Vera, Nadezhda and Lyubov: The history of three Christian martyrs

27 September, 2019

I have always known that Vera (Вера) is a Russian name, and when coming to Russia I wanted to learn more about it. I found out that there is actually a really interesting story behind it and I am thrilled to share it with you. The name Вера means Faith in Russian, and the famous words ”Faith, Hope and Love” are all female names in Russian (Вера, Надежда и Любовь) and they are also the names of three Christian martyrs.

History
When talking about Vera, Nadezhda and Lyubov one must also mention their mother Sophia (which means wisdom) since she plays a crucial part of the story. So, who were these people?

The original Greek names of the daughters were Pistis, Elpis and Agape but they were translated into Old Slavonic and we now know them as Вера, Надежда and Любовь. Only the mother’s name, Sophia, was kept unchanged. Faith, Hope and Love are mentioned in the first Epistle to the Corinthians of the Apostle Paul, in the bible. They are martyrs because they rather died, then giving up their Christian faith.

The family lived in the 2nd century in Rome (d. 137). Sophia was, after the lost of her husband, a widow left to raise three daughters by herself. She was a pious Christian and named her daughters after the three Christian virtues. They were all very open about their Christian faith. An official named Antiochus told Emperor Hadrian about them and they were ordered in front of the emperor. Before meeting him, Sophia and her daughters prayed to Jesus for strength. First the emperor tried in a gentle way to persuade them to abandon their Christian faith and embrace the Roman mythology which was the dominating religion at this time. When the young girls refused, he had them tortured one by one. Sophia was left untouched but her punishment was to watch her daughters suffer. The girls however remained unharmed by the brutal treatment, preserved by the Lord. They died first when they were decapitated. On the day of their death, Vera was 12 years old, Nadezhda 10 and Lyubov 9. The emperor gave the bodies to Sophia and she buried them on a hill outside of the city. She stayed by their graves praying and died after three days. While the girls suffered physical pain for the love of Jesus, Sophia suffered in her heart.

Day of Remembrance
September 30 (according to the Gregorian calendar, September 17 if the Julian) is called “Day of Remembrance of the Martyrs Faith, Hope, Love and their mother Sophia” (День памяти святых мучениц Веры, Надежды, Любови и матери их Софи). This is an important day within the Orthodox Church. On this day they honour the memory of these martyrs and also women with these names celebrate their “Angel day/Name day” (A day when you remember the saints whose name you were given at baptism). A tradition linked to this holiday is that women should begin the day by crying loudly for the faith of their loved ones, like mother Sophia cried for her daughters, and if so the bad things in their life would go away.

Visit their church
In Moscow there is a church dedicated to Vera, Nadezhda, Lyubov and their mother Sophia. The church is located about a kilometer away from the metro station Savyolovskaya (Савёловская) and is surrounded by the Miussky cemetery. The first church dedicated to these martyrs was a wooden one built in 1773. In 1823 a new one was built out of stone and in 1912 the church was rebuilt once more. During Soviet times the church was not in service and it would take until 1990 before the church was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and services could be resumed. Both the church and cemetery are open for visitors and I really recommend it because it is a very beautiful and peaceful place. You will find additional information about the church here: http://st-vera.orthodoxy.ru/.

I really hope you enjoyed learning more about these names and the people behind them. I at least, have become more attached to my name after this. In Sweden 95% of all people who are named Vera are elderly and when I was a child I did not like my name since it was an “old-lady-name”. Do you know the story behind your name? Share its meaning and history with the rest of us with a comment below.

Vera Ahtonen

Posted by Vera Ahtonen

I am a 26 year old Environmental Scientist from Sweden, who is deeply in love with Russia. My dream is to be able to live and work in Russia in the future. I believe that this internship, along with my Russian studies, at Liden & Denz will be a great first step on my journey. My interest in Russia is not limited to a certain area, instead I find everything about this country interesting and this will be noticed in the wide range of topics for my articles.

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