From the Editors: Today, dear brothers and sisters, we prayerfully remember Archimandrite Kyprian (Pyzhov) on the anniversary of his death, prepared with the help of materials published by Holy Trinity Monastery and originally published as part of The History of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY.
Kyrill Dimitrievich Pyzhov, tonsured Kyprian, was born in St Petersburg on January 7/20, 1904. Soon after, his father, Dimitri Mikhailovich Pyzhov, was appointed the zemsky (regional) Supervisor in Bezhetsk uezd of Tverskaya guberniya. There, in 1912, Kyrill’s mother, Alexandra Konstantinovna, nee Strinskaya, died. She was an artist who graduated the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture; she worked in the studios of Makovsky, Polenov, Perov and others. She inherited her talent from her father, who completed the Academy of Art in Florence.
After the February Revolution, Dimitri Mikhailovich and his three sons, Evgenii, Kyrill and Georgii (later Hieromonk Gregorii), moved to Petrograd, where they were to endure hunger and cold. By the end of 1918, they left for Shchigri in the Kursk guberniya.
Awaiting the arrival of the White Army, the Pyzhovs made their way to Simferopol. Here, 15-year-old Kyrill became a volunteer soldier and was sent to the front. From then on he endured the entire tribulation of the Volunteer Army—evacuation and Gallipoli. Here, Kyrill joined Alexandrov Military School, where he studied for three years until its dismantling in 1923. Kyrill left for France through Bulgaria to join his older brother.
In Paris, Kyrill worked in a studio that made toy horses, then joined an atelier of designers in the Russian film studio “Albatross,” where he participated in creating the film Don Quixote, with Feodor Chaliapine playing the lead role. Soon after Kyrill moved to Parish, his father and brother George joined him. The three of them then began working as painters. During the evenings, the brothers attended Montparnasse School of painting and drawing, where professors from the Ecole des Beaux Arts taught.
Living in Parish, Kyrill began feeling ill. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was advised to move south. A French design firm sent Kyrill as an expert to its office on the Riviera. He soon regained his health and began decorating fashionable villas.
“I thought of marriage,” wrote Fr Kyprian in his memoirs, “but whenever an opportunity presented itself, an unseen hand would take me away.”
In Nice, Kyrill lived with his brother, Hieromonk Gregorii. Kyrill became an ardent parishioner of the local cathedral, where he befriended Priest Alexander Elchaninov. Under his influence, Kyrill immersed himself in the study of the Orthodox faith and he begins sensing a pull towards the Church and church services. He began to study the techniques of icon painting under Fr Alexander’s matushka, a student of the artist Sofronov.
In the summer of 1932, Hieromonk Savva (Struve) arrived in Nice to collect donations for Ladomirovo Monastery. Fr Savva showed photographs of the monastery, which awakened in Kyrill the desire to help distribute its publications.
“The best way you could help the monastery would be to go there yourself and apply your abilities there,” replied Fr Savva.
“I said that would be difficult, since I did not have an international passport, but Fr Savva immediately offered to write an appeal to Archimandrite Vitaly to accept me as a novice, and to send me an invitation. Fr Savva added that I could paint frescoes in the new church, which I would like, and I replied that I would like to try my hand at it… So my fate was decided,” recounted Fr Kyprian.
In the winter of 1933, before the Nativity of Christ, approaching the town of Ladomirovo, Kyrill saw the church which would be the canvas of his talent: his first frescoed decoration of a church was completed in 1934.
That autumn, Bishop Vitaly tonsured Novice Kyrill to the rassophore, “for painting our church.” His tonsure to the mantle was performed in 1937, and in 1938, Monk Kyprian was ordained to the rank of hierodeacon. In 1940, Metropolitan Anastassy, arriving from Yugoslavia, ordained Fr Kyprian to the rank of hieromonk.
War broke out. The monastery’s brethren evacuated through Bratislava to Berlin, where they found shelter in a half-ruined house. Fr Kyprian, suffering from pneumonia, was sent to a convent dormitory across from a church, whose Rector was Archimandrite Ioann (Shahovskoy). When the recuperated Fr Kyprian entered the church a month later, and approached the candle desk, he noticed printed copies of icons he painted for a Dresden commission. Continuing the monks’ exodus from Berlin to Geneva, he finally found the final destination of his wanderings—Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville.
“My very first days in Holy Trinity Monastery,” remembered Fr Kyprian, “reminded me of my first days at Ladomirovo Monasetery in Carpathian Russia; but this feeling did not last. Soon an icon-painting studio was set up. Novice Nikolai, who was tonsured with the name of Alypy, in honor of the icon-painter of Pechersk, I obtained an irreplaceable helper, both in the studio and in obedience, who became an emulator of the ancient monk of Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, Hieromonk Alypy.
“In 1946, building commenced of the brick church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. In 1950, it was completed and consecrated by Metropolitan Anastassy. The painting of the interior of the church was also finished in time for the consecration. Following this, construction of the four-storey monastic residence began, which also contained the print shop, offices and refectory.
“A small church dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God was built in the monastic cemetery according to the design of V. Glinin, and also decorated by the icon-painters. A few other churches in the USA [Entrance into the Temple Church in Syracuse, NY, St John of Kronstadt Memorial Church in Utica, NY, the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in San Francisco, and others— ed.]; and in Europe [Luxembourg], where in 1982, the newly-constructed Church of SS Peter and Paul was painted.
“In 1988, the frescoes in St Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ, built with the blessing of Archbishop Vitaly, were finished. We began to feel at home in Holy Trinity Monastery, and ‘grew together’ with its founders.”
Heading the icon-painting studio, Fr Kyprian managed to educate not only numerous iconographers, who painted icons in the canonical ecclesiastical style throughout the world, but, as the spiritual father of monks and seminarians, participated in the preparation of many future archpastors and pastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Fr Kyprian died in 2002, and is buried in the crypt under the altar of the Monastery Cathedral.