Posts tagged Sebastian Dabovich
In 2009, I wrote an article on the miter (crown) which Archbishop Tikhon Bellavin gave to Fr. Sebastian Dabovich at the Dabovich’s elevation to archimandrite in 1905, and which Dabovich later auctioned off to raise money for the Serbian war effort in 1912. Today is the anniversary of Dabovich’s birth, and the miter’s whereabouts remain a mystery, so I thought it would be a good time to run a revised version of that original article.
If you read one of the many articles on the life of Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, you might run across a story about his miter (that is, his archimandrite’s crown). Dabovich had been elevated to archimandrite by St. Tikhon in 1905, and Tikhon gave Dabovich a miter on the occasion. According to Bishop Nicholai Velimirovich, who became friends with Dabovich years after this happened, the crown was worth 1,000 roubles in gold. In 1900, the San Francisco Call claimed that one of Tikhon’s miters (which may or may not be the one he gave to Dabovich) was worth $2,000 — that is, over $50,000 in today’s money.
Bishop Nicholai reported, “But Fr. Dabovich quickly sold that precious gift and gave it to the church towards paying its debts” (quoted in Fr. Damascene Christiansen’s article on Dabovich).
That’s one version of the story. Here’s another, from Fr. George Gray’s Portraits of American Saints: “[Dabovich] sold St. Tikhon’s mitre (which he had been awarded when he was made an archimandrite) and used the money in an attempt to alleviate St. Tikhon’s sufferings at the hands of the communists.”
So Bishop Nicholai has Dabovich selling the miter right after he got it — presumably 1905 or ’06. But the other story puts the sale sometime after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
As it turns out, neither story is accurate — and they’re both off by about half a dozen years. What really happened is this: In 1912, Serbia was in the midst of the Balkan Wars. And although he was born in America, Dabovich was a patriotic Serb. In October, he decided to auction off many of his most valued personal possessions to raise money for the Serbian war effort. Here’s an article about the auction, from the Los Angeles Times (October, 25, 1912):
The Balkan war between the Serbs and Turks, has developed many cases of self-sacrifice among the Serbs in and around Los Angeles, but probably none greater than that of Father Sebastian Dabovitch, bishop of the Orthodox Eastern Catholic Church, who has for two years been working among the Slavs and Greeks of this city, to induce them to higher ideals in living. He has built a small chapel on Boyle Heights and has just begun to get his work on a better fotting, when he feels called upon to sacrifice his personal belongings for the benefit of the hospital work in the Serb army.
At the meeting of the Friday Morning Club this morning, in the Woman’s Clubhouse, the following historic relics will be offered at auction to the highest bidder above the minimum price named:
A bishop’s gorgeous miter, handmade and painted in Russia, by nuns, to be sold to the highest bidder above $100; a jeweled pectoral cross and chain, made by a Serb jeweler in Bosnia, minimum bid. $100; twelve sacred hand-paintings on panels of steel minimum $50 for the set; beautiful icon of the Savior, which belonged to a Russian nobleman, who had it with him in the campaign against Napoleon at Moscow, minimum, $50. Four decorations — Order of St. Sabbas, from the King of Servia; Order of Danilo, from the King of Montenegro; Order of St. Anne, from the Emperor of Russia; a medal from the Emperor of Russia, in memory of Alexander III; minimum bid for all, $25. A handsome medium-size hand-made rug, made by the Christian peasant girls of Macedonia; minimum bid, $50.
These were Dabovich’s most prized possessions, and it must have pained him to auction them off. The whole lot was being offered for a minimum of $375, which works out to a little over $8,000 in today’s money. The minimum of $100 for the miter is roughly $2,000 today. Actually, that suggests that Dabovich’s miter might not be the same one featured in the 1900 San Francisco Call article. I mean, the miter in the Call was valued at $2,000 in 1900; it’s almost inconceivable that the minimum bid a dozen years later would be a measly hundred bucks. Most likely, then, Tikhon gave Dabovich one of his backup miters, or something.
Dabovich wasn’t alone in trying to raise money for the war effort. A few days before the auction, the Greeks and Serbs of Los Angeles had combined to raise a whopping $10,000 — equivalent to $218,000 today.
