• Authors: Potapova Z.S.1, Kryuchkova A.V.2, Kondusova Y.V.2, Panina O.A.2
  • Affiliations:
    1. Voronezh State Medical University N. Burdenko
    2. Voronezh State Medical University N.N. Burdenko
  • Pages: 165-167
  • URL:

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The article presents information about the formation and development of communities of sisters of mercy in Russia as a prototype of nursing. The formation of communities of sisters of mercy is one of the many facets of the development of nursing. The communities of Sisters of Mercy are an important milestone in the development of Russian medicine. It opened up the opportunity for women to gain new knowledge and realize their abilities. The creation of communities of sisters of mercy has become, in fact, a new stage in the development of domestic medicine. Moreover, this was expressed not only in the emergence of a new medical profession, but also in a radical change in the attitude towards those who need help.

Full Text

The history of the new charitable institution "Community of Sisters of Mercy" began on March 9, 1844, when the first meeting of the Committee that established a new charitable society for St. Petersburg was held at the Prince of Oldenburg Palace. On the eve of this, Theresia of Oldenburg (one of the founders of the community and the wife of the famous benefactor and patron of the Prince of Oldenburg) was on a visit to the Children's Hospital in Warsaw, where the community of sisters of mercy already existed at that time. It was she who decided to transfer this experience to Russia. She was supported by her husband (Prince of Oldenburg) and the daughters of Nicholas I (Grand Duchess Maria and Alexandra). Theresia of Oldenburg already had experience in charity work, her introduction included a school for poor girls, and in 1843. she took 2 night shelters under her patronage and began to rebuild them. Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna (1819-1876), the eldest of the emperor's daughters, had the same experience, she took a personal part in the higher management of women's educational institutions, had a Patriotic Institute in direct charge.
The newly formed Community of Sisters of Mercy aimed to take care of the poor sick, comfort the grieving, bring to the path of truth those who have given themselves up to vice, raise homeless children and correct children with bad inclinations [1]. The charter stated that the sister of mercy had to be distinguished by "piety, mercy, chastity, neatness, modesty, kindness, patience and unconditional obedience to regulations" [1].
The community, which at that time consisted of 18 future sisters of mercy accepted for trial, was housed in the house of Lieutenant Colonel Suchkova. The house had 6 departments of the community: a department of sisters of mercy, a women's hospital, a boarding house, an orphanage, a correctional school and a penitent department. In the same year, it was decided to build and consecrate an Orthodox house church in the name of the Life-Giving Trinity. This event was of epochal significance, because according to its name, the community of sisters of Mercy was given its own name in 1873 – Holy Trinity.
In 1848, Emperor Nicholas I approved the charter of the community. The community management system regulated by this document was quite complex and cumbersome. The leadership of the community was carried out by a Committee, which included Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, Princess T. Oldenburg, Princess M. Baryatinskaya, S.A. Shakhovskaya, E. Gagarina, Countess S. Borkh, S. Tolstaya, E. Kusheleva, T.B. Potemkina, as well as M. Kaverina, A. Demidova, A. Maltsova, O. Ryumina and S. Biller [2].
The main source of funding for the St. Petersburg community of Sisters of Mercy was interest on the capital left by Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna, private donations and funds contributed by some of the sisters when joining the community.
The number of sisters belonging to the community was not stable: at the beginning there were 18, and by the end of the XIX century it had increased to 80.
According to the Statute, women who expressed a desire to become sisters of mercy stayed in the status of "test sisters" for exactly one year. During this time, their moral, psychological and business qualities were checked. Only those who passed the tests during this period were awarded the title of Sisters of Mercy by the Committee. The sister was sworn in by the priest of the community in the presence of the trustee and received a special badge assigned to her by the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg. This sign – a golden breast cross with the image of the Most Holy Theotokos and the inscription "joy to all who mourn" on one side and "mercy" on the other – was worn on a green ribbon. The sister who was leaving the community had to return him.
The Charter imposed significant restrictions on the life of the Sisters of Mercy: the sisters could not have their own furniture and clothes in the community. They received no salary and could not keep money with them. Everything belonged to the community. The sisters were allowed to leave the territory of the community and receive guests only with the permission of the matron. Visitors could see their sister no more than twice a week and only in a special reception hall. It can be assumed that the relative strictness of the charter is due to the fact that when drafting it, the founders turned to svt for advice. Filaret (Metropolitan Filaret of Moscow, in the world V.M. Drozdov, 1782-1867). The metropolitan sharply opposed the presence of sisters of different faiths in the community. The abbess and some of the sisters, in his opinion, could take monastic vows [3].
The Sisters of Mercy provided assistance to the suffering both in the community itself, in hospitals, and at their place of residence. They always wore uniforms: "a dark dress with a white apron and the same scarf on the head, rolled up like a hat. All this is simple, pleasant at first glance, and most importantly, it is very convenient for the compassionate activity of the sister" [3]. The work required the sisters to be sufficiently highly qualified, and since 1864, systematic training of nurses in the rules of patient care began, and since 1870, the basics of pharmacology began to be taught. And already since 1873. to enroll in the community, it was necessary to pass an exam for professional skills.
Russian Russian Sisters of Mercy's activities were not limited to the Community, they made a huge contribution to providing assistance during the Crimean War, the Russo-Turkish War, on the fronts of the Russo-Japanese War and the First World War. In 1892, 7 sisters of mercy assisted during the cholera epidemic in the Nizhny Novgorod province. In 1899, a detachment of the sisters of Mercy of the Holy Trinity Community was sent to fight hunger in the Saratov province. No less important assistance throughout its existence was provided by the sisters of mercy to the poorest residents of St. Petersburg. On average, about 20 thousand people applied to the community per year . human.
In 1885, the leadership of the community decided to discard all other areas of activity and focus only on helping the sick.
The women's hospital of the community was particularly famous. Doctors such as N.I. Pirogov, E.V. Pavlov and others actively cooperated with the hospital of the Holy Trinity Community. At the end of the XIX century, the "Ward in memory of V.M. Priselkova for women suffering from cancer" was opened, who received all possible help and care for end–of-life patients, including those who were not able to recover - the prototype of modern hospices.
A long history of charity, charity, humanity, desire to help the suffering, so characteristic of the community of sisters of mercy formed the basis for the formation of nursing. Nursing is not a profession, it is a vocation! First of all, it is the art of creating favorable conditions for the recovery of patients and providing assistance to those who need it.


About the authors

Zhanna Sergeevna Potapova

Voronezh State Medical University N. Burdenko


3rd year student of the Institute of Nursing Education

Russian Federation, 394036, Russia, Voronezh, st. Student, 10

Anna Vasilyevna Kryuchkova

Voronezh State Medical University N.N. Burdenko


Associate Professor, Director of the Institute of Nursing Education

Russian Federation, 394036, Russia, Voronezh, st. Student, 10

Yulia Viktorovna Kondusova

Voronezh State Medical University N.N. Burdenko

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8301-279X

Associate Professor of the Department of Organization of Nursing

Russian Federation, 394036, Russia, Voronezh, st. Student, 10

Olga Alekseevna Panina

Voronezh State Medical University N.N. Burdenko

Author for correspondence.

assistant of the Department of Organization of Nursing

Russian Federation, 394036, Russia, Voronezh, st. Student, 10


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  3. Козловцева Е.Н. Деятельность московских общин сестер милосердия во второй половине XIX – начале ХХ веков / Е.Н. Козловцева // Вестник Православного Свято-Тихоновского Гуманитарного университета. - 2004. - № 3. - С. 137-159

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