Metropolitan that in certain churches in Moscow the officiating is bad and contrary to the Orthodox rite. The Metropolitan forwards the letter without explanation to the Governor General. The governor asks the metropolitan what he wants us to do: "I don't want anything at all," said Bishop Philarète. The governor summons the general and tells him to go and explain himself to the metropolitan. The Metropolitan always postpones the audience, saying sometimes that he is ill, sometimes that he is very busy, or that he has gone to perform his devotions outside of Moscow. Annoyed, our general finally manages to have an audience in a monastery far from Moscow. He is in his little shoes. After the liturgy, Bishop Philarète speaks to him standing in the middle of the reception hall:" You wrote me. Do you think the singing in Moscow churches is unorthodox? You need to know about it. So please sing to me: 'Lord, I cry out to You, hear me…' in your eight” . – “But, Monsignor, I don't know how to sing…” – “Perhaps you don't even know the ordinary melodies? So how can you afford to judge whether the chanting is orthodox or not? » . With that, he returns his letter and turns his back on him… The general returned confused, but on the way, he laughed heartily, imagining himself singing in the middle of the reception hall in full uniform the psalm lucernaire in tone eight [31] .

A presumptuous political police officer believed that nothing was impossible for him, and he learns that the old bishop of the place never invited anyone to dinner: so he made a point of obtaining an invitation. Too bad for him, the bishop has wind of the case. After the liturgy, he goes to see the bishop, and there he stays one hour, two hours until seven o'clock in the evening. He speaks and the bishop, silent, lets him talk. No longer able to stand it, the visitor gets up. The bishop said to him: “But stay to share my meal” . The guest triumphs. The bishop makes him wait an hour, and invites him to sit down to eat. In the dining room, the bishop begins with a prayer, which lasts about an hour. Our man is near starvation. “Well, serve”,said the bishop. They are served two small plates of pea soup with croutons. No sooner had our officer worked up his appetite than the bishop stood up: "Let's thank God for our meal . " And the prayer begins again, but the officer, no longer able to stand it, runs away without saying goodbye. The old bishop liked to tell this story with a laugh, and he added mischievously: “That kind can only be eradicated by prayer and fasting! » [32]


Can we conclude? For that, it would have been necessary to peel all that the author wrote, and to penetrate more the mystery of this endearing man.

Let us rather leave the floor to Pierre Kovalevsky who spoke in 1975 at one of the weeks of liturgical studies at the Institut Saint-Serge in which he used to take part. In it he dealt with the specificities of the Byzantine liturgy in Russia, saying in conclusion: “The Russian people…has always defended national particularities aware that each people must contribute to the common treasure of liturgical life its own share. [33] ” And the article was signed: “Dean of the Institute of Orthodox Theology Saint Denis in Paris”We see here the universality, let us say like the Slavs the 'sobornost', the catholicity of this erudite Christian, Russian in his heart, historian knowing how to marry analysis with synthesis, pioneer of ecumenism and servant of the Church of Christ in his one truth and in his diversity.

The life of Saint Sergius

There is a real spiritual revolution starting from the ancient city of Rostov the Great, the capital of North-East Russia, where Saint Sergius and Andrew Rublev were from.

Saint Serge descends from a family of landowners. His parents led a simple peasant life. Three sons, as with the Kovalevskys, including Bartholomew, the future saint, born in 1314. He attended services in one of the three monasteries of Rostov and took part in reading and singing.

In 1328, the princes of Moscow annexed Rostov and its region and Barthélemy's parents moved to Radonège. Barthélemy remains alone at home and despite the call to monastic life, does not leave it until after the death of his parents. The future saint then decides to go and live in the desert.

After three years, he asks the abbot to give him the monastic habit. He then receives the name of Serge. For what ? Because that day is October 7 and Saints Sergius and Bacchus are celebrated there, 2 martyrs in Syria. He dedicates the church of his small hermitage to the Holy Trinity.

People come to him and a small community of twelve monks soon forms. Everyone builds a small house and we only gather for daily prayer.