When I wrote that initial article on Dabovich’s miter, I poked around a bit to see if anyone knew what became of it. My searches turned up nothing: the miter appears to have simply vanished. I can’t imagine that it was ever destroyed, so presumably it’s either in a museum somewhere, or it’s sitting in someone’s private collection. One possible clue is the fact that the auction took place at the Friday Morning Club, which is a distinguished LA-area women’s organization. It still exists — in fact, it’s the oldest women’s club in America — and it’s possible that the club still has some record of who bought the miter. At least, it’s worth checking.
If anyone out there has any idea where the miter is today (or, for that matter, any of the other items Dabovich auctioned off that day) please email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
March 10, 1866: The future Archbishop Arseny Chagovtsov was born in Kharkov, in what was then the Russian Empire and what is today Ukraine. A widowed priest, he became a monk and came to America in 1903 to serve in the Russian North American Mission. He was instrumental in the establishment of St. Tikhon’s Monastery in 1906, and in 1908 he was assigned to be the administrator of Russian churches in Canada. Arseny — at this point an archimandrite — returned to Russia in 1910, fled to Serbia after the Revolution, and, in 1926, was chosen to return to Canada as the Bishop of Winnipeg. In 1936, he was apparently shot (I don’t really know about the details of his incident). After this, he retired from the episcopate and ultimately moved to St. Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania, where he was involved in founding what became St. Tikhon’s Seminary. Archbishop Arseny died in 1945.
March 10, 1895: Fr. Sebastian Dabovich dedicated Holy Trinity Orthodox chapel in Portland, OR. The small Portland community included Greeks, Syrians, and Russians, among others. The man most responsible for its establishment was a layman named Lavrenty Chernov. An Alaskan Creole, Chernov was born in 1848 and eventually moved to Portland. The ramshackle chapel was used for perhaps a decade, but it eventually fell out of use. In the first decade of the 20th century, the Greeks of Portland began using it for their own church, which was also called Holy Trinity.
March 5-7, 1907: The Russian Archdiocese held its first “All-American Sobor” in Mayfield, PA. A few years ago, OCA archivist Alex Liberovsky gave a nice lecture on the Sobor, which you can read on the OCA website. The Sobor was held concurrently with the convention of the Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society. And while it was called “All-American,” it was a purely “Russian” affair: the other ethnic groups affiliated with the Russian Archdiocese, such as the Syro-Arabs and the Serbs, were not included. That said, the Sobor was a major step for the Russian Mission in America.
March 7, 1915: The funeral for St. Raphael Hawaweeny was held in his Brooklyn cathedral. Something interesting, which I’d never noticed before: St. Raphael was apparently friends with an American named Gary Cronan, who got permission from the New York Heath Administration to have St. Raphael buried in a crypt in St. Nicholas Cathedral. Cronan reportedly built the crypt himself. (My source for this is the unpublished St. Vladimir’s Seminary M.Div. thesis by A. Issa.) St. Raphael actually didn’t rest in the crypt for very long — Bishop Aftimios Ofiesh acquired a new cathedral in 1920, and St. Raphael’s relics were transferred to Mount Olivet Cemetery in 1922. Today they rest at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA. Anyway, I’m really curious to learn more about Gary Cronan.
Back in December, we reprinted Isabel Hapgood’s very good New York Tribune article on Raphael’s death and funeral.
March 6, 1921: Fr. Kallinikos Kanellas, one of the first Greek Orthodox priests in America, died in Little Rock, AR. Kanellas came to America from India, where he had been the priest of the Greek Orthodox church in Calcutta. He initially came to America just for a visit, but he fell ill and was forced to stay for awhile. He became affiliated with the Russian cathedral in San Francisco, which had a very large Greek population. He made at least one major mission trip through the country, visiting Georgia, New York, and Chicago, among other places. He was one of the first Orthodox priests to visit Chicago. In 1892, Bishop Nicholas Ziorov took over the Russian Diocese, and he released Kanellas, who then traveled to the eastern part of the United States. He eventually spent eight years as rector of the Greek church in Birmingham, AL, which was under the Church of Greece. Later, he became the first priest in Little Rock, where he died in 1921. Toward the end of his life, the Greek-American Guide described Kanellas as “a very sympathetic and reverend old man.”
