|Schemamonk Aleksandr Persvet at Kulikovo|
The fourteenth century was a rough time for the Russians. They were fragmented, squeezed by the Tatar Golden Horde (Mongols, essentially) on their eastern flank and the Poles and Lithuanians from the West. Of course they'd put the squeeze back on all these in subsequent centuries, but the fourteenth century was not kind to them.
|Young Sergius and the Angel of Literacy|
Following the death of his parents, he moved deep into the woods to build a cell and live as a hermit. His brother accompanied him. Their holiness inspired others to join them, so soon they relocated to an abandoned monastery and began to restore it. He and his brother quarreled about the degree of asceticism required (or perhaps just who should be the boss); but the rift did not take the steam out of the monastic engine. Under Sergius' leadership, forty new monasteries were founded throughout Russia, often in painfully impractical places. These outposts of Christianity were essential in forging the national, religious, and cultural identity of the land.
|Tatar Mamai of the Golden Horde at the feet of Dmitri Donskoi|