The beginnings of Christian Russia are recorded in the Russian Primary Chronicle of the twelfth century, the earliest historical record of Kiev. Determined to find the one true religion, Prince Vladimir of Kiev sent out a team of emissaries. The delegation first encountered the Bulgar Muslims of the Volga, but found them uncouth and hysterical: ”There is no joy among them, but mournfulness and a great smell; and there is nothing good about their system.” The Western expressions of Christianity were no better; in Germany and Rome, the chronicle reports, Vladimir’s emissaries ”beheld no beauty.” Worship at Constantinople, however, was a different matter altogether. There the delegation attended the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (the normal liturgy for Sundays and weekdays) at the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Saint Sophia). They were spellbound by the liturgical splendor they witnessed.
”We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendor or beauty anywhere upon earth. We cannot describe it to you; only this we know, that God dwells there among humans, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places. For we cannot forget that beauty.”
ur Eastern Orthodox Christianity av Daniel B. Clendenin