Saint Ivan

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Saint Ivan

Skrino, Obshtina Boboshevo, Kyustendil, Bulgaria
Death 18 Aug 946 (aged 69–70)
Rila, Obshtina Rila, Kyustendil, Bulgaria
Burial Vilnius, Vilnius City Municipality, Vilnius, Lithuania
Memorial ID 3986 · View Source
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Saint. Founder of Bulgarian Monastery. Saint Ivan of Rila was born in the village of Skrino in the Sredets district of Bulgaria [now Sofia] in about A.D. 876, thirteen years after Christianity had reached the Bulgars. His parents are said to have been Christians, but once orphaned, he served as a cowherd to a wealthy man in the area. It is said that one day, one of the cows having gone astray with her calf, the owner beat him, and in his anguish he cried out to God for help. Seeing the two animals on the other side of a raging river, he lay down his shirt on the water, made the sign of the cross, and walked across to the other side. The wealthy man was somewhat unnerved by this event and, giving Ivan money, allowed him to leave his service. In about 901, at the age of 25, he entered the monastery of St. Dimiter, which was near his boyhood home, but later sought the life of a religious hermit, relocating north of the Rila river. He lived at first in caves and under the open sky, and though Ivan’s nephew Luke lived with him for a time, the boy’s father eventually reclaimed him. Over time, others were attracted to his way of life and chose to live the monastic life with Ivan as their abbot, and in about A.D. 930, he founded what would become the largest monastery of Bulgaria, located in the mountains east of the Struma River valley. It is said that he performed many miracles, which caused his name to be revered. In his Testament, written near the end of his life, Ivan noted that Tsar Peter, who ruled from 927 to 969, once made his way to the monastery’s site, bringing gifts of fruit and gold. However, Ivan kept himself at some distance and accepted only the fruit, considering the proffer of gold to be a work of the devil meant only to tempt him from his devotion to simplicity. Ivan’s Testament was issued on March 25, 941, with the purpose of regulating his community. In it, he advocated the reading of patristic books, manual labor, and evangelism, hoping to reach the pagan peoples of his ethnicity. Reportedly, upon his death, Ludmilla, duchess of Bohemia (later St. Ludmilla), ensured that he had a proper burial. Between 980 and 1469, Ivan’s relics were removed five times: (a) in 969 after the deposition of the Bulgarian Patriarch Damian, they were transferred to Sredets (Sofia); (b) later, some of the relics were taken to Russia, possibly to Rila where a monastery was being raised in his name; (c) in 1183, the relics in Sredets were seized by the Hungarian king and taken to the city of Esztergom in northern Hungary; (d) in 1187, they were returned to Bulgaria; (d) in late 1238 they were moved to Tarnovo, the new Bulgarian capital; and (e) in 1469 they were returned to Rila monastery. Ivan is the patron saint of Bulgaria. His Feast Day is August 18, but the translation of his relics is celebrated on October 19.

Bio by: Eileen Cunningham


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 10 Nov 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 3986
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Saint Ivan (876–18 Aug 946), Find a Grave Memorial no. 3986, citing Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit, Vilnius, Vilnius City Municipality, Vilnius, Lithuania ; Maintained by Find A Grave .