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Paraskeva of the Balkans

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Paraskeva of the Balkans
Icon of St Petka from Klisura Monastery, Bulgaria.
Saint Nun[1]
(modern-day Selimpaşa, Istanbul, Turkey)
Died11th century
(modern-day Greece)
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
Major shrineMetropolitan Cathedral of Iaşi, Romania; Church of St Paraskeva, Nesebar
Feast14 October
27 October
Patronageembroiderers, needle workers, spinners, weavers[2]

Paraskeva of the Balkans[a] was an ascetic female saint of the 10th century. She was born in Epivates, near present-day Istanbul, and had visions of the Virgin Mary. After living in Chalcedon and Heraclea Pontica, she settled in a convent in the desert near the Jordan River. An angel told her to return to her homeland, and two years later she died at the age of 27. The cult of Saint Paraskeva began to spread in the 14th century from Bulgaria into the Danubian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. There was confusion over her identity and attributes because her Greek name "paraskevi" means "Friday," and translations in other languages, such as Romanian and Serbian, were "Saint Friday". Her cult continues to be celebrated in many Orthodox countries, and her feast day is commemorated on October 14 in the Eastern Orthodox Church.


Visual hagiography of St Paraskeva (Patriarchate of Peć, 1719-20).

Paraskeva was born in the town of Epivates (today's Selimpaşa, close to Istanbul) on the shore of the Sea of Marmara.[3] Her parents were wealthy landowners.[2]

Legend says that as a child, Paraskeva heard in a church the Lord's words: "Whoever wants to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Mark 8, 34). These words would determine her to give her rich clothes away to the poor and to flee to Constantinople.[2] Her parents, who did not support her decision to follow an ascetic, religious life, looked for her in various cities. Paraskeva fled to Chalcedon in Asia Minor, and afterwards lived at the church of the Most Holy Theotokos in Heraclea Pontica in Bithynia.[2] She led an austere life, experiencing visions of the Virgin Mary. Her travels took her to Jerusalem; she wished to spend the rest of her life there. After seeing Jerusalem, she settled in a convent in the desert near the Jordan River.

When she was 25, an angel appeared, telling her to return to her homeland. She returned to Constantinople and then settled down a short distance west, living the last two years of her life in the village of Kallikrateia, in the church of the Holy Apostles, where she died age 27. The former village is now a neighbourhood in Eastern Thrace called Mimarsinan.



According to Christian tradition, many years after Paraskeva's death, an old sinner was buried near her long-forgotten grave in Kallikrateia, after which Paraskeva appeared in a dream to a local monk and complained about the impure neighbour. The vision informed the monk where she had been buried; when the body was unearthed, it was found to be incorrupt.[2] The relics were translated to the church of the Holy Apostles in Kallikrateia.[2]

Relics' journey[edit]

In subsequent years, Paraskeva's relics were transferred to various churches in the region.[2]


In 1238, the relics were transferred from Kallikrateia to Veliko Tarnovo, capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire.[4] In Bulgaria she is venerated as Sveta Petka Tarnovska, "of Tarnovo".


In 1393, they were transferred to Belgrade,[4] specifically the Ružica Church.


When Belgrade fell to Ottoman forces in 1521, the relics were transferred to Constantinople.[2]

Moldavia, now Romania[edit]

In 1641, the relics were transferred to Trei Ierarhi Monastery, in Iaşi, Moldavia (nowadays, eastern part of Romania).[2]

In 1888, they were transferred to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Iaşi.[2]


Confusion with other characters[edit]

The cult of Paraskeva of the Balkans became conflated[when?] with that of other saints with the same name as well as pre-Christian deities of the Slavs, leading to confusion about Paraskeva's identity and attributes.[5]

The confusion occurred in part because the original Greek name of Paraskeva was "paraskevi," meaning "preparation [of the Sabbath]," understood as "Friday," and was literally translated to various languages as "Saint Friday" (such as "Sveta Petka" in Serbian, "Sfânta Vineri" in Romanian). Scholars sometimes misunderstood the translated name and connected it with a certain character from folk tales having a similar name.[citation needed]

As one scholar asked:

Was Parasceve, or Paraskeva, an early Christian maiden named in honor of the day of the Crucifixion? Or was she a personification of that day, pictured cross in hand to assist the fervor of the faithful? And was the Paraskeva of the South Slavs the same who made her appearance in northern Russia?[5]

The cults of the 3rd-century virgin martyr, Paraskevi of Iconium (Paraskeva-Pyatnitsa), and the 10th-century Paraskeva of the Balkans, were conflated with that of a Slavic deity associated with Friday, alternatively known as Petka, Pyatnitsa, or Zhiva.[6][7] Attributes, such as the association with spinning, were also merged into the cult of these saints.[6]

The cult of Saint Paraskeva, also known as Saint Petka, began to spread in the 14th century from Bulgaria into the Romanian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia.[citation needed]

1950 separation between homonymous characters[edit]

Any confusion was clarified once the Romanian Orthodox Church decided on 28 February 1950 to generalise the cult of Saint Parascheva the New.[8] The generalisation of the cult was celebrated on 14 October 1955 in the Iaşi Cathedral in the presence of high-rank clerics from Bulgaria and Russia. Today, there is a complete separation between the 10th-century Saint Paraskeva the New, and Saint Paraskevi of Iconium, as well as the folk character derived from pre-Christian mystical beliefs.[citation needed]

