On February 13th, Westminster College Professor Russell Martin presented an online lecture titled “Royal Weddings in Russia: Pageant and Piety at the Court of Russia’s Rulers.” This presentation was part of the Russian History Museum’s Second Saturday lecture series.

The weddings of Russia’s rulers were rich in symbols and rituals. Deciphering their meaning reveals a complex pre-modern society that took Christian belief, liturgical and customary rites, and Orthodox teachings on marriage very seriously. Rituals—especially the most important of them: a wedding—emerge as a key to understanding the politics and religion of early modern Russia.

Throughout his presentation, Martin discussed the role of Orthodox canons and belief in shaping how royal weddings were performed from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Ultimately, this lecture drew general conclusions about these rituals and ceremonies amidst Russia’s political and religious cultures and was followed by a substantial Q&A.

Image: The Russian Bride’s Attire by Konstantin Makovsky, 1889. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

This program is funded in part by a Humanities New York CARES Grant with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the federal CARES Act.

About the Speaker

Russell (Roman) Martin is Professor of History at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, and a specialist on early modern Russia. He is the author, co-author, editor, or translator of ten books, including A Bride for the Tsar: Bride-Shows and Marriage Politics in Early Modern Russia, which won the W. Bruce Lincoln book award in Slavic Studies, and the forthcoming The Tsar’s Happy Occasion: Ritual and Dynasty in the Weddings of Russia’s Rulers, 1495-1745 (2021). He is also the author of some 70 articles on a range of topics in Russian history. Martin was editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal Canadian-American Slavic Studies from 2016-2020, and is the past president of both the Association for the Study of Eastern Christianity (ASEC) and the Early Slavic Studies Association (ESSA). He remains the editor of the ESSA’s Newsletter. Martin is also a member of the Chancellery of the Head of the Imperial House of Russia, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and provides translations into English of documents posted onto the official website of the Imperial House of Romanov (www.imperialhouse.ru).

Martin was born into a Russian Orthodox family near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and remains an active member and supporter of the Church Abroad. His maternal ancestors served as readers for at least five generations. He has offered guest lectures at Holy Trinity Seminary, brought his students at Westminster for tours of the monastery, and has contributed in various ways to exhibits in the Russian History Museum since its founding.