Cultural Association of Saint-Sergius Hill

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George Fedotov

Gregorij Petrovitch Fedotov is born in 1886 in Saratov and died in 1951 in New York. He studied in Saint Petersburg (faculty of history and philology). He develops a passion for Marxism and becomes an active member of the social democratic party. In 1906-1908 he was in Germany where he studied at the universities in Berlin and Jena. The events of 1917 provoked his return to the Christian faith, which he had lost since his youth. In 1918 he became a member of the Religious and Philosophical Society and of the “Christ and Liberty” Fraternity. In 1920 he received the chair of Medieval History at the University of Saratov, but at the end of 1922 he was forced by the Soviet authorities to abdicate. In 1925, with the help of the French scholar Ferdinand Lot (husband of the medievalist and theologian Myrrha Borodin) he was able to emigrate. When he arrived in Paris, he was invited by the faculty of the Institut Saint-Serge to teach the history of Western Christianity, hagiology and Latin. At the beginning of 1940 Georges Fedotov decided to emigrate to the United States. He was invited by the faculty of St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York, where he taught until his death in 1951.

He brought to the study of the saints a method which was new in the Orthodox Church, by applying to Eastern and Russian hagiography all the achievements of hagiological science in the West. That is to say, he emphasizes the historical context of the life of a saint, and strives to show his authentic person.

During his stay in France he had the idea, with Fr. Nicolas Afanassieff, of organizing in Saint-Serge the Semaines d’Études liturgiques, not only for Orthodox theologians, but with the participation of specialists belonging to all confessions. This project could be carried out only after the Second World War, for the first time in 1952. And since that date these liturgical congresses meet regularly at Saint-Serge in the first days of July.

His two books published in English have become reference works in the field of the history of Russian spirituality: A Treasury of Russian Spirituality (New York, 1948); The Russian Religious Mind. Kievan Christianity and Middle Ages (2 vols., Belmont, Mass: Nordland, 1975).