Are there any examples of saints (not martyrs) recognized by the Orthodox church that have executed or overseen the execution of people?

I am explicitly ruling out martyrdom because I am interested in cases where the church views these men to have attained theosis but have still seen it to be just and appropriate to render the death penalty.

This question was inspired with a discussion amongst Orthodox friends on whether the death penalty is considered permissible in the Orthodox tradition.

  • Wouldn't any of the sainted Roman/Byzantine emperors, e.g., Constantine the Great, fit the bill? Alternately, Czar Nicholas II is considered a Passion-Bearer, not a martyr, in some traditions.
    – Archipoeta
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 3:20
  • This seems to have an obvious answer. For anyone in a position of legal authority up to about the 1950s there would almost certainly have been someone legally executed while they were in office. Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 4:21
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    But it is important to my question that they were considered holy when they oversaw executions. As I understood Constantine, only at the end of his life did he fully turn to Christ and that he delayed his conversion as long as possible. Czar Nicholas is not universally seen as a martyr, as you implied. Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 15:15
  • Why the downvote? I understand that the question is unusual, but it surely has theological implications for those with the Orthodox understanding of theosis. Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 15:16
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    In that case, Boris I of Bulgaria would fit, having executed 52 boyars and their families after his baptism during the Christianization of Bulgaria. Unfortunately, I don't have a better source than Wikipedia at hand at the moment.
    – Archipoeta
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


I think most Byzantine emperors oversaw at least some executions as a part of their civil duty. It appears that both Justinian and Constantine ordered executions that are controversial to some and both are saints in the Eastern Orthodox church (however Constantine would have ordered these executions before his baptism). Look at the Wiki pages for each and you will see the executions mentioned.

They were also both commanders of armies that carried out large military campaigns.

The important thing to note here is that the Church didn't command, or participate in the executions and that they were carried out as the business of government. Also, neither were clergy in the Church nor are these executions mentioned in their hagiographies. However, some military accomplishments are.


One example that comes to mind is that of Princess Olga of Kiev (890-969).

According to one history of Kievan Rus called The Primary Chronicle, she took revenge on the tribe of the Drevlians for murdering her husband, Prince Igor, by both burning and burying various of them alive.

This occurred, however, prior to her conversion to Christianity.

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