100-Year Anniversary of the Canonization of Saint Ioasaf
The Russian Orthodox Church on Friday the 16th of September 2011 celebrated the 100- year anniversary of the canonization of the Belgorod Saint Ioasaf. The Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill arrived late afternoon to Belgorod to perform the blessing on the new temple of St. Ioasaf and to conduct the Saturday divine service. Pilgrims came from other regions of Belgorod and the Ukraine and entered Belgorod’s Cathedral Square from five different directions for the blessing to the new temple named after St. Ioasaf.
Patriarch Kirill gave a short speech at the Belgorod airport to the people that greeted him and told them that he was happy about the economic and social achievements as well as the political stability. He pointed out that many of the old churches in Belgorod have been reconstructed and several new churches have been built. The Patriarch is sure that all the success in Belgorod is connected with Saint Ioasaf blessing the Belgorod region. The Patriarch gave another speech at the Belgorod City Theatre by Schepkin and after his speech there was a play titled the "Life of St. Ioasaf".
A Brief History of The Holy Saint Ioasaf
Yoakim Gorlenko (St. Ioasaf), came from a prominent Ukrainian family. His father Andrey Dimitrievich Gorlenko was an officer in the Ukrainian Cossack army who married Maria Apostol the daughter of Hetman Danylo Apostol.
St. Ioasaf was born in the town of Priluki of the Poltava province on September 8, 1705, which is on the same day that the Birth of the Holy Virgin "Nativity of the Theotokos" is celebrated. He was baptized in the Orthodox Church and given the name Yoakim.
When Yoakim was 8 years of age his parents sent him to be educated at the Kievo - Mogilyanskaya Academy. At a young age he was attracted to religion and the monastic way of life and at the age of eighteen instead of continuing his studies at the Academy he secretly went to the Kiev-Mezhigorskiy monastery. His parents forgave him for his disobedience and gave him their blessing. Yoakim accepted the veil and was named Ioasaf in 1727, and 2 years later he was ordained as Hieromonk, by Archbishop Rafail Zaborovskiy.
He spent his life serving people in need. He helped people during the winter by buying firewood and then cutting the wood in the evenings and bring it to people who could not do it for themselves. There are stories about him visiting the sick and the sick recovering shortly afterwards. The Holy Priest Ioasaf died on December 10th in 1754 and his body was kept opened in the Svyato-Troitsky Cathedral. Two months later the body still had not spoiled and the natural color remained. His coffin was placed in a near by cave and two years later the coffin was re-opened and they saw that the body had not decomposed and remained the same as the day he had died. The Holy Priest Ioasaf’s body remained in the Svyato-Troitsky Cathedral for 150 years, where people came to pray to him. In 1920 his body was taken to Kursk then Moscow by the Soviet government. The body was eventually put into The History of Religion and Atheism in Leningrad museum. In 1991 it was brought back to Belgorod where it stays now in Preobrazhensky Cathedral, which is located in downtown Belgorod.
Svyato-Troitsky Cathedral, photo by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii
The Svyato-Troitsky Cathedral & The Temple St. Ioasaf
The Svyato-Troitsky Cathedral is recorded in documents, which date back to the end of the 16th century. The cathedral was located on a white hill called Belaya Gora. At that time the cathedral was built out of wood. In 1690 cathedral was reconstructed out of brick and re-opened 17 years later in 1707.
In the 18th century the Svyato-Troitsky Cathedral became the main building of Belgorod because it also became a monk monastery. Everyone going through Belgorod would try to stop by and visit the cathedral.
Saint Ioasaf knew he would not live long when he went to visit his parents. In December 1754 on the way back to the Belgorod Eparchy he got sick and passed away. Thousands of people from Belgorod and other regions came to say good-bye to him but the officials were waiting for the Bishop of Pereyaslav to come to the funeral, but the Bishop could not make it in time. Two months after the funeral for Saint Ioasaf, people started to see that his body was not decomposing. In February 1755, three months later, he was put in a special cave that was constructed under the Svyato-Troitsky Cathedral before his death. The cave was locked. Three years later monks went down to the cave and saw that the body was still not decomposing and Saint Ioasaf clothing had not spoiled.
Approximately 157 years the most sacred place in Belgorod was Saint Ioasaf cave that was situated under the Svyato-Troitsky cathedral.
The opening of the relics of Saint Ioasaf led to his canonization in 1911.
Two hundred thousand people came for glorification of St. Ioasaf in a time when the population of Belgorod was around one hundred thousand people.
The Great Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich with the Great Princess Elisaveta Feodorovna came to visit the cathedral on the 4th of September in 1911. On the 17th of December in 1911 the Tsar Nikolai II with his family came to Belgorod to attend the service at the Svyato-Troitsky Cathedral for the canonizing the body of the Belgorod priest Ioasaf as a Holy Saint.
On the 17th of September 2011 approximately 10,000 pilgrims came to Belgorod’s Cathedral Square to celebrate the 100- year anniversary of the canonization of the Saint Ioasaf.
Shortly before the Soviet period the cathedral was turned into a national museum then into an orphanage. The orphans started to destroy the cathedral. Eventually the cathedral became a military base, by 1927 only the walls of the cathedral were standing. In 1930 a bomb destroyed the remaining walls of the cathedral. A cemetery for the monks, teachers and famous people of Belgorod was located not far from the cathedral and this cemetery had also been destroyed around 1930.
The Svyato-Troitsky Cathedral site underwent an archeology investigation, which was completed in 2010. In 2011 the City Architect Program in Belgorod started building a new temple on the former foundation of the Svyato-Troitsky Cathedral. The new temple will be named after the Holy Priest Ioasaf who is the first and only saint in Belgorod Russia. Today this temple is situated by two of the largest main streets in Belgorod, which are named Svyato-Troitsky Boulevard and Bogdan Khmelnizky Street.