The Holy Prince Mikhail of Chernigov, the son of Vsevolod Olgovich of the Red (+ 1212), was distinguished from childhood by piety and meekness. He was in very poor health, but, trusting in the mercy of God, the young prince in 1186 asked for holy prayers from the Monk Nikita of Pereyaslav Stylite, who in those years became famous for his prayerful intercession before the Lord (memory May 24). Having received a wooden staff from the holy ascetic, the prince was immediately healed. In 1223, the blessed Prince Mikhail was a participant in the congress of Russian princes in Kiev, who decided to help the Polovtsians against the impending Tatar hordes. Since 1223, after the death in the battle of Kalka of his uncle, Mstislav of Chernigov, Saint Michael became Prince of Chernigov.
In 1225, he was invited to reign by the Novgorodians. By his justice, mercy and firmness of government, he won the love and respect of ancient Novgorod. It was especially important for the Novgorodians that the reigning of Mikhail meant reconciliation with Novgorod of the holy Blessed Grand Duke of Vladimir George Vsevolodovich (memory of March 4), whose wife, the Holy Princess Agafia, was the sister of Prince Mikhail.
But the blessed Prince Mikhail did not reign in Novgorod for long. Soon he returned to his native Chernihiv. To the persuasions and requests of the Novgorodians to stay, the prince replied that Chernigov and Novgorod should become kindred lands, and their inhabitants - brothers, and he would strengthen the bonds of friendship of these cities.
The faithful Prince zealously engaged in the improvement of his lot. But it was difficult for him at that anxious time. His activity caused concern to Prince Oleg of Kursk, and an internecine strife almost broke out between the princes in 1227 - they were reconciled by Metropolitan Kirill of Kiev (1224-1233). In the same year, the blessed Prince Mikhail peacefully resolved a dispute in Volhynia between the Kiev Grand Duke Vladimir Rurikovich and the Prince of Galicia.
Since 1235, the Holy Prince Michael occupied the Kiev Grand Ducal table.
A difficult time has come. In 1238, the Tatars devastated Ryazan, Suzdal, and Vladimir. In 1239, they moved to Southern Russia, devastated the left bank of the Dnieper, the lands of Chernigov and Pereyaslav. In the autumn of 1240, the Mongols approached Kiev. The Khan's ambassadors offered Kiev to submit voluntarily, but the faithful prince did not negotiate with them. Prince Michael urgently left for Hungary to encourage the Hungarian King Bela to organize a joint repulse of the common enemy. Saint Michael tried to raise both Poland and the German emperor to fight the Mongols. But the moment for a united rebuff was missed: Russia was defeated, later it was the turn of Hungary and Poland. Having received no support, the faithful Prince Mikhail returned to the destroyed Kiev and lived for some time near the city, on an island, and then moved to Chernigov.
The prince did not lose hope for a possible unification of Christian Europe against Asian predators. In 1245, Metropolitan Peter (Akerovich), sent by Saint Michael, was present at the Council of Lyon in France, calling for a crusade against the pagan Horde. Catholic Europe, represented by its main spiritual leaders, the Pope and the German emperor, betrayed the interests of Christianity. The pope was engaged in a war with the emperor, while the Germans took advantage of the Mongol invasion to rush to Russia themselves.
In these circumstances, the confessional feat of the Orthodox prince-martyr St. Michael of Chernigov in the pagan Horde has a general Christian, universal significance. Soon Khan's ambassadors came to Russia to conduct a census of the Russian population and impose tribute on it. The princes were required to be completely submissive to the Tatar khan, and to reign - his special permission - a label. The ambassadors informed Prince Mikhail that he also needed to go to the Horde to confirm the rights to reign with the khan's label. Seeing the plight of Russia, the faithful Prince Michael was aware of the need to obey the khan, but as a zealous Christian he knew that he would not retreat from his faith before the pagans. From his spiritual father, Bishop John, he received the blessing to go to the Horde and be there a true confessor of the Name of Christ.
Together with the Holy Prince Michael, his faithful friend and associate boyar Theodore went to the Horde. The Horde knew about the attempts of Prince Mikhail to organize a speech against the Tatars together with Hungary and other European powers. Enemies have been looking for a chance to kill him for a long time. When in 1246 the blessed Prince Mikhail and the boyar Theodore arrived in the Horde, they were ordered to pass through a fiery bonfire before going to the khan, which was supposed to purify them from evil intentions, and worship the elements deified by the Mongols: the sun and fire. In response to the priests who commanded to perform the pagan rite, the pious prince said: "A Christian bows only to God, the Creator of the world, and not to a creature." The khan was informed about the disobedience of the Russian prince. Batu, through his confidant Eldega, conveyed a condition: if the demand of the priests is not fulfilled, the disobedient will die in torment. But even this was followed by a decisive response from the Holy Prince Michael: "I am ready to worship the king, since God has entrusted him with the fate of the earthly kingdoms, but as a Christian, I cannot worship idols." The fate of the courageous Christians was decided. Strengthened by the words of the Lord, "whoever wants to save his soul will lose it, and whoever loses his soul for Me and the Gospel will save it" (Mk. 8, 35-38), the holy prince and his devoted boyar prepared for martyrdom and partook of the Holy Mysteries, which the spiritual providence gave them with him father. Tatar executioners seized the pious prince and brutally beat him for a long time until the ground was stained with blood. Finally, one of the apostates from the faith of Christ, named Daman, cut off the head of the holy martyr.
To the Holy boyar Theodore, if he performed the pagan rite, the Tatars flatteringly began to promise the princely dignity of the tortured sufferer. But this did not shake Saint Theodore - he followed the example of his prince. After the same brutal tortures, his head was cut off. The bodies of the holy passion-bearers were thrown to the dogs, but the Lord miraculously guarded them for several days until the faithful Christians secretly buried them with honor. Later, the relics of the holy martyrs were transferred to Chernigov.
The confessional feat of Saint Theodore amazed even his executioners. Russian Russians convinced of the unshakable preservation of the Orthodox faith, their willingness to die with joy for Christ, the Tatar khans did not dare to test the patience of God in the future and did not demand from the Russians in the Horde the direct execution of idolatrous rites.
The life and service of Saints Michael and Theodore of Chernigov were compiled in the middle of the XVI century by the famous church writer, Monk Zinovy Otensky.