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Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Chrurch canonises Saint Theophano Basarab, first known Romanian nun

The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church announced on Thursday the canonization of Venerable Theopahno Basarab from Albotina monastery (Vidin), a contemporary with St. Gregory Palamas and disciple of St. Theodosius the Hesychast.

She is the first Romanian nun known in history. The day of celebration will be October 28, when the Saint is celebrated by the Romanians from the Bulgarian and Serbian Timok.

Born at the beginning of the 14th century in the family of the first ruler of Wallachia, Basarab I the Founder (1310-1352), she was named Theodora at baptism, being given a chosen education based on love for God and fellow people.

Theodora Basarab married Ivan Alexander (1331-1371), the future tsar of Bulgaria, with whom she had three sons and a daughter: Michael Asen, Ivan Sracimir, Ivan Asen and Vasilissa. She raised her children by instilling in them a love of God and caring for those around them. They lost two of their sons in battles.

Together with her husband, Tsar Ivan Alexander, she founded monasteries and churches, and restored others, at a time when hesychasm was in full swing.

This period is considered by historians to be an era of cultural and spiritual renaissance for Bulgarians, with Theodora Basarab being a very important factor, who supported and encouraged the building of monastic settlements, copying books necessary for worship and the development of monasticism.

Her zeal and devotion to God and to the Saints have been observed and recorded in writing by contemporaries.

In 1345, Tsar Ivan Alexander decided to separate from Theodora Basarab. Repudiated from the imperial court, Theodora Basarab humbled herself by withdrawing to a monastery to renounce the worries, intrigues, evils and tumult of this world and to serve with love and devotion to the Bridegroom Christ.

Theodora Basarab chose to stay in Bulgaria so as not to ruin the relations between the two neighbouring states to which she was so attached in spirit, thus showing wisdom and love for the Romanian and Bulgarian people.

Since Tsar Ivan Alexander knew and appreciated St. Theodosius the Hesychast, the disciple of St. Gregory of Sinai, we are permitted to believe that the nun Theophano Basarab also knew him and became his disciple, learning obedience, almsgiving, good administration, cultivation of stillness and the prayer of the heart, the guidance that the great ascetic gave to those whom he instructed in the spiritual life.

The activity of the Venerable Theofano (Teofana) and her spiritual stature impressed the inhabitants of the cities through which she passed, being very loved by the people.

The inhabitants of the Bulgarian and Serbian Timok area still remember today, after six centuries, in the collective memory the deeds and feats of the Venerable Theophano Basarab, the Romanian tsarina that shone through faith and sacrifice in the Bulgarian land.

It is not known exactly when the Venerable Theophano Basarab reposed in the Lord. According to the tradition passed down from generation to generation among the Romanians from the Bulgarian Timok, she was buried in front of the altar of the church dug in the rock at Albotina Monastery, where she lived for a long time.

The Venerable Theophanao was buried with great honour, being mourned by the people she served, admonished and defended as a true mother who preached the love and mercy of God.

To this day, the inhabitants of the Bulgarian and Serbian Timok area celebrate her memory on October 28 each year.

Troparion, tone 5

On the chosen branch of the Basarab family, who, through her holy life, shone wonderfully, like a worthy guide of Bulgaria, and, receiving the angelic schema, for a long time she laboured in vigil and fasting, the Venerable Theophano, now let us honour her rightfully.

Icon painted by iconographger Costel Olărean