After the abbot's death, the monks meet and elect Saint Sergius as their abbot. By accepting this charge, Saint Sergius does not change anything in his life. He continues to work for all.

The rule he adopted for his monastery was that of Saint Theodosius of Kiev (11th century) but he humanized it greatly by introducing instead the rigid requirements of the Kiev ascetic, clemency and humility. Every rule, he said, must be in the hands of the abbot a means of education and reasonably applied according to the capacities of each one. Monastic life must be a school and the abbot a pedagogue who helps the monks to progress in the evangelical way. This rule will be applied later by a large number of monasteries in Russia.

Sick people come to implore his help and Saint Sergius heals them. One night he had a vision of a multitude of birds that filled the whole monastery and a voice told him that a multitude of monks as numerous as these birds were going to inhabit the abbey.

The last thirty years of Saint Sergius' life are filled with peacemaking action. He visited the principalities which were at war with each other, he founded monasteries and his pupils went to the most distant provinces of Russia to bring the Good News there and raise the moral and social level of the populations. St. Sergius Abbey becomes the greatest spiritual center in all of Russia. People come to consult the saint from all over and the great prince Dimitri comes to seek his blessing at the time of the decisive battle against the Mongols on the “Field of woodcocks” (Koulikovo polié) in 1380.

Before his birth in heaven, Saint Sergius is visited by the Mother of God who blesses him and promises to watch over his monastery. He died on September 25 / October 8, 1392. His abbey was destroyed but completely rebuilt by a successor, and decorated by André Roublev.

The importance of Saint Sergius for the Church of Russia and for the Russian people in general is immense. He straightened the life of his country, contributed powerfully to its civilization through the many monasteries he had founded and which became centers of assistance to the people. Its abbey played and still plays the role of unifier of all the spiritual forces of the nation.

Within the walls of the abbey was founded the famous Moscow Theological Academy. The Arch-Abbey of Saint-Serge transmitted its tradition to the Saint-Serge Orthodox School of Theology in Paris, founded in 1925 and which was between the two wars one of the liveliest centers of Russian spirituality outside of Russia. [34] .

The 14th Century Religious Renaissance in Russia

The origin of this 14th century Renaissance in Russia must be sought both in Byzantium, which at that time passed through a brilliant period under the Palaiologos, and in Serbia, which was also at its cultural peak in the time of King Etienne Dushan.

The Byzantine-Serbian flight of the early 14th century is a separate movement that will influence the revival of the arts in Russia. It was in the Greater Serbia of King Milutin that the renovated Byzantine art found fertile ground for its development and it was from there above all that it penetrated into Russia.

A great builder of churches not only in his kingdom, but also in the Byzantine Empire and on Mount Athos, Milutine attracted the best artists from all countries to his capital. Under his reign (1275-1320) and under that of Etienne Douchan (1331-1355), Serbia became the crossroads of several cultures, the Byzantine influence mingled there with Caucasian contributions, especially Armenian, Syrian, Eastern, as well as than in southern Italy and Sicily.

Serbia transmits to Russia the art of the miniature. Patristic literature mainly passes through Mount Athos where copyists and translators of all Orthodox nationalities reside.

Mention should also be made of the Russian colony of Constantinople. It includes, apart from merchants and passing pilgrims, translators and copyists of Greek and Serbian books which must be sent to Russia. For example, the library of the abbey founded by Saint Sergius will count in the following century more than three thousand Greek or Slavonic manuscripts, most of the latter of Serbian origin.

The art of the fresco goes through its golden age between 1363 and the end of the century. The greatest master of this period, Theophanes the Greek, arrived in Novgorod in 1370 and undertook the decoration of many churches. Théophane was able to train a whole host of students, including his most famous disciple: André Roublev. His masterpieces can be found in the Cathedral of the Dormition in Vladimir, and in the Abbey of Saint Sergius where he painted the icons of the iconostasis, and especially The Trinity known throughout the world ( 1410) [35 ] .

