PLATON, LEVSHIN, the celebrated archbishop of Moscow, whose family name was Levshin, was born June 24th, 1737. He was the son of a village priest near Moscow, in the university of which capital he received his education, and, besides studying the classical tongues, made considerable proficiency in the sciences. His talents soon caused him to be noticed, for while yet a student in theology, he was appointed, in 1 757, teacher of poetry at the Moscow academy, and in the following year teacher of rhetoric at the seminary of the St. Sergius Lavra, or convent. He shortly afterwards entered the church, became successively hiero-monach, prefect of the seminary, and, in 1762, rector and professor of theology. That same year was marked by an event in his life that freatly contributed to his advancement, for on Catherine I.'s visit to the St. Sergius Lavra, after her coronation, he addressed the empress in a most eloquent discourse, and on another occasion preached before her. So favourable was the impression he made, that he was forthwith appointed court preacher and preceptor in matters of religion to the grand-duke (afterwards the emperor Paul), for whose instruction he drew up his ' Orthodox Faith, or Outlines of Christian Theology,' which is esteemed one of his best and most useful productions. During his residence at Petersburg he very frequently preached before the court, and also delivered on various occasions many of the discourses and oiations which are among his printed works. His residence at Petersburg however did not exceed four years, for after being created member of the synod at Moscow, by an imperial order, he was made archbishop of Tver in 1770. His attention to the duties of his new office was assiduous and exemplary; for he not only set about improving the course of study pursued in the various seminaries throughout his diocese, but established a number of minor schools for religious instruction, and drew up two separate treatises, one for the use of the teachers, and the other for their pupils. He was also entrusted with the charge of instructing the princess of Wiirtemberg-Stuttgard, Maria Pheodorovna, the grand-duke's consort, in the tenets and doctrines of the Greco-Russian church. At the beginning of 1775 he received the empress at Tver, and proceeded with her and the grand-duke to Moscow, where he was advanced to that see, with permission to retain the archimandriteship of the Sergius Lavra. With the exception of some intervals occasioned by his being summoned to Petersburg, where he preached before the court, it was in that convent that he chiefly resided, until he erected another in its vicinity at his own expense, in 1785, called the Bethania. Two years afterwards he was made metropolitan of the Russian church, in which capacity he crowned the emperor Alexander, at Moscow, in 1801, delivering on that occasion a discourse that was translated into several modern languages, besides Latin and Greek. He died in his convent of Bethania, November 11-23, 1812. His works, printed at different times, amount in all to twenty volumes, containing, besides various other pieces, 595 sermons, discourses, and oration* Many of these are considered masterpieces of style and of eloquence; but, as might be expected among so great a number, all are not equally finished as to manner, or original and impressive as to their subjects. A selection from them, consisting of the finest pas. sages and thoughts was published in two volumes, in 1805.
Dr. Clarke has narrated some particulars of a conversation which he had with the archbishop, which exhibit him somewhat en deshabille. Mr. Heber (afterwards bishop of Calcutta), says of him—' This prelate has long been very famous in Russia as a man of ability. His piety has been questioned, but from his conversation we draw a very favourable idea of him. Some of his expressions would have rather singed the whiskers of a very orthodox man, but the frankness and openness of his manners, and the liberality of his sentiments, pleased us highly. His frankness on subjects of politics was remarkable.'
Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)