The blessed Pavel of Taganrog (Pavel Taganrogskiy, Святой блаженный Павел Таганрогский) was a layman who led a spiritual and ascetic life devoted to God. While of noble birth he lived a simple life, in constant prayer, and gave counsel to all who came to him, Living in the town of Taganrog, his faith and lifestyle established him as a starets who deeply influenced the spiritual life of southern Russia and Ukraine of the nineteenth century. His feast day is celebrated on March 10.
Pavel Pavlovich Stoykov was born on November 21 (November 8th OS), 1792, in Malorossia guberniya of the Russian Empire (now Ukraine) in a rich noble family. His parents—collegiate registrar Pavel and Paraskeva—were devoutly religious people. They infused in the heart of their son belief in God and piety. Since his youth Pavel felt a flaming love for holy places and making pilgrimages to them. He related about himself: "All my desire was to pray to God, my intention was to go on pilgrimage to rescue my soul, because surrounding life was full of secular vanity and impeded my holy wish." His father never let him become a clergyman, but wanted to provide his son with a higher education. However, the 16-year-old Pavel Pavlovich followed the voice of his heart. He secretly left the home of his parents and for a year, traveled on pilgrimages to monasteries. On his return he suffered severe punishment from his father.
When Pavel was 25 years old, his father divided his property between Pavel and his elder brother, Ivan. The young ascetic dispensed his inheritance in Christ's name. Then, with his father's blessing, young Pavel left home forever. He wandered to many of the holy places of Russia, including several times to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra and Pochaev Lavra. He often went to the north of Russia, visiting monasteries at Solovetsky, Verkolskiy, Kojeozerskiy, and many others.
After 10 years of traveling, the blessed Pavel settled in Taganrog between the years of 1825 and 1830. Taganrog became his second home city. Here he lived a simple life without regard for his noble birth. During the first years of his life in Taganrog, the blessed Pavel rented different apartments. Later, he moved into a house on Depaldo Street (now "Pereulok Turgenevskiy") that was not far from St. Nicholas Church. Through the efforts of the dean of Taganrog county, archpriest Alexander Klyunkov, this house still exists and is known among people as the "keliya of starets Pavel."
Pavel devoted his life to serving God. Although Pavel was not ordained into the clergy, he led an ascetic monastic life in the bustling town. He kept a severe fast and gave himself to incessant prayer. As he aged he ate very little and drank only one cup of kvass with a soaked rusk each day. He slept little, commonly on a bare bench without a pillow. He wore plain peasant clothes and spoke the simple Low-Russian language of the people. He told no one about his noble birth. Throughout his life he went to the church daily to pray. At night he made all-night vigils. He also accustomed his novices to this way of life. While he was still strong enough, the blessed Pavel traveled often to holy places, including journeys of 3000 versts to Solovki monastery on foot more than once. When in his old age he could go no longer make the treks, he dispatched to monasteries the novices and believers who came to him.
The blessed Pavel was full of love. All of his life, he received everyone in his keliya, presented gifts to people who came, gave them counsel on how to live, and instructed them on how to rescue their own souls. Living this righteous life, God endowed Pavel with gifts of astuteness and prevision as well as with gifts to work miracles and to heal people. Pavel was very famous during his lifetime. In the five final years of his life, Pavel never left of his house, and ate and slept little. He died at the age of 78, on March 23 (OS March 10), 1879, during the time of the Great Fast.
On June 20, 1999, the Russian Orthodox Church glorified Pavel. Many people saw and remember a unique aureole in the sky over the St. Nicholas Church in Taganrog on the day of his glorification. Today many people visit from all corners of Russia the shrine with his holy relics that are kept at the St. Nicholas Church in Taganrog. The chapel at the old cemetery is never empty and lamps in front of holy icons in his keliya never die down. Thanks to St. Pavel's prayers, believers receive from God healing, consolation, and divine help.