Saint Anthony the Great was known to have belonged to a brotherhood called the "Spoudaioi"

Brotherhoods (Russian: братство; literally, "fraternities") are non-monastic unions of Eastern and Oriental Orthodox citizens or lay brothers affiliated with individual autocephalous churches, often of an evangelical or theological character.[1] Their structure resembles that of medieval confraternities and trade guilds, and can be characterized as the Orthodox equivalent of Catholic religious orders.[1][2] Unlike the religious orders of other religions such as those of sufism in Islam, they do not hold any uniquely esoteric views or doctrines, or have initiative practices otherwise unfound in mainstream orthodox monasticism.

In Slavonic churches

Historically, they were common in the cities throughout the Ruthenian part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth such as Lviv, Wilno, Lutsk, Vitebsk, Minsk, and Kyiv. These Orthodox brotherhoods, first documented in 1463 (Lviv Dormition Brotherhood), were consolidated in the aftermath of the Union of Brest (1596) in order to oppose the conversion of Orthodox Christians to the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Counter-Reformation, and both real and imagined Polonization.[1] The brotherhoods attempted to resist state-supported Catholic missionary activity by publishing books in the Cyrillic script and by financing a network of Orthodox schools which offered education in both Old Church Slavonic and the Ruthenian language.[3] The famous Kyiv Mohyla Academy grew out of one such school under the umbrella of the Brotherhood Monastery in Kyiv. The Dormition Church, Lviv was financed by the brotherhood of the same name; its members also supported the Cossack risings in the east of Ukraine. The powerful Ostrogski family provided political support for their activities.

The activity of the Orthodox fraternities helped preserve the national culture of Ukraine and Belarus throughout the Counter-Reformation era.[4] Most were closed in the course of the 18th century when Greek-Catholic proselytism had been forbidden by the House of Romanov. Some were revived in the late 19th century in order to stem "atheist propaganda" of the Nihilists.[3] The Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius promoted national awareness, helping the Ukrainians of Imperial Russia discover their national identity. The Ostrog bratstvo was reinstituted by Countess Bludova, an ardent admirer of the Ostrogski family. Orthodox immigrants to the U.S. formed brotherhoods to support church activities.

Notable Orthodox Brotherhoods

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Brotherhoods" at the Encyclopedia of Ukraine.
  2. ^ Basil Jioultsis. "Religious Brotherhoods: A Sociological View". Social Compass, XXII, 1975/1, pp. 67–83.
  3. ^ a b Russian Humanitarian Encyclopaedia
  4. ^ Orest Subtelny. Ukraine: A History. 3rd ed. University of Toronto Press, 2000. Pages 97-99.
  5. ^ "Light of Christ - "Nour Almasih"". Retrieved 2023-09-10.