Touched by the Holy Hand: Stories Told by the Artefacts Kept in the House-museum of St. Elisabeth Feodorovna in Moscow

One can learn about the life of a saint by reading a book or watching a documentary. However, nothing helps to get to know a saint like visiting him personally.

The items displayed in the house-museum of the Holy Martyr Elisabeth Feodorovna help reveal the spiritual life of the Grand Duchess. “Her inner aesthetics are reflected even in the interior,” the museum staff say. In order to preserve the home-like atmosphere, many of the exhibits are displayed without formal handrails and barriers. The previously inhabited and now carefully maintained quarters of the house-museum contain photographs of the Romanov family, as well as personal items of the Grand Duchess, her husband Sergei Alexandrovich, and the first spiritual father of the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent, Venerable Confessor Sergius.

Our photo tour below is dedicated to these items and the stories that they convey about the life and ministry of St. Elisabeth Feodorovna.

1. Official decree of Alexander III regarding the adoption of Orthodoxy by Elisabeth Feodorovna

Before her marriage, Elisabeth Feodorovna was a Protestant. The law allowed her to marry a representative of another religion without changing hers, since Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was not an emperor. However, after a trip to Jerusalem to consecrate the church of St. Mary Magdalene, built with the joint efforts of the princes Sergei and Pavel Alexandrovich, and their sister Maria, the views of Elisabeth Feodorovna gradually began to change. Memoirs have been preserved, according to which a stranger approached Sergei Alexandrovich after one of the services in Jerusalem, saying, “Congratulations, her mind is made up now.” Three years later, St. Elisabeth converted to Orthodoxy.

2. Wood carved figure of St. Elisabeth of Thuringia

St. Elisabeth of Thuringia (St. Elisabeth of Hungary) is a medieval Catholic saint, after whom the Grand Duchess was named at birth. A princess of the Kingdom of Hungary, she was widowed at 20, after her husband went on a crusade, where he fell ill with the plague and never returned home. After that she parted with all her wealth and built a hospital for lepers and the disabled in the German city of Marburg. Knowing from her childhood the life of the Catholic saint, Elisabeth Feodorovna miraculously repeated her fate.

3. Personal table service set of Sergei and Elisabeth Romanov

This precious dinner service was presented to Elisabeth Feodorovna and Sergei Alexandrovich for their wedding. All cutlery and dishes bear the letters “S” and “E”—Sergei and Elisabeth.

4. Antique wall clock

stopped at the hour and minute of the tragic assassination of Prince Sergei Alexandrovich (between 14:46 and 14:47).

February 4, 1905 became a tragic day for the Romanov family. Sergei Alexandrovich, the husband of St. Elisabeth Feodorovna, was blown up by the revolutionary Ivan Kalyaev as he was leaving in his carriage from the Nicholas Palace in the Kremlin. Devastated by the loss of her husband, two days later Elisabeth Feodorovna found the strength to organize a meeting with Kalyaev in prison. She brought with her the Gospel, hoping that the murderer would repent of his crime.

5. The jewel-box, a wedding gift from Alexander III

After Elisabeth Fedorovna found out about her husband’s death, she realized that her social life became a thing of the past. The Grand Duchess divided all her jewelry, including her wedding ring, into three parts, donating one third for the construction of the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent, opened under her patronage in 1909.

6. Photograph of Nicholas II with his daughters, in which he is saying goodbye to the sisters of the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent

The foundation stone of the Intercession Cathedral was laid in 1908. Four years later, it was consecrated. On that day, Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich, together with the Grand Duchesses, arrived at the monastery in his own car to personally congratulate Elisabeth Feodorovna. “Superior!” the Sovereign said after visiting the Intercession Cathedral.

7. Icons created by Elisabeth Feodorovna

St. Elisabeth never appreciated idle rest and devoted every free minute to work, including handcrafts. The Grand Duchess personally embroidered an icon of The Savior Not Made by Hands as well as images of Martha and Mary, which she also painted.

8. Antique Becker grand piano

Elisabeth Feodorovna gave concerts in the house of the Governor-General, playing Chopin, Russian classics and singing Russian romances. This Becker piano had spent a long time in storage before the fact that it belonged to St. Elisabeth became known. This happened when an inscription “Ella” was found on it. It looked identical to the signatures of the Grand Duchess.

9. Icon from Palestine

The mother-of-pearl icon “The Kissing of the Mother of God and the Righteous Elizabeth” was brought to the Grand Duchess from Palestine in 1912.

10. Glove lost by Elisabeth Feodorovna

The Grand Duchess dropped this glove during her arrest. The Bolsheviks came for her during Easter week, on the feast day of the Iberian Icon of the Mother of God. The Grand Duchess was in a hurry, since she was given thirty minutes for the preparations, and she still needed to resolve all issues and give her final instructions to the Sisters.

A separate room in the house-museum is dedicated to Archimandrite Sergius, one of the most important figures in the spiritual life of the Martha and Mary Convent.

11. Diary of Fr. Sergius (Mitrofan) Srebryansky

Archimandrite Sergius (before tonsure, Mitrofan Srebryansky) became the confessor of the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent and the rector of the church. Before serving at the monastery, during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, he served at the front as a regimental chaplain. The Sovereign personally read his wartime diary, which was later published as a separate edition.

12. Cross with precious stones

Father Sergius was well-known in Russia and found favour in the eyes of the royal family. Tsar Nicholas II once offered Fr. Sergius to become his family’s confessor, but the priest refused because of his attitude towards Grigori Rasputin. Despite this, the emperor did not withdraw his sympathy towards him, awarding Fr. Sergius a cross, decorated with precious stones. In the last years of his life, having served three sentences in exile, he became an archimandrite while his wife with whom he had no children, was tonsured with the name Elisabeth. During her funeral, they accidentally lifted off the lid of the coffin where lay the body of the Archimandrite Sergius, discovering his incorrupt relics.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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