Saint Olga of Kiev, Widow

July 11

Today is the feast day of Saint Olga of Kiev.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Olga of Kiev was born 879 at Pskov, Russia into a family of Varyag origin according to tradition.  Varyags were also known as Vikings or Norsemen, who came to the territory of current Russia, Ukraine and Belarus during the 8th and 9th centuries. This theory about Olga’s birth also explains the origin of her name, which is derived from the Scandinavian “Helga.” Other historical versions state that Olga was either a daughter of Oleg Veshchy, the founder of the state of Kievan Rus, or had Bulgarian roots.

Oleg Veshchy initiated Olga’s marriage with Prince Igor, who was the son of the Novgorod Prince Rurik, a founder of the Rurik Dynasty of Russian tsars. After the death of Oleg in 912, Igor became the ruler of Kievan Rus. In 945 Prince Igor went to the Slavic tribe of the Drevlyans to gather tributes. After he demanded a much higher payment, the Drevlyans killed him.

The death of the Kievan Prince raised a question about the next ruler of the country. Igor’s son, Svyatoslav, was only three years old, and hence Olga took the power into her hands. Interestingly, she had the full support the Rus army, which attests to the great respect she held among the people.  After killing Igor, the Drevlyans sent their matchmakers to propose that Olga marry their Prince Mal. The Princess took revenge upon her husband’s death, killing all of the ambassadors.   There are stories of her being quite the warrior queen. 

She ruled Kievan Rus after Igor’s assassination in 945. Following her conversion and baptism in 957 in Constantinople, when she took the name Helena, she tried to introduce Christianity to the Ukraine on a wide scale, but failed. When her son Sviatoslav reached adulthood, she handed the throne to him, c.963. Apparently, she had a big influence on her grandson, Vladimir the Great, who in 988 made Christianity the official religion of Kievan Rus. 

She is grandmother of Saint Vladimir, great-grandmother of Saint Boris and Saint Gleb. Saint Olga died on 11 July 969 in Kiev of natural causes.

Image: crop of St. Olga, artist: unknown (3)

Research by REGINA Staff


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