The great Georgian hymnographer, philosopher, and orator St. Ioane of Shavta labored 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 and Arabic history, philosophy, and literature. He was later tonsured a monk and labored at Vardzia Monastery.
When the Georgian army under the command of Queen Tamar’s husband, Davit Soslan, entered into battle with the sultan Rukn al-Din, Queen Tamar journeyed to Odzrkhe Monastery to pray for help. Catholicos Tevdore of Kartli and many hierarchs and monastics accompanied her there. Among them, St. Ioane of Shavta stood out as a wise theologian and philosopher and a brilliant hymnographer.
During the Liturgy at Odzrkhe Monastery a miracle occurred: endowed by God with the gift of prophecy, St. Evlogi the Fool for-Christ fell to his knees, lifted his hands to the heavens and cried out: “Glory to God! Almighty Christ!…Do not fear the Persians, but rather depart in peace, for the mercy of God has descended upon the house of Tamar!”
Evlogi’s words were clearly a divine revelation. St. Ioane of Shavta turned to Queen Tamar, rejoicing, “Your Highness! The Almighty 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: disguised as a fool, he had been concealing his God-given gift. But now it seemed that the gift would become apparent to all, so Evlogi quickly disappeared out of sight to escape the people’s attention.
St. Ioane of Shavta composed his “Hymns to the Theotokos of Vardzia” in thanksgiving for Georgia’s victory in the Battle of Basiani.
He is also recognized as the composer of “Abdul-Messiah,” a famous ode to the holy queen Tamar.
Our Holy Father Ioane of Shavta lived to an advanced age and was canonized soon after his repose.
O most honorable Holy Hierarch Ioane of Shavta and divinely-robed
Evlogi the Fool-for-Christ, pray to God for the peace and perfection of our
bodies and souls, and enable us to glorify His loving-kindness!
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