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I have mentioned before how I am impressed with the geographic distribution of Georgian monasteries in the Medieval world. In addition to monasteries in the Holy Land, Cyprus and Mount Athos, the Petritsoni Monastery of south-central Bulgaria was a major monastic complex built and run by Georgian monks from the 11th century.

Known in Bulgarian as Bachkovo Monastery, Petritsoni Monastery is one of the oldest monastic complexes in the Balkans. Established by Prince Gregory Bakurianidze of the Eastern Roman Empire in 1083, the community was run by Iberian monks living within the Roman Empire at the time. Hailing from Georgia’s Tao region (currently part of Turkey) , Prince Gregory’s family background is not well known. A seminary was established at Petritsoni and it was renowned as a major centre of learning for the faithful throughout the Balkans, Black Sea region and the Levant. It is recognised as a  unique fusion of Georgian, Byzantine and Slavic architecture and art, and was nominated for UNESCO World Heritage listing in 1984

The Georgian monks lost their influence in the monastery in the 13th century and the complex was administered by the Church of Bulgaria until now. It is the second largest monastery in the country.

Today is the commemoration of Saint Iaone Chimchimeli (იოანე ჭიმჭიმელი) of Petritsoni,  one of the most eminent theologians and scholars to graduate from the seminary of Petritsoni.

He translated many Greek Neoplatonic philosophical texts, with the objective of reconciling the core message of Christianity with Classical Greek philosophy. This clashed somewhat with Georgian patristic orthodoxy, and it is believed that several of his mentors in Constantinople were censured and persecuted for attempting this reconciliation.

King David Aghmashenebeli eventually established him at Gelati Academy in Kutaisi. During his life he translated works by Aristotle, ProclusNemesius, and Ammonius Hermiae. His orginal analysis of the works of Proclus and the Neoplatonic ideal is considered his most enduring work. He also wrote mystical poetry and hymns.

Little information about the life of Saint Ioane of Chimchimi has been preserved, but we know that he was a great translator, philosopher, and defender of the Georgian Christian Faith.

Ioane received his education in present-day Bulgaria, at the literary school of the famous Petritsoni (now Bachkovo) Georgian Monastery.

One historian writes: “In his eulogy on the death of Saint Demetre the King, Ioane the Philosopher of Chimchimi brilliantly describes the glory, honor, and heroism of this holy man’s life.”

Saint Ioane translated many exegetical compositions, including two commentaries on the Book of Ecclesiastes, one by Metrophanes of Smyrna (Metropolitan of Smyrna (857–880). His Commentary on Ecclesiastes is preserved only in Georgian.) and the other by Olympiodorus of Alexandria. (A 6th-century deacon who wrote a series of commentaries on the books of the Bible, not to be confused with the neoplatonist philosopher also of the 6th century.) He also translated “An Explanation of the Gospel According to St. Mark” and “An Explanation of the Gospel According to St. Luke”, both by Blessed Theophylactus of Bulgaria

The works of our Holy Father Ioane of Chimchimi are fundamental to the canon of Georgian theological literature.

In his work “Pilgrimage”, the eminent eighteenth-century historian Archbishop Timote (Gabashvili) mentions Ioane of Chimchimi among the holy fathers portrayed in the frescoes at the Holy Cross Monastery in Jerusalem.

In the second half of the 19th century the historian Mose Janashvili wrote, in his History of the Georgian Church, that Ioane of Chimchimi directed a literary school in the village of Gremi in Kakheti.

According to Janashvili, students at Saint Ioane’s school were instructed in philosophy and theology as well as in the Greek, Syrian, and Arabic languages.

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints” by Archpriest Zachariah Machitadze, Saint Herman’s Press.

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Today the Georgian church comemmorates the life and work of Saint Joseph, Bishop of Alaverdi. Saint Joseph was one of the Thirteen Holy Syrian  Fathers, the founders of Georgian Monasticism. It is unknown as to whether they were Georgians from the Diaspora, Assyrians or Greeks, but they developed renown in Georgia for their dedicated evangelism in an early stage of Georgia’s Christian development. 

Saint Joseph chose the monastic vocation at a young age. Having arrived in Georgia with his teacher Saint John Zedazni , Saint Joseph settled in Kakheti in the relatively undeveloped and wild Alaverdi region. Here he began his ascetic exploits.

A Kakheti noblemen during an hunt found himself on the Alaverdi plain and was so astonished, seeing Saint Joseph standing at prayer, that he remained with him. Reports about this nobleman becoming a monk and about the holy life of the Monk Joseph spread throughout Kakheti. People seeking holiness and the ascetic life began to throng to Alaverdi to Saint Joseph. A monastery thus arose, and a church in honour of the Great Martyr Saint George was built.

Chosen to lead the monastery, Saint Joseph with fatherly love concerned himself about the brethren of the monastery, and about the spiritual enlightenment of Kakheti. Pagan superstitions were still not eradicated, and Saint Joseph, with cross in hand, often left the monastic solitude to preach the Word of God.

Beholding the saintly and immaculate life of the monk Joseph and his sincere desire to serve them, the Kakheti people willingly and joyfully accepted the Gospel teaching, and abandoned their pagan customs.

Saint Joseph composed a catechism (lost in the 16th Century) by which he taught the flock entrusted to him. Nearing the end of his life of dedicated service, Saint Joseph secluded himself in a tight cell for complete silence. In the year 570 occurred his peaceful and blessed end. Sainted Joseph was buried in the church of the holy Great Martyr Saint George in Alaverdi.


In the 9th Century in place of the former church was erected the great Alaverdi cathedral within which, on the left side of the Altar at the north wall, rests the body of Saint Joseph.


Saint Joseph is a particularly popular saint in Kakheti, particularly around Alaverdi, and it is common to see his icon in people’s homes in Eastern Georgia. The Alaverdoba festival in Kakheti coincides with the autumn harvest of grapes and other crops, and the harvest festival for several days in late September culminates with the feast of Saint Joseph on this day.

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