[1] Tribute to Pierre Kovalevsky , Maxime Kovalevsky, Presence Orthodoxe n° 40 – 1979, p.29.
[2] Maxime Kovalevsky, the man who sang of God , Madeleine Kovalevsky, Ed. Osmondes, 1994, p.27
[3] Luke 22, 27
[4] Among his numerous publications, Pierre K. wrote a small guide on the liturgy.
[5] Tribute to Pierre Kovalevsky , pp.29 and 30.
[6] Tribute to Pierre Kovalevsky , p.31.
[7] History of Russia and the USSR , Pierre Kovalevsky, Librairie des Cinq Continents, 1970 (revised edition of his Manuel d'Histoire russe published in 1948), 6th part, chapter II, p. 349.
[8] History of Russia and the USSR , p.15.
[9] History of Russia and the USSR , p.7.
[10] History of Russia and the USSR , p.15.
[11] History of Russia and the USSR , p. 349.
[12] The Divine Contradiction , Vincent Bourne, Ed. Librairie des Cinq Continents, 1975, volume 1, p.55.
[13] The Divine Contradiction , p.55 et seq.
[14] History of Russia and the USSR , p.364.
[15] Saint Sergius and Russian Spirituality , Pierre Kovalevsky, Ed. du Seuil, coll. Spiritual Masters, 1969, p.187.
[16] Saint Sergius and Russian Spirituality , p.3.
[17] See some biographical elements taken from the book and articles by the author in the appendix.
[18] Saint Sergius and Russian Spirituality , p.65 et seq.
[19] Saint Sergius and Russian Spirituality , p.25.
[20] Saint Sergius and Russian Spirituality , p.26.
[21] Rossiskoié zaroujbiénié vo Frantsii 1919-2000 , NAUKA, 2008, volume 1, p.705.
[22] The author uses the term pissatel which means writer (the term painter is rendered by xoudojnik , artist, or jivopissets , the one who describes life)
[23] NSLESKOV, unknown painter of Russian national life , Pierre Kovalevsky, PUF, 1925, p.89.
[24] Written by the literary critic, Dimitri Svyatopolk-Miprskii in 1926: "Russians consider Leskov to be the most Russian of Russian writers, and the one who apprehends the Russian people as they are, in the most profound and widest" .
[25] NSLESKOV, unknown painter of Russian national life , p.XI.
[26] NSLESKOV, unknown painter of Russian national life , p.XI.
[27] NSLESKOV, unknown painter of Russian national life , p.92.
[28] NSLESKOV, unknown painter of Russian national life , p.66
[29] NSLESKOV, unknown painter of Russian national life , p.67
[30] NSLESKOV, unknown painter of Russian national life , pp.155-156.
[31] NSLESKOV, unknown painter of Russian national life , pp.153-154.
[32] NSLESKOV, Unsung Painter of Russian National Life , pp.260-261 (from the novel ' The Cathedral Clergy ').
[33] Three liturgical reforms in Russia: 1551,1620 and 1652, P. Kovalevsky, Liturgy of the particular Church and liturgy of the universal Church, 22nd Week, Edizione Liturgiche, Rome, 1976, p.209.
[34] Excerpts from: The Russian Religious Renaissance of the 14th century , Pierre Kovalevsky, Presence Orthodoxe n° 16, 1971.
[35] Excerpts from: The Russian Religious Renaissance of the 14th century , Pierre Kovalevsky, Presence Orthodoxe n° 16, 1971.


How did I have the audacity to volunteer to say a few words about Pierre Kovalevsky? This audacity even turned into concern when I came across the first line of a tribute from Maxime in honor of his older brother: "I find myself in great difficulty to draw the lines that will follow [1] " . It started well! Concern turned to anguish when I read the following: " It will be certain biographical details of which only relatives can know, certain published works although little known, and finally works not yet published, which will help us , here, to shed light on the inner aspirations and working methods of the man, at bottom very secret, that was Pierre Kovalevsky.

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