Patriarch Evtimiy’s monument in Sofia was erected after an anonymous competition in 1935 announced by Sofia Municipality and with the support of the Union of Artists’ Societies in Bulgaria. The monument committee, consisting of the Deputy Mayor Hristo Stoilov, the Director of the Fine Arts Academy Prof. Nikola Marinov, architects and artists, among 21 projects awarded first prize to Marko Markov.
In his explanatory note the sculptor wrote: …The last star on the darkened horizon of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, which lit the desperate defense of the capital city Turnovo with its bright light, was its spiritual leader… That is why I presented Patriarch Evtimiy, an old man, his energetically lifted head, looking worryingly into the unknown and dark future, his lips parted, as if warning about the impending danger but also encouraging and blessing. The physical figure of Patriarch Evtimiy, according to the data available, has to be of a tall, but outwardly thin man, with a powerful spirit as recreated in the school Hesychasts.
In 1937, the figure of Patriarch Evtimiy was finished and on November 1, 1939, on the Enlighteners’ Day, the monument was officially opened on the corner between Patriarch Evtimiy Blvd. and Graf Ignatiev Str. with a solemn ceremony and a speech by the Mayor of Sofia, eng. Ivan Ivanov. The prototype of the image of Patriarch Evtimiy was a clergyman who the sculptor met by chance on the streets of Sofia (it is interesting to mention that he met him on Patriarch Evtimiy Blvd.). That was Father Toma, who agreed to be a model. The created image is so convincing that either the presentation or in the past eight decades already one wonders how reliable …In the very rich gallery of portraits and monumental figures created by Marko Markov, this work is a remarkable masterpiece, symbol of the national identity.
Patriarch Evtimiy (ca. 1327 – ca. 1402) was born in the capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom – Turnovo – in the family of noble boyars. He was generously gifted and had high quality secular education, but his spiritual aspirations took him to Kilifarevo Monastery, where he became a monk under the spiritual guidance of Reverend Teodosiy Turnovski. Later, for 7 years, Evtimiy lived in Istanbul and the monastery in Mount Athos before the Byzantine Emperor Ioan V Paleologul sent him into exile on the island of Lemnos. After hard vicissitudes he returned to his home country. He lived in seclusion in a cave not far from Turnovo, where he built the church The Holy Trinity. He dedicated himself to literary work there: he wrote about saints’ lives and eulogies, he translated books, corrected mistranslated manuscripts, and founded a school for the preparation of theologians, liturgists and translators.
His popularity as an educated and inspiring preacher and a strict ascetic brought him to the patriarch throne in 1375. Those were some of the hardest and most dramatic years in Bulgarian history. The Ottoman troops had started conquering the Balkans. In the spring of 1393, after conquering Serbia, Sultan Bayezid besieged Turnovo with his huge army. The city surrendered on 17 July, 1939. Patriarch Evtimiy appeared in front of the conqueror and pleaded mercy for the civilian population. Yet, 110 renowned boyars and clergymen were killed. The Patriarch denounced that action and as a result he was sentenced to death. When the executioner reached to behead him, a miracle happened – his hands petrified and the sword fell to the ground. The spared life was sentenced to exile.
Gregory Tsamblak (1365-1420) wrote Eulogy of Evtimiy, which is actually the main source of information about the life of the great Bulgarian and a source that was written by a close contemporary and adherent.
Patriarch Evtimiy died about 1402, most probably in Bachkovo Monastery. He has been canonized as a saint and his memory is commemorated on 20 January.