January 18, 2020

Saint Joachim I, Patriarch of Tarnovo and All Bulgaria (+ 1246)

St. Joachim I of Tarnovo (Feast Day - January 18)

Our Holy Father Joachim comprehended the deceit of the world from his youth, and went to Mount Athos where he spent his days in constant prayer, fasting and vigils. As a stern ascetic, Joachim became famous among the monastic brotherhood for his commendable efforts to persevere in virtue and obedience.

After spending many years on the Holy Mountain, Joachim returned to his homeland in Bulgaria and settled with three disciples (Diomedes, Athanasios and Theodosios) near the village of Krasen, not far from the Danube River. There they carved a small rock church in the gorges of the Rusenski Lom River. His fame spread in the country and reached Emperor Ivan Asen II (1218–1241), who went on a pilgrimage to Joachim's abode. The two men established a very close spiritual relationship. Ivan Asen II donated a lot of gold to the ascetic who ordered the construction of the Church of the Archangel Michael, now called the "Buried Church" that forms part of the Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo. The church became the katholikon of a monastery that gathered many monks.

In 1234 Archbishop Basil I of Tarnovo relinquished the post and retired to a monastery. At the instigation of Ivan Asen II, Joachim succeeded Basil as Archbishop of Tarnovo. At that time Ivan Asen II discontinued the formal union between the Bulgarian Church and the Papacy in Rome, established in 1205 by his uncle Kaloyan and Pope Innocent III.

At the end of 1234 Saint Sava the Archbishop of Serbia visited Tarnovo, and he was greeted solemnly by the Bulgarian ruler and the archbishop. On the feast of Theophany Saint Sava and Saint Joachim together celebrated the Divine Liturgy. When Saint Sava later became ill and reposed on 14 January 1235 in Tarnovo, Archbishop Joachim took care of him and buried him in the Church of the Holy Forty Martyrs.

In 1235 the Bulgarian Emperor met with the Nicaean Emperor John Doukas Vatatzes to conclude an alliance and secure the restoration of the Bulgarian Patriarchate, first acknowledged in 927. During a synod held in the town of Lampsacus of Asia Minor the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (at the time in exile) Germanos II confirmed Joachim I as Patriarch of Bulgaria. The decision was validated by all the Eastern Patriarchs.

Joachim I presided over the Church of Bulgaria in a period of a cultural and economic high point of the Bulgarian state and enlightened the whole Bulgarian land. He dedicated much of his time to his pastoral duties – taking care of orphans and the poor and saving many from the emperor's anger - his hagiography notes that Joachim I had saved numerous people from capital punishment. After the demise of Ivan Asen II in 1241 Joachim I became the regent of the infant Kaliman I Asen (1241–1246).

Patriarch Joachim I died peacefully on 18 January 1246. Soon after his death he was proclaimed a Saint and a dedicated hagiography was written for his deeds. Joachim I was remembered as a pious and saintly man, celebrated for his good deeds and revered as the first Patriarch of the God-protected Imperial city of Tarnovo.

Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo

Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo