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Who was Ilya Muromets?

11. September 2009 by Gregg 0 Comments

Not unlike King Arthur from the British legends, Ilya Muromets is the type of hero that straddles the lines between legend and reality. A hero of old Kievan Rus, Ilya Muromets was undoubtedly real to a certain point – his grave still stands in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery, but like many notable figures from the early myths, his exploits were likely derived from a combination of different people throughout history.

Allegedly born the son of a farmer east of what is today Moscow, Ilya Muromets was stricken with disease as a youth due to a family curse and was unable to walk until adulthood. Being magically healed by two Pilgrims and receiving supernatural strength from a giant knight named Svyatogor, Illya Muromets became a Bogatyr, the equivalent of a Knight-Errant in medieval Russia and led a group of Bogatyrs including other legendary knights such as Dobrynia Nikitich and Alyosha Popvich.

Serving Prince Vladimir, the ruler who introduced Kievan Rus to Christianity, Ilya’s legendary exploits included defending and rescuing various cities including Kiev and Svyatogor from Turkish invaders and the Mongolian Golden Horde and slaying the monstrous Nightingale the Robber and Zmey Gorynych the three-headed serpent.

Ilya Muromets’s legendary adventures seem to take place over hundreds of years. In many of the stories, he interacts with rulers and notable people throughout the centuries and as previously mentioned he is likely a combination of many different adventurers from history and fiction. This did not stop the Russian Orthodox Church from making Ilya a Saint many years later.