Church People Clergy and Monastics Deacon Andrei Psarev Jordanville

Archimandrite Kiprian (Kern)

A Scholar and Monk Abroad

Archimandrite Kiprian (Kern) passed away on this day in 1960.

Constantine Kern was born in Saint Petersburg in 1899 into a hereditary noble family. Similarly to the Ridiger, Schmemann, Meyendorff, and Grabbe families, that of Kern belonged to the Russian imperial aristocracy of German descent. The founders of these families arrived in Russia after its opening to the West by Peter the Great.

Constantine graduated from Emperor Alexander I Lycée in Saint Petersburg. This elite school specialized in the humanities and was available only for children of hereditary nobility; it combined a gymnasium and university curriculum in the senior classes.

The historical events of the Flight (the name of the famous Bulgakov’s play in Russian, Beg) led Constantine to the South of Russia. Constantine thus recalled meeting Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitskii) there for the second time. (Their first meeting occurred at the All-Russian Council in 1917.) In his Reminiscences of Metropolitan Anthony, which are the best analytical account of him, Fr. Kiprian recalled this as follows:

There I was in Ekaterinodar. I was walking down Krasnaia Street wear­ing an English overcoat and a sailor’s hat. It was Sunday. The Liturgy had just ended in the cathedral, and people were coming out. I walked in. Some bishop was standing on the ambo wearing a mantiya and a white klobuk and was blessing the remaining worshippers. I walked up, as I re­member, as a simple soldier last in line and got the bishop’s blessing. A gentle voice addressed me with the question:

“What are you? A schoolboy or an officer?”

I was struck by exactly the same question as at the Moscow Sobor, and I recognized Metropolitan Anthony.

“Not at all, Vladyko, I’m a volunteer.”

“Well, so that means you’re a soldier.”

Constantine Kern was in Belgrade at the same time as the future Mikhail Maximovich, Sergei Bezobrazov, Nicholas Afanasiev, and Yuri Pavlovich Grabbe.

Constantine received his monastic tonsuring in the monastery in Milkovo, the “cradle” of the first generation of ROCOR bishops consecrated in the diaspora. Together with Priestmonks John (Maximovich) and Nicholas (Karpoff; later Bishop of London), he taught at the Serbian seminary in Bitola, Macedonia. From there, in 1928, he was appointed Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem. In Serbia, only ROCOR Bishops had “ecclesiastical exterritoriality”; all other Russian clergy belonged to the Serbian Church. However, as in the case of Fr. Kiprian, the ROCOR bishops used to forget about this: they assigned him to Jerusalem without consulting the Serbian Church.

Fr. Kiprian’s capacity for analytical insight had an underside: he suffered from nervous breakdowns. In 1930, he returned to Yugoslavia, joining the jurisdiction of the Serbian Patriarchate. In 1936, he accepted an invitation to teach at St. Serge Theological Institute and moved to Paris. There, the future Frs. Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff became his students. His path thus resembled the trajectory of the future Archbishop John (Shakvoskoi, d. 1989), who also moved from the jurisdiction of the ROCOR to that of Metropolitan Evlogii, who after 1930 was a Russian Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Nevertheless, Archimandrite Kiprian remained persona grata in the ROCOR. When his lectures on historical liturgics and pastoral theology were published, Holy Trinity Orthodox Theological Seminary used them as its manuals.

Fr. Kiprian preserved the old Russian aristocratic patronizing attitude toward Jewish people, and, like the Nobel Prize-winning author Ivan Bunin, he had zero tolerance for anything coming out from Soviet Russia. Reportedly, when one of the Moscow Patriarchate clergymen greeted him with “Christ in Risen!” Father Kiprian responded dryly: “I know.”


Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev), “Kipiran,” Pravoslavnaia Entsiklopedia.

Se Voskhodim vo Ierusalim: Ierusalimskie dnevniki arkhimandrita Kipriana (Kerna) [Behold, We Are Ascending to Jerusalem: Archimandirte Kiprian Kern’s Jersualem Diaries, 1928–1930] (Jerusalem, 2013).

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