Hilarion of Crete and Tyrnovo:

a 19th centure prelate in the steps of Kyrillos and Methodios



The more one studies the problem the more he will come to realize that the destruction of Bulgarian manuscripts by Greek bishops, so dramatically portrayed by Jirecek, is a mere fiction of the imagination. That such is the case is demonstrated further by the story of Hilarion, the clergyman from the island of Crete who became the Metropolitan of Tirnovo. On that prelate Jirecek has concentrated all his ire and devoted six pages of his book ["History of Bulgaria"] (beginning with page 389). His accusations have recently been summarized ["Bulgaria's True Record", by the American-Bulgarian Good Neighbor League, 1945, p. 18] as follows:

"The greatest auto-da-fe was the burning of the old library of the Tirnovo Patriarchy by Hilarion". (Then follows a lengthy description of the discovery of the collection hidden in a secret compartment within the walls of the church. Together with the priceless books were found the sacred remains of Bulgarian saints.) "Hilarion sold the head of St. Michael of Potuka in Vlahia ... looked over the books personally, separated a few Greek ones and ordered the remaining carload burned."

This is indeed a very gruesome picture of a destroyer at work in the form of a church prelate. And yet contemporary sources picture the same prelate in a different light. Basil Apriloff, the Maecenas of modern Bulgaria and the founder of its first real school, a contemporary of Hilarion in his book on the "Bulgarian Regeneration" [no further information provided on this title] describes Hilarion in the following words: "A shepherd in the real meaning of the word, the ever memorable Metropolitan Hilarion, although not a Bulgarian, worked strenuously for the education and the development of the Bulgarians. ... This truly faithful shepherd went to Grambovo and with his own hands laid the foundation stone of the school and he was the first to offer his financial contribution for his erection." Neophyte, the Bulgarian monk of Ryla, who with justice is called the "Patriarch of Bulgarian learning", composed a poem in "praise of the Metropolitan Hilarion", whose passing was greatly lamented by the people of Bulgaria. "Lamented by his flock", Apriloff has stated, "the sainted man died at Tirnovo. His unselfishness was revealed also from this fact: after his death only a very small amount of money was found belonging to him." And yet Jirecek, who lived more than half a century later, wants us to believe that Hilarion was capable of selling even sacred relics to amass a fortune! Certainly contemporary Bulgarian patriots, like Apriloff and Neophyte, would not have praised Hilarion if he had committed the acts with which he is being accused.


[From: George E. Mylonas' "The Balkan States", Eden Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri, 1946, pp. 55-56]

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