Few debates in late seventeenth-century Muscovy were as heated as the controversy over the naming of the Resurrection “New Jerusalem” Monastery (1656). This essay draws attention to an overlooked sixteenth-century source, a letter by the Greek-born Slavic translator Maksim Grek (d. 1556), which played an important role in shaping the Church’s thinking. Maksim’s letter helps to explain why Jerusalem ideology took a very different path in Russia than it did in Western Europe, and why replications of the Holy Sepulcher are only very rarely encountered in Muscovy. Maksim’s letter introduces several themes which foreshadow the course of the later debate: the irrevocability of Jerusalem’s name; the inalienable holiness of the loca sancta; and the connection between the holy sites and churches built on them. These themes, in turn, invite a reconsideration of the success of Jerusalem ideology in Muscovy, which has often been taken for granted. We first situate this contrarian text in its original context and then trace its mediation through important Ruthenian authors who guaranteed its wide reception in Moscow. Our study demonstrates that the Russian clergy and the Moscow Synod of 1666/67 based their critiques of the ‘New Jerusalem’ Monastery’s name on a reading of Maksim’s letter and its mediators.
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Justin Willson and Ashley Morse. Transferring Jerusalem to Moscow: Maksim Grek’s Letter and Its Afterlife. The Russian Review. 82: 2023; 248–262. https://doi.org/10.1111/russ.12442