The Venerable Ioane of Shavta, Bishop of Gaenati, and Evlogi, the Prophet and Fool-For-Christ

19 May 2013

The great Georgian hymnographer, philosopher, and orator, St. Ioane of Shavta, laboured in the 12th and 13th centuries, during the reign of the holy Queen Tamar. Few details of his life have been preserved, but we know that he received his education at Gelati Academy, where he studied theology, Ancient Greek, Arab history, philosophy, and literature. He was later tonsured a monk and laboured at the Monastery of Vardzia.

Vartzia - The caves city

Vartzia – The caves city

When the Georgian army under the command of Queen Tamar’s husband, Davit Soslan, was fighting against Sultan Rukn al-Din, Queen Tamar journeyed to the Monastery of Odzrkhe to pray for its support. Catholicos Tevdore of Kartli, together with many hierarchs and monks accompanied her. Among them was St. Ioane of Shavta, who stood out as a wise theologian, philosopher and exceptional hymnographer.

In the course of the Liturgy, a miracle occurred: St. Evlogi the Fool for-Christ, who was endowed by God with the gift of prophecy, fell to his knees, lifted his hands to the heavens and cried out: “Glory to God! Sweetest Jesus! Have no  fear of the Persians, but depart in peace. The goodness of the Lord is overshadowing the house of Tamar!”

Evlogi’s words were clearly a revelation from God. St. Ioane of Shavta turned to Queen Tamar, rejoicing, “Your Highness! The Good Lord has made known to us our victory in the war from the lips of a Fool-for-Christ!” Evlogi confided his secret to St. Ioane: that is, he pretended to be a Fool, in order to conceal the gift that God had granted him. But now that the gift would become apparent to all, Evlogi quickly disappeared out of sight to escape attention.

St. Ioane of Shavta composed the hymn to the “Mother of God of Vardzia” in thanksgiving for Georgia’s victory at the Battle of Basiani. He is also thought to be the composer of the ode “Abdul-Messiah,” (Servant of Christ), dedicated to the blessed Queen Tamar.

Blessed Father Ioane fell asleep in the Lord at an advanced age and was canonized soon after his repose.

Most venerable Hierarch Ioane of Shavta and divinely-attired Evlogi, the Fool-for-Christ, pray to God for the peace and perfection of our bodies and souls, and enable us to glorify His great loving-kindness.

Their commemoration is on 1st of April.