Haven’t picked out a theme for December just yet, but ran across this story and decided to paint Olga of Kiev, also known as Saint Olga. Reading about her life makes me wonder how she acquired the Sainthood. But who am I to judge?
Her birth year is questionable- some say 879, others say 890. Her place of birth is also debatable, but the location that seems to be the most popular is somewhere near Pskov, Russia.
Around 912, she married Prince Igor. They had a son named Svyatoslav. When their son was only 3, Igor traveled to collect tributes from a Slavic tribe known as the Drevlyans, but they killed him (hell of a tribute.)
With Igor’s death, Olga became Regent to their son until he was old enough to rule on his own. The Drevlyans were not happy with a woman ruling the empire and insisted she marry their top choice for the thrown- Prince Mal. The ambassadors that came to negotiate the marriage did not receive a warm welcome. In fact, they were uh… buried alive.
Olga demanded they send better options for a husband. More ambassadors came, and they met the same horrific fate- she locked them in a bathhouse, which was then lit on fire.
THEN, as if that isn’t enough of a revenge, she is credited for killing 5000 men at a feast that was being held in her honor (all of which were Drevlyans). While historians believe that this number is quite exaggerated, there is some truth to the tale- evidence suggests that “a lot” of people were killed at a feast.
It gets worse.
Olga seized a Drevlyan city that would not pay their taxes (tributes). They offered her various goods and products as an apology, but the lovely Lady of Kiev asked, instead, that each household give her three sparrows and three pigeons. She gave these birds to her soldiers who were instructed to tie a thread to each pigeon and a piece of cloth-wrapped sulfur to each sparrow. As night fell, the soldiers released the birds, who went back to their comfy nests in the eaves of the homes of the poor Drevlyans. Everything ignited and the entire city burnt to the ground, mainly because everything lit up at once. Believe it or not, the US Military once considered this strategy to use against Japan during WWII (but with bats). Barbaric.
Bet you are wondering how this woman became a Saint? Well, at some point during her reign, she converted to Christianity. When her son was officially on the throne, Olga launched a campaign to make Christianity the official religion of their country, despite the fact that Svyatsolav (also known as Svlatoslav the Brave, Grand Prince of Kiev) was a pagan. She was declared a Saint in 1547 for her attempts to create a Christian Nation. BUT, not just an ordinary Saint… she was declared as an “equal to the apostles”.
There is a seriously weird but funny (yes, funny) movie on youtube about the vengeful Olga here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0u2LfH6WbtA
If you watch that video, check out the one on Ghengis Kahn by the same people. It’s a series called “History’s Biggest” and it’s hilarious.