Modern-day veneration in Romania[edit]

1947 procession[edit]

A severe drought in 1946-47 affected Moldavia, adding to the misery left by the war. Metropolitan Justinian Marina permitted the first procession featuring the coffin containing the relics of Paraskeva, kept at Iaşi until then. The relics winded their way through the drought-deserted villages of Iaşi, Vaslui, Roman, Bacău, Putna, Neamţ,Baia and Botoşani County|Botoşani Counties. The offerings collected on this occasion were distributed, based on Metropolitan Justinian's decisions, to orphans, widows, invalids, school cafeterias, churches under construction, and to monasteries in order to feed the sick, and old or feeble monks.[9]

Annual Iași pilgrimage[edit]

Pilgrimage at the shrines located in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Iași has become one of the major religious events in Romania. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gather each year in Iași in the second weekend of October to commemorate Saint Parascheva, while the city itself established its Celebration Days at the same time.


In the 14th century, Bishop Euthymius of Tarnovo (1332-1402) wrote a notable biography of Paraskeva - "Hagiography of Saint Petka of Tarnovo".[10] The bishop's work was inspired from the Greek vita of Saint Paraskeva of the Balkans, written by deacon Basilikos in 1150 on the request of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nicholas IV Mouzelon. Hagiographies were also written by Metropolitan Mattheos of Mira in 1605, Metropolitan Varlaam of Moldavia in 1643, Nikodimos the Athonite (19th century), and Romanian bishop Melchisedec of Roman in 1889.[11] Some modern Romanian theologians published studies about Paraskeva: Gheorghe Păvăloiu (1935), Arhimandrite Varahil Jitaru (1942), D. Stănescu (1938), M. Țesan (1955), Scarlat Porcescu, and Mircea Păcurariu.[citation needed]

Dedicated churches[edit]

Birthplace church in Epivates[edit]

A church dedicated to her was built in Epivates (present-day Selimpaşa) on the spot where her house of birth once stood. The oldest testimony regarding the church - written by the Russian traveller Anthony of Novgorod (who later became Archbishop of Novgorod) - dates back to the early-13th century. In August 1817 a great fire completely destroyed the church; it was rebuilt in 1820 with the financial support of the citizens of Constantinople and of the former Prince of Moldo-Wallahia, Alexander Kallimachi. In 1885 the Community[which?] demolished the old church in order to construct a much bigger one on the same site. The building, completed after 6 years, re-used parts of the 1327–1341 Byzantine tower of Duke Alexis Apokaukos as building material. It was the biggest church in the whole of Eastern Thrace (16 m in height, 26 m in width and 30 m in length), a real jewel that could be seen from kilometres away.[citation needed] It was completely demolished in the spring of 1979; a park occupies the site.

Extant notable churches[edit]

Saint Paraskeva on a Serbian Orthodox icon with church in the background

Worldwide, there are many churches named in honour of or dedicated to St Paraskeva. Some of the more notable include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bulgarian: Света Петка Българска, Petka of Bulgaria, Petka of Serbia, Paraskeva of Serbia, Paraskeva the Serbian, Paraskeva of Belgrade, Parascheva the New, Parascheva the Young, Ancient Greek: Ὁσία Παρασκευὴ ἡ Ἐπιβατινή, Greek: Οσία Παρασκευή η Επιβατινή ή Νέα, Romanian: Sfânta Cuvioasă Parascheva, or Serbian: Петка Параскева, Serbian: Петка Македонка, Paraskeva Pyatnitsa, Parascheva of Tirnovo


  1. ^ "Преподобная Параске́ва-Пе́тка Сербская". azbyka.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-05-20.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Saint Petca Parasceva". Patron Saints Index. 2010. Archived from the original on June 15, 2010. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  3. ^ Kiril Petkov, The Voices of Medieval Bulgaria, Seventh-Fifteenth Century: The Records of a Bygone Culture, Volume 5, BRILL, 2008, ISBN 90-04-16831-1, p. 274.
  4. ^ a b "St. Petca-Parasceva". Orthodox America. 2010. Archived from the original on January 11, 2001. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Nicholas Valentine Riasanovsky, Gleb Struve, Thomas Eekman, California Slavic Studies, Volume 11 (University of California Press, 1980), 39.
  6. ^ a b Joanna Hubbs, Mother Russia: the feminine myth in Russian culture. Volume 842 of Midland Book (Indiana University Press, 1993), p. 117.
  7. ^ Rybakov, Boris (2010). "Ancient Slavic Paganism". Bibliotekar.ru. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
  8. ^ Pacurariu, Mircea (1994). Sfinți daco-romani si români [Daco-Roman and Romanian Saints] (in Romanian). Iaşi: Editura Mitropoliei Moldovei şi Bucovinei.
  9. ^ "Dobrogea". Centrul de pelerinaj. 2010. Archived from the original on August 13, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  10. ^ Life of Saint Paraskeva by Bishop (Saint) Evtimy of Tarnovo. Romanian title: Viața Sfintei Parascheva, de Sfântul Eftimie din Tarnovo, Editura Agapis.
  11. ^ Life and miracles of Saint Paraskeva the New and the History of Her Relics, by Bishop Melchisedec of Roman. Romanian title: Viața și minunile Cuvioasei noastre Parascheva cea nouă și istoricul sfintelor ei moaște, București, 1889.