Who was St. Tikhon?

St. Tikhon (from the San Francisco Call, 4/22/1900)

St. Tikhon (from the San Francisco Call, 4/22/1900)

Full name: Tikhon Bellavin

Dates: 1865 to 1925

In America: 1898 to 1907

Who was he? Head of the Russian Archdiocese in North America at the turn of the 20th century, and later Patriarch of Moscow during the Bolshevik Revolution and its bloody aftermath. He was known for being a kind bishop, humble and unassuming. He suffered under the Bolsheviks and was glorified as a saint in 1988.

Something he’s famous for: In 1905, he wrote a reply to a survey the Russian Church had sent to each of its bishops. Part of that reply included a sort of blueprint for Orthodoxy in America. St. Tikhon envisioned a future where each Orthodox ethnic group in America had its own ethnic bishop, with overlapping jurisdictions, but with all the bishops sitting on a single local synod, led by the Russian Archbishop (and under the Russian Holy Synod).

Something nobody knows: St. Tikhon’s brother Michael served as his secretary during his time in America. Michael supposedly died of a broken heart in 1902, when he was 31. The story goes that he was madly in love with an opera singer in San Francisco, but she wasn’t interested. When he found out she was leaving the country, his heart couldn’t take it. From the San Francisco Call (12/5/1902):

Wednesday night he retired early to his apartment at 1715 Powell street, where the cathedral is located. He was in such a condition of nervous prostration that Dr. Victor G. Vecki was summoned to attend him. He administered sedatives and left his patient apparently resting easily. But the knowledge that Tina de Spada would depart in the morning and that probably he would never see her again gripped his heart until it ceased its beating. When the family went to awake him in the morning he was dead.

Something he said: “We live surrounded by people of alien creeds; in the sea of other religions, our church is a small island of salvation, towards which swim some of the people, plunged in the sea of life. ‘Come hurry help,’ we sometimes hear from the heathen of far Alaska, and oftener from those who were our brothers in faith also, the people of the Union. ‘Receive us into your community, give us one of your good pastors, send us a priest that we might have the divine service performed for us of a holiday, help us to build a church, to start a school for our children, so that they do not lose in America their faith and nationality,’ — those are the wails we often hear, especially of late. …

“But who is to work for the spread of the Orthodox faith, for the increase of the children of the Orthodox Church? Pastors and missionaries, you answer. You are right, but are they to be alone? … At the beginning, not only pastors alone suffered for the faith of Christ, but lay people also, men, women, and even children. Heresies were fought against by lay people as well. Likewise, the spread of Christ’s faith ought to be near and precious to the heart of every Christian. In this work every member of the Church ought to take a lively and heartfelt interest. …

“Orthodox people, in celebrating the day of Orthodoxy, you must devote yourselves to the Orthodox faith not in word or tongue only, but in deed and in truth.”

– From his homily on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1903, published in the English-language supplement to the Vestinik, 2/23/1903.

7 Replies to “Who was St. Tikhon?”

    September 17, 1905 (Sunday) Archbishop Tikhon consecrated the Holy Trinity church located in Winnipeg (643 Manitoba Ave / McKenzie St).
    – «Holy Trinity Sobor on Manitoba Avenue was the first Orthodox church constructed in Winnipeg. In 1904, it was consecrated by Saint (Bishop) Tikhon, the future Patriarch of Moscow» [Klysh, Myrone R. Orthodox Christians in Manitoba. A brief overview // The Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christianity, 2008, vol. III, № 3, p. 63].
    – «The history of our Cathedral is very interesting. The church was blessed in 1905 by St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, enlightener of all America» [http://www.holytrinitysobor.ca/?q=en].
    – «The present temple was constructed in 1904, and consecrated by Bishop Tikhon (later Saint Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow) in 1905» [http://oca.org/parishes/oca-ca-winhts].

  2. Christ is risen! From a new visitor to your site – wow! What a great resource for the historically minded. I am hoping you can answer a question. Did St. Alexander Hotovitsky, to your knowledge, ever visit or work in Alaska? I live in Alaska, and have only recently learned of this wonderful saint. Thank you so much for any help you can give me in finding the answer to this question.

  3. 1) From 1896 till 1914 Alexander Hotovitsky was the editor of the Russian Orthodox American Messenger, – titanic work for the lone hero! So Fr. Alexander never did work in Alaska.
    2) Absolutely clear that until 1907 he didn’t visit Alaska [cf.: Туркевич В.И. Из нашей жизни. Десятилетие священства Протоиерея А. Хотовицкого // Американский Православный Вестник, 1906, т. X, № 5, с. 81–96].
    3) My opinion: Alexander Hotovitsky never visited Alaska (but maybe I’m wrong).

  4. Thank you so much for replying with this info. I first became aware of St. Alexander when I visited a church founded by him in 1905, Holy Trinity in Springfield, VT. So besides editing the Messenger, he was also traveling and establishing churches. Titanic work indeed! God bless the work you are doing – keep it up!

  5. “Oops!.. I did it again!”
    3b) In summer of 1910 Archbishop Platon, Archpriest Alexander Hotovitzky and Hierodeacon Vsevolod Andronoff visited Alaska. Then Fr. Alexander published a number of his articles in the Russian Orthodox American Messenger under the general title «On States and Alaska. From road impressions of His Eminence satellite» [Хотовицкий А.А. По Штатам и Аляске. Из дорожных впечатлений спутника Его Высокопреосвященства // Американский Православный Вестник, 1910, vol. XIV, № 13 (July 14) – № 22 (November 28); 1911, vol. XV, № 5 (March 14) – № 9 (May 14), № 11 (June 14) – № 16 (August 28), № 23 (December 14) – № 24 (December 28)] with some photos [especially: 1910, vol. XIV, № 22 (November 28), p. 331 & 1911, vol. XV, № 16 (August 28), pp. 285, 288, 289].
    I sincerely ask You to forgive me for making a mistake.

  6. I just now read your latest reply to my question – I thank you and of course forgive you!! This is exciting news! There is a collection of the Russian Orthodox Messengers in the University of Alaska library here in Anchorage. It would be so wonderful to find these articles there – but translation of them will be another matter. God willing, I can find help with this too. God bless you and the work you do!

Leave a Reply