Logo of the Exibition "Christianity in Lithuanian Art"


(28 December, 1999 - 31 December, 2003)

OLD BELIEVERS (staroviery in Russian) 

Old Believers - Christians who split from the Russian Orthodox Church in opposition to the Russian Church Reform introduced in 1653-1666 by Patriarch Nikon. The reform mostly applied to liturgical practices therefore the Old Believers mostly differ from the official Russian Orthodox Church in their practices. The Old Believers keep the tradition of crossing themselves with two fingers, they sing alleluia two versus three times, they bow low to the ground and worship only ancient icons, their cross has an oblique bar below the longer arm. They only use the old liturgical books. The Old Believers are spilt into two main groups: Popovsty, who retained the priesthood, and Bezpopovtsy who rejected it. The spiritual and cultural centre of the Popovsty became Moscow Rogozho; the centre of Bezpopovtsy is the cemetery of Prieobrazhensk. Since the times of Peter I the Old Believers established themselves as the famous icon collectors. Their churches accumulate most impressive collections of the ancient icons. Besides written and reading monastic schools also taught children the basics of icon painting, first of all, copying the ancient icons.

The Czar supported the reform of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Old Believers who resisted the Reform were condemned and declared dissidents (Russ. Raskolniki), in 1667 they were separated from the Russian Orthodox Church. Until 1909, they were under persecution as threat to the state and the Church.

On their flee from repression, numerous Old Believers settled in Lithuania in the second half of 17C -18C. They represent Bezpopotvsty group. Their first community settled in Girele, Anykšciai region in 1709. In 1728-1755, Gudiškes (Ignalina region) had one monastery of the Old Believers, in 1755-1841 there was one in Deguciai (Zarasai region). In 1933, mostly in East Lithuania, there were 53 communities of the Old Believers, about 34,000 people. These congregations have 50 prayer houses. The Supreme Council of the Old Believers based in Vilnius runs them.

Information of the Lithuanian Art Museum

  Lithuanian Art Museum, Fund of Samogitian Culture, Institute of Mathematics and Informatics 
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     Page updated 2011.08.12