A World-Renown Doctor Turned Russian Orthodox Bishop and Saint

A World-Renown Doctor Turned Russian Orthodox Bishop and Saint


In 1905, a young Russian doctor volunteered to work for the Red Cross. In his memoirs he wrote:

For thirteen years I worked twelve to fourteen hours a day. I was thinking seriously of abandoning the rural hospital in order to travel to distant villages where the people were poor and dying because of the lack of medical help. But the Lord had decided differently for me. He sent me to Tashkent in 1917 where I was one of the organizers of the University of Middle Asia and became a professor of topographical anatomy and the chief surgeon.

This young doctor would go on to become an internationally respected expert on anesthesia, as well as the creator of innovative surgical techniques. Later still, he would become an Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church during Soviet times, leading to his imprisonment and torture in Soviet gulags.

Today, this remarkable man is called St. Luke the “Blessed Surgeon.” Having reposed in the Lord in 1961, his prayers and relics are known to heal many people of physical maladies.

Trisagion Film’s 16-minute documentary embedded above provides a wonderful overview of St. Luke’s fascinating life of service and faith, set within the context of tremendous persecution and sacrifice. The film begins:

In the 20th-century, Orthodox Christians were greatly persecuted during the militant atheist rule of the Soviet Union. At the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917, there were over 46,000 Orthodox churches in Russia, 50,000 priests, and some 130 bishops. By 1941, over 40,000 of these churches were secularized, closed, or simply demolished. At least 45,000 priests, an untold number of monks, and over 100 bishops were either shot, deported, imprisoned, or exiled. Such a great catastrophe for the Orthodox Church in Russia and yet we see it blooming again. This is in part due to the enduring examples of how to live the Christian life provided by the many saints and martyrs who suffered during this period.

One such example is the Bishop Luke of Simferopol, who endured over a decade of exile and torture.

Check it out, and let us know what you think. You can also learn about a full-scale, feature film on the life of St. Luke in this recent episode of OCN’s podcast, The Moving Icon.

About author

Seraphim Danckaert

Seraphim Danckaert is Director of Mission Advancement at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds an M.Div. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.