Paraskeva of the Balkans

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Saint Paraskeva of the Balkans
St Petka-Klisura Monastery Icon.jpg
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]

Saint 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, where she died at the age of 27. The cult of Saint Paraskeva began to spread in the 14th century from Bulgaria into the Romanian 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 (close to present-day 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, aged 25, lived in the village of Kallikrateia, in the church of the Holy Apostles. She died at the age of 27.


In the 14th century, Bishop Euthymius of Tarnovo (1332-1402) wrote a notable biography of Saint Parascheva - "Hagiography of Saint Petka of Tarnovo”.[4] The bishop's work was inspired from the Greek Bios of Saint Paraskeva of the Balkans, written by deacon Basilikos in 1150 on the request of Constantinople Patriarch Nicholas IV Mouzelon. Hagiographies were also written by the metropolitan Matei of Mira in 1605, metropolitan Varlaam of Moldova in 1643, Saint Nikodimos the Athonite (19th century), and Romanian Bishop Melchisedec of Roman in 1889.[5] Some modern Romanian theologians published studies about Saint Parascheva: Pr. Gh. Păvăloiu (1935), Arhim. Varahil Jitaru (1942), D. Stănescu (1938), Pr. M. Țesan (1955), Pr. Scarlat Porcescu, Pr. Prof. Mircea Păcurariu.

Local church-building[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.


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. According to Christian tradition, Saint Paraskeva appeared in a dream to a local monk after an old sinner was buried near her grave. The vision informed the monk where the saint 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]

However, the cult of Paraskeva of the Balkans became conflated with that of other saints with the same name as well as pre-Christian deities of the Slavs, leading to confusion about the saint's identity and attributes.[6] The confusion occurred because the Greek name of St. Paraskeva was "paraskevi," meaning "Friday," and the translation in languages such as Romanian or Serbian was "Sfânta Vineri" or "Sveta Petka," meaning Saint Friday. Scholars sometimes misunderstood the translated name and connected it with a certain character from folk tales having a similar name.

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?[6]

The cults of Paraskevi of Iconium (Paraskeva-Pyatnitsa) and Paraskeva of the Balkans were conflated with that of a Slavic deity associated with Friday, alternatively known as Petka, Pyatnitsa, or Zhiva.[7][8][9] Attributes, such as the association with spinning, were also merged into the cult of these saints.[7]

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


In subsequent years, Paraskevi’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.[11]

In 1393, they were transferred to Belgrade,[11] specifically the Ružica Church. When Belgrade fell to Ottoman forces in 1521, the relics were transferred to Constantinople. In 1641, the relics were transferred to Trei Ierarhi Monastery, in Iaşi, Moldavia (nowadays, eastern part of Romania). In 1888, they were transferred to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Iaşi.[2]

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 Saint Paraskevi, kept at Iaşi since then. The relics wended their way through the drought-deserted villages of Iaşi, Vaslui, Roman, Bacău, Putna, Neamţ, Baia and 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.[12]

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 St. Parascheva, while the city itself established its Celebration Days at the same time.

Dedicated churches[edit]

St. Paraskeva depicted on a Serb Orthodox painting

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


  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". (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-05-20.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "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 9004168311, p. 274.
  4. ^ Life of Saint Parascheva, bishop Evtimy of Tarnovo, romanian title - Viata Sfintei Parascheva, de Sfantul Eftimie din Tarnovo, Editura Agapis
  5. ^ Life and miracles of Saint Parascheva The New and history of his relics, bishop Melchisedec of Roman, romanian title - Viața și minunile Cuvioasei noastre Parascheva cea nouă și istoricul sfintelor ei moaște, București, 1889
  6. ^ a b Nicholas Valentine Riasanovsky, Gleb Struve, Thomas Eekman, California Slavic Studies, Volume 11 (University of California Press, 1980), 39.
  7. ^ a b Joanna Hubbs, Mother Russia: the feminine myth in Russian culture. Volume 842 of Midland Book (Indiana University Press, 1993), 117.
  8. ^ Boris Rybakov. Ancient Slavic Paganism
  9. ^ Boris Rybakov (2010). "Ancient Slavic Paganism". Bibliotekar. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
  10. ^ "Saints Daco-Romans and Romanians, Pr. Prof. Dr. Mircea Pacurariu, Romanian title Sfinti Daco-Romani si Romani”, Editura Mitropoliei Moldovei si Bucovinei, Iasi, 1994
  11. ^ a b "St. Petca-Parasceva". Orthodox America. 2010. Archived from the original on January 11, 2001. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
  12. ^ "Dobrogea". Centrul de pelerinaj. 2010. Archived from the original on August 13, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2010.