Metropolitan Sergius (Tikhomirov) of Japan

Metropolitan Sergius (Tikhomirov) of Japan

Metropolitan Sergius (Tikhomirov) of Japan (secular name Georgiy Alexeyevich Tikhomirov)[1](1871–1945) was a Russian clergyman and monk of the Russian Orthodox Church and later Japanese Orthodox Church.

Early life

He was born on June 16, 1871 as Alexiy in a village of Guzi near Novgorod, Russia, in the family of a rural priest Tikhomirov. He studied well, entered in the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and graduated in 1896. In 1895 Alexiy took the monastic vows with the name Sergius. Later he taught theology at the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary and in 1899 became the prefect of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, in the rank of archimandrite. In 1905, he was raised to episcopacy and consecrated Bishop of Iamburg, vicar to the Archbishop of St. Petersburg at the age of 35 years. Throughout his tenure at the Academy, he was a prolific preacher as well as an author of a number of works on Church history of his native Novgorod region.

His life in Japan

In 1908, he was sent to Japan to become a successor to Archbishop Nicholas (Kasatkin).[2] Having acquainted himself with Japan and quickly mastered a language, Sergius showed himself a committed spokesmen for the Orthodox faithful of Japan's recent acquisitions in Southern Sakhalin (Japan acquired Southern Sakhalin or Karafuto in Japanese, as a result of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905) and secured the return of confiscated Church property to the faithful. In 1912 Archbishop Nicholas reposed and Sergius took over as the ruling bishop of the Japanese Orthodox Mission. After a brief respite, he had to face the tremendous difficulties caused to the life of the Japanese Mission by the Russian Revolution. No aid from Russia meant a loss of almost the entire budget of the Japanese Orthodox Mission. The Mission, thus, had to severely cut back on its activity but survived.

In 1923, the Great Kantō earthquake destroyed the headquarters of the Japanese Orthodox Church, severely damaging the Tokyo Resurrection Cathedral. Raising funds for its restoration became the central activity of Sergius and the Japanese faithful for the next years, and they succeeded in independently raising a vast sum and restoring the Cathedral by 1929. In 1931, the then Archbishop Sergius was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan by the Moscow Patriarchate. However, the 1930s saw the rise of militarism and nationalism in Japan, with the new climate being heavily prejudiced against Christianity and all things foreign. Sergius was eventually ousted from his position at the head of the Japanese Church in 1940, in order for the Church to be able to comply the newly-issued Japanese government demand for all ruling clergy in the Japanese religious organizations to be native. Sergius spent the wartime years in obscurity, and he was arrested by the Japanese special police in 1945 on suspicion of being a Soviet Russian spy.

By the time of his release, his health was terminally undercut and he soon died, on August 10, 1945, a mere five days before the end of World War II. His remains rest side by side those of St. Nicholas of Japan, in the Yanaka Cemetery in Tokyo.


  1. ^ Biography of Sergius Tikhomirov on "Pravoslavnaya beseda" web-site, in Russian
  2. ^ Церковный вестник, Русское подворье в Японии, Orthodox Magazine, in Russian, April 2005

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