September 3, 2019

Saint Joannicius, First Patriarch of Serbia (+ 1354)

St. Joannicius II, Patriarch of Serbia (Feast Day - September 3)

Saint Joannicius was born to devout parents in his native city of Prizren in Serbia. At first, he served as a logotet, royal chancellor, to the Serbian King Stephen Urosh IV Dushan.

Archbishop Danilo II died on December 19, 1337. Although he was still a layman, Joannicius was elected Archbishop of Serbia on January 3, 1338. He continued the work of his predecessors, and had the Monastery of Peć, which was the seat of the Archbishop built by Nikodim and Danilo I, further worked on, adding icons and frescoes and other things.

King Dushan had expanded his territory into Macedonia, except for Thessaloniki, within the territory of the Roman Empire in the 1340s. When he took over Serres, he became known as "Emperor of the Serbs and the Greeks," and since a Patriarch was needed to crown an Emperor, in 1346 Dushan convened a synod of bishops in Skopje, which declared the independence of the Serbian Church from Constantinople and elevated it to a Patriarchate. Joannicius was designated "Patriarch of the Serbian Lands and its Coasts" on Palm Sunday, April 6, 1346, done in order for Joannicius to crown King Stephen Dushan as Emperor on Easter of 1346 with the approval of the Patriarch of Trnovo, Archbishop of Ochrid, and the community of Mount Athos.*

Joannicius II continued a tradition of church building, and built, among others, two churches in the Holy Land: the Church of the Prophet Elias on Mount Carmel and the Church of Saint Nicholas on Mount Tabor. He was a zealous pastor, and brought order to the Serbian Church, being a great upholder of the Church's laws.

When the Hungarians attacked Serbia in 1354, Dushan summoned the aged Patriarch Joannicius II to his side. On reaching Zhicha the Saint fell ill and died on September 3, 1354, which is his feast day. He was buried in the Patriarchal Monastery of Pech.


* Constantinople did not react immediately to this unilateral initiative of the Serbian Church. However, in 1353, Patriarch Kallistos of Constantinople (June 20), urged by Emperor John Kantakouzenos, anathematized Tsar Dushan, Patriarch Joannicius II, and all the clergy and people of the Serbian Church. Later on, Emperor John V Palaiologos tried to end the schism by sending Patriarch Kallistos to Serbia in order to lift the anathema, but the Patriarch died on the way. It was not until 1375 that communion was restored between the two Churches by Patriarch Philotheos (Oct. 11) following the mission of the venerable monk Isaiah and some other eminent Hesychasts.