Patriarch Evtimiy of Bulgaria

Patriarch Evtimiy of Bulgaria

Saint Evtimiy of Tarnovo (also "Evtimii, Evtimij, Euthymius"; _bg. Свети Евтимий Търновски, "Sveti Evtimiy Tarnovski") was Patriarch of Bulgaria between 1375 and 1393. Regarded as one of the most important figures of medieval Bulgaria, Evtimiy was the last head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the Second Bulgarian Empire. Arguably the best esteemed of all Bulgarian patriarchs, Evtimiy was a supporter of hesychasm and an authoritative figure in the Eastern Orthodox world of the time.

Early years

Born around 1325 (between 1320–1330) and possibly an offspring of the eminent Tsamblak family of the capital Tarnovo, Evtimiy was educated at the monastery schools in and around the city and became a monk. He joined the Kilifarevo Monastery around 1350, attracted by the fame of Theodosius of Tarnovo. Theodosius appointed him his first assistant in 1363 and the two went together to Tsarigrad, with Theodosius dying soon afterwards.

Evtimiy then consecutively joined the Studion monastery and the Great Lavra of Athanasius the Athonite on Mount Athos. He was influenced by many outstanding thinkers, scholars and reformers of the spiritual life and beliefs in Southeastern Europe, such as Gregory the Sinaite, Gregory Palamas, Callistus Philotheus and John Kukuzelis. He was sent into exile on the island of Lemnos by Byzantine Emperor John V Palaiologos and, upon his release, returned to the Bulgarian Zograf Monastery on Mount Athos. It was there that he first reflected on the spelling reforms and planned corrections to the translations of the clerical books.

Activity in Bulgaria

Around 1371 Evtimiy returned to Bulgaria and founded the Holy Trinity Patriarchal Monastery near Tarnovo, where he grounded the Tarnovo Literary School. He established orthographic rules and corrected the wrongly translated Bulgarian religious books by comparing them to the Greek ones. These corrected texts became models for the Orthodox churches of Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and Russia using the Church Slavonic language. Gregory Tsamblak, his biographer, compared Evtimiy's work to that of Moses and the Egyptian king Ptolemy I.

In 1375, following the death of Patriarch Ioanikiy (Joanicius), Evtimiy was elected to become his successor. A supporter of asceticism, Evtimiy persecuted the heresies and the moral decay. Evtimiy became famous all around the Orthodox world and a number of metropolitans and hegumens addressed him to interpret theological matters.Of Evtimiy's works, 15 are known: liturgical books, laudatory works, passionals and epistles. Many of his works were likely destroyed or are yet to be discovered. Among his disciples in literary work are Gregory Tsamblak, Metropolitan of Kiev; Cyprian, Metropolitan of Moscow; Joasaph of Bdin and Constantine of Kostenets.

Establishment of Tarnovo Literary School and language refom

During the time of patriarch Teodosii (of Tarnovo) Evtimii founds and heads the Tarnovo literary school, which becomes an important cultural center of the Slavic Christian world.Evtimii conducts a reform in the Old Bulgarian language, a reform that widely influences the written language form in Serbia, Walachia, Moldova and the Russian principalities.

Partial list of works


“Hagiography of St. Ivan of Rila

“Hagiography of St. Ilarion Maglenski”

“Hagiography of St. Philothea Temnishka”

“Hagiography of St. Petka of Tarnovo”


“Praise for Mikhail Warrior”

“Praise for Ioan Polivotski”

“Praise for St Nedelya”

“Praise for St. Constantine and Helena


“Letter to Cyprian"

“Letter to metropolitan Arsenii”

“Letter to Nikodim – monk of Tismen”

Fall of Tarnovo and its consequences

In the spring of 1393 the son of Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, Celebi, laid siege to the Bulgarian capital Tarnovo with his sizable forces. With Tsar Ivan Shishman out of the city (leading the remnants of his troops to the fortress of Nikopol), Evtimiy was the one entrusted with the defence of Tarnovo, which he led heroically. After a three-month siege the Ottomans captured the capital by assault and possible treason from one of the non christian neighbourhoods of Tarnovo (described by Gregory Tsamblak several years later) on 17 July 1393.

Joasaph of Bdin, Metropolitan of Vidin, a contemporary of the event, described it as follows: "A great Muslim invasion happened and total destruction was done with this city and its surroundings." According to Gregory Tsamblak, churches were turned into mosques, priests were expelled and substituted with "teachers of shamelessness." 110 noted citizens of Tarnovo and bolyars were massacred, but Patriarch Evtimiy was reprieved and sent into exile in the theme of Macedonia (contemporary Thrace), possibly in the Bachkovo Monastery. He is supposed to have died there in 1402–1404. The Tarnovo Patriarchate thereupon ceased to exist, the Bulgarian church lost its independence and became subordinate to the Patriarchate of Constantinople until 1870.

Patriarch Evtimiy has been canonized and his memory is honoured on the same day as that of his namesake Euthymius the Great, 20 January.


St. Evtimiy Crag on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Patriarch Evtimiy of Bulgaria.

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