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Remembering a great Bulgarian - Patriarch Evtimii of Turnovo

Remembering a great Bulgarian - Patriarch Evtimii of Turnovo

1/20/2011 2:02:51 PM

Today we remember a great Bulgarian - Patriarch Evtimii of Turnovo, born about the year 1332 in Turnovo, the then-capital of the Kingdom of Bulgaria. The fourteenth century is a memorable period in the history of the Bulgarian state and culture. As during the reign of Prince Boris I (852-889) and King Simeon (893-927), Bulgaria was once again "a state of spirituality".

Scholars and writers of the Turnovo School created the new Golden Age of Bulgarian culture, and the capital regained its status as a centre of new ideas and great personalities. They gave impetus to the spiritual life of the Eastern Orthodox Slavic community. Serbia, Russia, Wallachia, and Moldova adopted the Bulgarian cultural model. The mission of Bulgarian culture goes beyond the boundaries of the country and the crown of this historical spiritual activity lies in the deeds of Patriarch Evtimii.

According to historians, Evtimii was born around 1332 in Turnovo and his ancestry is related to the boyar family of the Tsamblaks. In 1350 he entered the Kilifarevo Monastery, which had recently been founded by Theodosius of Turnovo. In 1363 Evtimii went with Theodosious to Constantinople and spent some time at the Studit Monastery, known for its centre of learning and its rich library. There Evtimii became well-known "among men who liked to reflect on things and to practice in spiritual perfection", i.e. among the educated clergy.

In 1365 Evtimii was sent to one of the greatest centres of the Eastern Orthodox Church - Aton (in today's Greece). Many outstanding thinkers and scholars lived there in the first half of the fourteenth century - Grigori Sinait, Grigori Palama, Calist Philotei, and John Kukuzel, the Bulgarian scholar John with his disciples. They all left their names in the cultural heritage of the Orthodox world as writers and reformers of spiritual life in the Balkans in the fourteenth century. Later on, Evtimii moved to the Zograph Monastery. It was there that he first reflected on the spelling reforms and planned corrections to the translations of the sacred books.

In 1371 Evtimiy returned to Bulgaria and founded a monastery near Turnovo called "Holy Trinity".

The legacy of Evtimii of Turnovo is of extreme importance for Bulgarians. He discarded the old translations of the sacred books, full of mistakes, and supplied the peoples of Eastern Orthodox faith, using Old Bulgarian, with new translations. Thus he also destroyed all reasons for disputes among Christians and for heresies. Grigoriy Tzamblak compares Evtimii's work to the work of Moses the legislator and that of the Egyptian King Ptolomy, the lover of books.

In 1375 Evtimiy was elected Patriarch of Bulgaria. As head of the Church the eminent Bulgarian made legitimate "the correction of the books" in order to impose his linguistic, spelling and literary reform. Thus he laid the foundation for the religious and national unity of Bulgarians on the eve of the Ottoman invasion. International scholars claim that the participation of Patriarch Evtimii in the initial stage of this international "philological revival" indicates that his efforts in the field of culture were akin to those of Petrarca and Boccaccio.

In his In Praise of Evtimii, Grigorii Tsamblak describes the authority of Evtimii among his contemporaries in Bulgaria and the neighbouring Christian peoples: "His virtues attracted not only most of the people of Bulgarian origin, but also all the people in the north - up to the ocean, and in the west - as far as Ilirik. To set their eyes on him was for them a great privilege. And if they could listen to him, this was real salvation..."

The true glory of the last Bulgarian Patriarch, as spiritual leader of his people, came after the conquering of the capital Turnovo by the Ottomans in 1393. "They destroyed the fruits of his work and endeavours in front of his eyes," said Tzamblak. But, "like the heroic leader, who, defeated by his enemies, never despairs and summons his soldiers for victory", the Patriarch of Turnovo summoned the people to the St Peter and Paul church and started preaching the Bulgarian faith.

Patriarch Evtimii was exiled to Bachkovo Monastery. There he created a school, whose fame quickly spread all over the Balkan Peninsula. Evtimii of Turnovo convinced those who were forced to adopt Islam "to reject the darkness of the Saracen disgrace" and till his death in 1402 he made efforts to protect Bulgarians from Islamisation.

From The Eulogy of Patriarch Evtimii by Grigorii Tsamblak:

"The barbarian decided to exile the people to the East - for that was the demand of the royal order, and the man of god was sent into exile in Macedonia. And Evtimii came out with the people, a second Jeremiah, a sight that caused even the hard stones in the city to shed tears. Because children were separated from fathers and brothers from brothers, because not all of them were taken to one and the same place where, by seeing each other, they might be consoled in their sorrow. But some, who were distinguished for their family, wealth and beauty, were taken away, while others were left behind. Those were days of weeping. What is, indeed, more bitter than migration and sadder than parting with relatives, when the memory of the country and of one's near ones and dear ones pierces the heart like a lance. Thus, they embraced each other, kissed each other and bade each other farewell, filling the place with wailing, and amid them walked on foot the great Patriarch Evtimii's eyes full of tears and his soul: wounded by numerous arrows. But he suffered not from them, nor was he tormented by disability and old age, but suffered from compassion with the people's suffering and for the young and tender age."


Info taken by (the article "Evtimii - the spiritual leader of Bulgarians" by Ivan Vatanov, Thursday, 30 Jan 2003)

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