John of Shanghai and San Francisco

Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco (Russian: Иоанн Шанхайский и Сан Францисский, romanizedIoann Shankhayskiyi i San Frantsiskyi; secular name Mikhail Borisovich Maximovitch, Russian: Михаил Борисович Максимович; 4 June 1896 – 2 July 1966), was a prominent Eastern Orthodox ascetic and hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) who was active in the mid-20th century. He was a pastor and spiritual father of high reputation and a reputed wonderworker to whom were attributed powers of prophecy, clairvoyance and healing. He is often referred to as "St. John the Wonderworker".

John the Wonderworker
Stjohn shanghai.png
St. John on his arrival in Shanghai
Bishop of Shanghai, Archbishop of Western Europe, Archbishop of San Francisco
Born(1896-06-04)4 June 1896
Adamovka, Izyumsky Uyezd, Kharkov Governorate, Russian Empire
Died2 July 1966(1966-07-02) (aged 70)
Seattle, Washington, USA
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
CanonizedJune 19/July 2, 1994, San Francisco, California, U.S. by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
Major shrineCathedral of the Theotokos, Joy of All Who Sorrow, San Francisco, California, USA
FeastJune 19 (O.S.)/July 2 (N.S.) (nearest Saturday in ROCOR)


Early lifeEdit

Mikhail Maximovitch was born in 1896 in the village of Adamovka of the Izyumsky Uyezd of the Kharkov Governorate of the Russian Empire (in present-day eastern Ukraine). He came from the same family of Serbian origin as that of St. John of Tobolsk, whom he was said to resemble in several respects. Growing up he was a sickly child who was deeply devout to his religion and used to collect icons and church books. He was captivated by the lives of saints, even in play he would turn toy soldiers into monks and fortresses into monasteries. His piousness has impressed his French caretaker so much that she converted from Catholicism to Orthodox Christianity.[1]

He attended Poltava Military School from 1907 to 1914. Later he attended and received a degree in law from Kharkov Imperial University in 1918. He studied well and attended church in Kharkiv where he was inspired by metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky to go deeper into his spiritual learnings. He later recalled that the local monastery has become more important in his life than the secular institutions. Maximovitch was a patriot of his fatherland and was profoundly disappointed by what he saw as human weakness and impermanence during the tragic events of 1917 revolution. As a result, he made the decision to dedicate his life to serving God.


His family sought refuge in Yugoslavia and brought him to Belgrade in 1921, where in 1925 he graduated from Belgrade University with a degree in theology.[2] To support his impoverished family he would sell newspapers.

In 1926 he was tonsured a monk and ordained a hierodeacon by Russian Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who gave him the name of John after his saintly relative. Later that same year, he was ordained to the priesthood by Russian Bishop Gabriel (Chepur) of Chelyabinsk. Once ordained St.John would no longer sleep in a bed. He would nap in a chair or kneeling down in front of the icons, praying a lot and eating only once a day. For several years afterward he worked as an instructor and tutor in Yugoslavia. He worked as a religious teacher in the Gymnasium of Velika Kikinda between 1925 and 1927.[3] In 1929, Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church appointed him a teacher of the seminary in Bitola under principal Nikolaj Velimirović.[4] John has earned the respect and devotion at the seminary where he taught. His reputation grew as he started visiting hospitals, caring for patients with prayer and communion.


In 1934 he was ordained a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia by Metropolitan Anthony and assigned to the diocese of Shanghai.[5][4] In Shanghai, bishop John found an uncompleted cathedral and an Orthodox community deeply divided along ethnic lines. Making contact with all the various groups, he quickly involved himself in the existing charitable institutions and founded an orphanage and home for the children of the destitute. He also set about restoring church unity, establishing ties with local Orthodox Serbs and Greeks. Here he first became known for miracles attributed to his prayer. As a public figure, it was impossible for him to completely conceal his ascetic way of life. Despite his actions during the Japanese occupation, even when he routinely ignored the curfew in pursuit of his pastoral activities, the Japanese authorities never harassed him. As the only Russian hierarch in China who refused to submit to the authority of the Soviet-dominated Russian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Alexy I of Moscow, he was elevated to Archbishop of China by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in 1946.[2]

When the Communists took power in China in 1949, the Russian colony was forced to flee, first to a refugee camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines and then mainly to the United States and Australia. Archbishop St. John personally traveled to Washington, D.C. to ensure that his people would be allowed to enter the country.

Western EuropeEdit

In 1951, St. John was assigned to the Archdiocese of Western Europe with his see first in Paris, then in Brussels. Thanks to his work in collecting the lives of saints, a great many pre-Schism Western saints became known in Orthodoxy and continue to be venerated to this day. His charitable and pastoral work continued as it had in Shanghai, even among a much more widely scattered flock.

San FranciscoEdit

In 1962 St. John was once again reassigned by the Holy Synod to the see of San Francisco. Here too, he found a divided community and a cathedral in an unfinished state. Although he completed the building of the Holy Virgin Cathedral and brought some measure of peace to the community he became the target of slander from those who became his political enemies, who went so far as to file a lawsuit against him for alleged mishandling of finances related to the construction of the cathedral. He was exonerated, but this was a great cause of sorrow to him in his later life.

Deeply reverent of St. John of Kronstadt, John played an active role in the preparation of his canonization in 1964.[6]

The Relics of St. John

Death and venerationEdit

On July 2, 1966 (June 19 on the Julian calendar), St. John died while visiting Seattle at a time and place he was said to have foretold.[citation needed] He was entombed in a sepulcher beneath the altar of the Holy Virgin Cathedral he had built in San Francisco dedicated to the Theotokos, Joy of All Who Sorrow, on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond district. In 1994 he was solemnly glorified on the 28th anniversary of his death. His unembalmed, incorrupt relics now occupy a shrine in the cathedral's nave. His feast day is celebrated on the Saturday nearest to July 2. He is beloved and celebrated worldwide, with portions of his relics located in Serbia, Russia, Mount Athos, Greece (Church of Saint Anna in Katerini), South Korea, Bulgaria, Romania, United States (St. John Maximovitch Church, Eugene, Oregon), Canada (Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Kitchener), England (Dormition Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church, London) and other countries of the world.


  1. ^ Perekrestov, Peter (1994). A Brief Life of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. reprint - San Francisco, " Russian Shepherd. pp. 10–13.
  2. ^ a b "Archbishop John, Wonder-worker of shanghai and San Francisco", Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco
  3. ^ Le Karo, Bernard (2013). Свети Јован Шангајски - чудотворац последњих времена [Saint John of Shanghai - the Wonderworker of the Late Times]. Belgrade: Православна мисионарска школа при храму Светог Александра Невског. ISBN 978-86-86555-64-9.
  4. ^ a b "Crkva danas slavi svetog Jovana Šangajskog" [Saint John of Shanghai Celebrated Today]. Radio Televizija Vojvodine. 2 July 2009. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  5. ^ Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev and Galicia (1863-1936)
  6. ^ Blessed John the Wonderworker: A Preliminary Account of the Life and Miracles of Archbishop John Maximovitch. Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1987.(ISBN 0938635018)

Further readingEdit

  • Rose, Fr. Seraphim & Abbot Herman. (1987). Blessed John the wonderworker: A preliminary account of the life and miracles of Archbishop John Maximovitch (Third, revised ed.). Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. ISBN 0-938635-01-8.
  • Father Seraphim: His Life and Work ISBN 1-887904-07-7.

External linksEdit