Hierarch Alexander, Bishop of Guria and Samegrelo

The holy hierarch Alexander (Alexi Okropiridze in the world) was born in 1824, in the village of Disevi in the Gori district, to the family of the village priest. Growing up around the church, he received his primary education at Gori Theological School and later continued his education at Tbilisi Seminary.

Having completed his course of study at the seminary in 1845, he was tonsured a monk at the Tbilisi Monastery of the Transfiguration and given the new name Alexander. From Tbilisi the young monk Alexander traveled to the theological academy in Kazan to continue his studies. He graduated with honors and returned to his homeland. Hieromonk Alexander taught the Holy Scriptures, Latin, moral theology, and archaeology at Tbilisi Seminary until July 27, 1851.

Then, at the order of the Holy Synod, he was appointed dean of the theological school in Abkhazeti on September 21, 1851. He was also entrusted with overseeing monastic life in the Abkhazeti diocese and with supervising the instruction at Kutaisi Theological School.

Alexander considered a broadening of the network of theological institutions most essential to the strengthening of the Christian Faith in his country. From the very beginning of his labors in Abkhazeti, he exerted an enormous amount of effort to improve the Ilori Theological School in Ochamchire. At first Alexander was active as a pedagogue, then from February 29, 1856, as an archimandrite, and from March 4, 1862, as a bishop. He was as beloved throughout all of Georgian society as he was by the local population, and many called him the “Second Apostle to Abkhazeti.”

Alexander’s pastoral activity coincided with a difficult period in Georgian history. The divine services were no longer being celebrated in the Georgian language, and as a result many of the people began to drift away from the Church. Many Georgian churches and monasteries, considered cultural and academic centers from ancient times, were deserted. (By this time Georgia had been incorporated into the Russian Empire, and the tsarist government had initiated a policy of forced Russification.) The Georgian language was no longer being taught in schools, and the poorest families could not afford to educate their children.

The learned and erudite Bishop Alexander considered the revival of spiritual life and learning, firmly rooted in the national consciousness, the principle means by which to reinvigorate the national spirit and encourage cultural advance.

Alexander’s efforts on behalf of the revival of the churches and monasteries in Abkhazeti are, among his many labors, most worthy of note. Through his efforts alone two churches were restored in Sokhumi. Outside of Abkhazeti, Alexander renewed the magnificent monasteries of Shio-Mgvime, Zedazeni, Davit-Gareji, and Shemokmedi. He restored Jvari Church, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Disevi Church, and many other churches in Guria-Samegrelo, Atchara, and Imereti. He devoted special attention to the Shio-Mgvime Monastery and the surrounding area, which had been devastated by that time.

Owing to St. Alexander’s generous financial contributions, a diocesan school for women was founded in Tbilisi in 1878.

By his initiative and personal contributions, a great number of spiritual and historical books, textbooks and collections of sacred hymns were published. Not a single God-pleasing project was undertaken without Alexander’s support.

St. Alexander spent the remainder of his days at the Shio-Mgvime Monastery, which he himself had restored. Only once—on September 9, 1907, the day his spiritual son St. Ilia the Righteous was buried— did he step outside the monastery walls. The eighty-three year-old Alexander outlived the great son of Georgia by two months and fell asleep in the Lord on October 27 of the same year. St. Alexander is buried at Shio-Mgvime Monastery.