UPDATE: To listen to a podcast based on this article, click here.
February 20, 1874: The future hieromartyr Vasily Martysz was born in Poland. He served in America — first in Alaska, and then in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, and Canada — from 1901 to 1912. He died in 1945 and was canonized by the the Orthodox Church of Poland in 2003. To read a biography of St. Vasily, click here.
February 20, 1900: At the behest of Bishop Tikhon, the Russian Holy Synod officially changed the name of its North American missionary diocese, from “Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska” to “Diocese of the Aleutians and North America.”
February 21, 1923: Serbian clergy held a meeting in Gary, Indiana, where they formally declared their independence from the Russian Church and their affiliation with the Serbian Church.
February 23, 1934: The Ukrainian Bishop Joseph Zuk died.
February 23, 1984: Archimandrite Serafim Surrency died in New York, at the age of 58. He was a historian, best known for his important work The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America (published in 1973). Until recently, Surrency’s book was the source for information on many American Orthodox historical subjects, including the American Orthodox Catholic Church, the Federation, and the early years of SCOBA. And, despite its limitations, the book remains an essential resource. One mystery which Fr. Oliver and I have been trying to solve for years is what became of Surrency’s personal files — we think they’re full of important material, but we don’t know what happened to them after he died.
February 24, 1904: The newly-consecrated Bishop Innocent Pustynsky arrived in America to take up his post as auxiliary bishop of Alaska. As Scott Kenworthy recounted in an interview with me last year, Bishop Tikhon had been trying for years to get an auxiliary to help govern his immense diocese. Eventually, Tikhon just went to Russia and refused to leave until he had a duly consecrated bishop in hand for his return voyage to America. Very soon after Bishop Innocent’s arrival, he and Tikhon consecrated Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny to the episcopate — the first Orthodox consecration in the New World.
February 24, 1931: The newly-elected Archbishop Athenagoras Spyrou arrived in America to take charge of the Greek Archdiocese.
February 25, 1896: The future hieromartyr Alexander Hotovitzky was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. Fr. Alexander was assigned as rector of the fledgling St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in New York.
February 26, 1895: Fr. Sebastian Dabovich celebrated the first Orthodox services in the newly established multiethnic chapel in Portland, Oregon. (To read more, check out my 2009 article on early Orthodoxy in Portland.)
Just a brief note today: I had always assumed that Fr. Sebastian Dabovich was the first Serbian Orthodox priest in America, but apparently he wasn’t. The first Serbian priest in America — and probably the first Serbian priest the California-born Dabovich had ever seen — was Fr. Sava Matanovich. From the 1985 book Sacred Places of San Francisco: “The first Serbian priest to visit America was Father Sava Matanovich, a Montenegrin, who participated in three liturgies in 1875.”
I should note that I don’t know for sure whether someone from Montenegro should be classified as Serbian. Most references I’ve found treat Montenegrins as a subset of Serbs, rather than a distinct group. More importantly, I think (but again, I’m not certain) that in 1875, a priest from Montenegro would have had no quarrel with being called a Serb. The Serbs and Montenegrins in America seem to have totally intermingled. If any of our readers want to correct me on this, please, by all means, do so.
Anyway, the visit of Matanovich is verified by Dabovich himself in his 1897 history of Orthodoxy in California (published in the Vestnik in April 1898):
In 1875 a priest from Montenegro, Father Sabbas Matanovich, arrived in San Francisco. He was received into the Bishop’s house and served two or three Liturgies, but as he was not assigned a position, he went back home after several months. At the present time the honorable Father Matanovich is an archpriest in Cetinje.
I haven’t been able to find any other references to Matanovich’s visit, and I suspect that the 1985 Sacred Places in San Francisco reference used the Dabovich article as its source. It would be interesting to know what other places (if any) Matanovich visited in America. Did he serve liturgies in other cities besides San Francisco? If anyone else turns up anything, please let me know.
This article was written by Matthew Namee. He can be reached at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
The Library of Congress website has all sorts of great resources, including a collection of old photos from the Chicago Daily News. The following five photos are of the newly-built Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago.
– Matthew Namee