Russia: St. Sergius




  1. Students should identify St. Sergius as one of the most famous Russian saints.

  2. Students should know that he was the inspiration for the defeat of the Tartars.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.


  1. Tell the story of St. Sergius:

Over 600 years ago in the land of Russia was born a boy named Bartholomew. His family had once been rich, but their wealth had been stolen and their town burned by the Mongolian Tartars. They lived like peasants, but there was always a place for the stranger to eat and sleep in their home. Bartholomew grew and went to school, but he somehow couldn’t learn to read. He was very sad about this; his father was very angry. One day, while he was seeking a lost herd of horses, Bartholomew saw a monk sitting under a tree. The boy told the monk about his difficulties with reading. The holy monk gave the boy a small loaf of blessed bread and told him that the bread was as sweet as the Holy Scriptures would be when he could read them. Bartholomew ate the bread; it was sweet as honey. The monk told him not to worry about reading any more. Bartholomew invited the monk to spend the night with his family. The monk and Bartholomew’s family read the Scriptures that night. Bartholomew could read perfectly!

When Bartholomew grew up, he wanted to be a monk. But his parents were very poor. Who would care for them when he left. So, Bartholomew stayed with his parents and cared for them until they died. Then he went into the woods, and built a small hut and chapel. At first, his older brother, Stephen, also a monk, went with Bartholomew. But, Stephen did not like the wilderness and returned to his monastery. Bartholomew was alone. For months he saw no one. He devoted himself to prayer.

There was little to eat so deep in the wilderness. One day, a hungry brown bear, taller than Bartholomew, came to visit. There was a piece of bread on the table. The man shared it with the bear and they became friends. Later, a visiting monk gave him the new name Sergius.

Word reached the outside world of the holy hermit living in the forest. Other monks came to build huts near his and learn from his example. Soon the bishop named him abbot of the monastery that had grown around him. This was a different type of monastery – a monastery in the wilderness. But, Sergius never ordered the other monks to do anything; he led only by example. He served his brother monks, helping in all the work of the monastery. He was so humble, that people often mistook him for a servant. Once a peasant came to meet the famous monk, Sergius. The other monks pointed out the old, shabby man tending the garden. The peasant was very upset; this could not possibly be Sergius. Then, a prince rode up on his richly decorated horse. He dismounted and bowed before Sergius. The peasant realized his mistake and begged the forgiveness of the famous monk.

Once the Grand Prince Dmitri, ruler of all Russia, came to Sergius. He told Sergius about the Moslem Tartars massing their armies to destroy the Christian army and capture the women and children, forcing them to give up their faith and customs.  Sergius told the prince to humbly offer the Tartars peace and all the riches of the land. But the Tartars continued to gather their armies. The Russian army was small and weak. Dmitri was sure they could not win. But, Sergius told Prince Dmitri to trust the Lord. God would help him win, because he was fighting not for riches but for the heart and soul of his people. And so Prince Dmitri went to battle, a small force against the mighty Tartars. For the first time in Russian history, the Tartars were defeated! Russia was saved.


  1. Review a bit about Russian history: Remember Cyril and Methodius, evangelists to the Slavs. The Russians use the Cyrillic alphabet to this day. And review the baptism of Russia. Who was called “Equal to the Apostles” because of his role in the conversion of Russia to Christianity.  For many centuries, the Russian Church and its bishops looked to the Patriarch of Constantinople. But, finally in 1448, just before the fall of Constantinople, the Patriarch of Constantinople recognized the bishop of Moscow, Bishop Jonah, as the Metropolitan of Moscow. Now review the Fall of Constantinople – Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem – all of the old eastern patriarchates – were in Moslem hands. Rome had split even earlier. Moscow’s Metropolitan now became a Patriarch. To the Patriarch of Moscow fell the leadership of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Byzantine Empire was no more; Russia was the largest and mightiest Christian nation in the east. Moscow became the “third Rome”. Into this situation, come the Tartars, threatening Russia and her Christian faith. St. Sergius, with his wise and godly advice, gave Prince Dmitri the courage to face the Tartars and save the nation.


  1. Play a learning game: Time Cards. Write each major event on an index card. Mix them up. Can the students put them in order?

King Constantine and the Edict of Milan

Fall of Rome

Mission of Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Baptism of Russia

Split of Rome from other Patriarchates


Sack of Constantinople

Fall of Constantinople

                        Patriarch of Moscow

                        Birth of St. Sergius

                        Prince Dmitri’s Victory


  1. Make St. Sergius’s sweet Scripture bread: Take a piece of nice, thick bread for each student. Have the student use a toothpick and food coloring to write a favorite Scripture on the bread. Then, spread the bread with honey and enjoy your sweet snack.


  1. Close with prayer: Lord, give me the humility and faith of St. Sergius.