Saint Boris was a brother of the Great Prince of Kiev Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054), and was baptized with the name Roman. The murdered Prince Boris was buried at the church of Saint Basil the Great at Vyshgorod near Kiev.
Metropolitan John I of Kiev (1008-1035) and his clergy solemnly met the incorrupt relics of the holy passion-bearer Gleb and placed them in the church where the relics of Saint Boris rested. Soon the burial place was glorified by miracles. Then the relics of the holy brothers Boris and Gleb were removed from the ground and placed in a specially constructed chapel. On July 24, 1026 a church of five cupolas built by Yaroslav the Wise was consecrated in honor of the holy martyrs.
In later years, the Vyshgorod Saints Boris and Gleb church containing the relics of the holy Passion-Bearers became the family church of the Yaroslavichi, their sanctuary of brotherly love and service to the nation. The symbol of their unity was the celebration of the Transfer of the Relics of Boris and Gleb, observed on May 2. The history of the establishing of this Feast is bound up with the preceding events of the history of Kievan Rus'.
On May 2, 1069 the Great Prince Izyaslav, who had been expelled from the princedom for seven months (i.e. from September 1068) because of an uprising of the Kievan people, entered into Kiev. In gratitude for God’s help in establishing peace in the land, the prince built a new church to replace an older structure. Two Metropolitans, George of Kiev and Neophytus of Chernigov, participated in its consecration with other bishops, abbots, and clergy. The transfer of the relics, in which all three of the Yaroslavichi (Izyaslav, Svyatoslav, Vsevolod) participated, was set for May 2, and it was designated as an annual celebration.
The veneration of Saints Boris and Gleb developed during the time of Yaroslav’s grandsons, often producing a peculiar pious competition among them. Izyaslav’s son Svyatopolk (+1113), built silver reliquaries for the saints. In 1102 Vsevolod’s son Vladimir Monomakh (+1125), sent master craftsmen by night and secretly adorned the silver reliquaries with gold leaf. Svyatoslav’s son Oleg (+1115) outdid them. He was called “Gorislavich”, and was mentioned in the “Tale of Igor’s Campaign.” He “intended to raise up the collapsed stone (church) and hired some builders.” He provided everything that was necessary.
The church was ready in the year 1111, and Oleg “pressured and besought Svyatopolk to transfer the holy relics into it.” Svyatopolk did not want to do this, “because he did not build this church.”
The death of Svyatopolk Izyaslavich (+1113) brought a new insurrection to Kiev, which nearly killed Vladimir Monomakh, who had become Great Prince of the city. He decided to cultivate friendship with the Svyatoslavichi through the solemn transfer of the relics into the Oleg church. “Vladimir gathered his sons, and David and Oleg with their sons. They all arrived at Vyshgorod. All the hierarchs, abbots, monks and priests came, filling all the town and there was no space left for the citizenry along the walls.”
On the morning of May 2, 1115, the Sunday of the Myrhh-bearing Women, they began to sing Matins at both churches, old and new, and the transfer of relics began. The three were separated. “First they brought Saint Boris in a cart, and with him went Metropolitan Vladimir and his clergy.” On other carts went Saint Gleb “and David with bishops and clergy.” (Oleg waited for them in the church).
This separation was adhered to in future generations. Saint Boris was considered a heavenly protector of the Monomashichi; Saint Gleb, of the Ol’govichi and the Davidovichi. When Vladimir Monomakh speaks about Boris in his “Testament”, he does not mention Gleb. In the Ol’govichi line, none of the princes received the name Boris.
The Vyshgorod sanctuaries were not the only centers for the liturgical veneration of Saints Boris and Gleb. It was spread throughout the land of Rus'. First of all, there were churches and monasteries in specific places connected with the martyrdom of the saints, and their miraculous help for people; the temple of Boris and Gleb at Dorogozhich on the road to Vyshgorod, where Saint Boris died; the Saints Boris and Gleb monastery at Tmo near Tver where Gleb’s horse injured its leg; a monastery of the same name at Smyadyno at the place of Gleb’s murder; and at the River Tvertsa near Torzhok (founded in 1030), where the head of Saint George the Hungarian was preserved. Churches dedicated to Saints Boris and Gleb were built at the Alta in memory of the victory of Yaroslav the Wise over Svyatopolk the Accursed on July 24, 1019; and also at Gzena near Novgorod where Gleb Svyatoslavich defeated a sorcerer.
The holy Passion-bearers Boris and Gleb were the first saints glorified by the Church in Rus' and the Byzantine Church. A service to them was composed soon after their death, and its author was Saint John I, Metropolitan of Kiev (1008-1035). The innumerable copies of their Life, the accounts of the relics, the miracles and eulogies in the manuscripts and printed books of the twelfth-fourteenth centuries bear witness to the special veneration of the holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb in Kievan Rus'.
Righteous passion-bearers and true fulfillers of the Gospel of Christ,
chaste Boris and guileless Gleb,
you did not resist the attacks of your brother, the enemy,
when he killed your bodies but could not touch your souls.
Therefore, let the evil lover of power mourn
while you rejoice with the angels standing before the Holy Trinity.
Pray that those who honor your memory may be pleasing to God,
and that all Orthodox Christians may be saved.
Today your most glorious memory shines forth,
noble participants in the passion of Christ, holy Boris and Gleb,
for you call us together to sing praises to Christ our God!
Praying to Him before your sacred images,
we receive the gift of healing by your prayers,
for you are indeed divine healers.
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest