Saint Jonah, Archbishop of Novgorod, in the world named John, was left orphaned early in life and was adopted by a certain pious widow living in Novgorod. She raised the child and sent him to school. Blessed Michael of Klops Monastery (January 11), who chanced to meet John on the street, foretold that he would become Archbishop of Novgorod. John received tonsure at the Otnya wilderness-monastery, 50 versts from the city, and he became igumen of this monastery. It was from here that the people of Novgorod chose him as their archbishop in 1458, after the death of Saint Euthymius (March 11).
Saint Jonah enjoyed great influence at Moscow, and during his time as hierarch, the Moscow princes did not infringe upon the independence of Novgorod. Saint Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow (1449-1461), was a friend of the Novgorod Archbishop Saint Jonah, and wanted him to become his successor.
In 1463, Archbishop Jonah built the first church dedicated to Saint Sergius of Radonezh in the Novgorod region. Concerning himself over reviving traditions of the old days in the Novgorod Church, he summoned to Novgorod the renowned compiler of Saints’ Lives, Pachomius the Logothete, who wrote both the services and history of the best known Novgorod Saints, based on local sources.
And to this time period belongs also the founding of the Solovki monastery. Saint Jonah rendered much help and assistance in the organizing of the monastery. To Saint Zosimas he gave a special land-grant (in conjunction with the secular authorities of Novgorod), by which the whole of Solovki Island was granted to the new monastery.
The saint, after his many toils, and sensing the approach of his end, wrote a spiritual testament to bury his body at the Otnya monastery. On November 5, 1470, after he received the Holy Mysteries, the saint fell asleep in the Lord.
There has survived to the present day a Letter of Saint Jonah to Metropolitan Theodosius, written in 1464. The Life of the saint was written in the form of a short account in the year 1472 (included in the work, Memorials of Old Russian Literature, and also in the Great Reading Menaion of Metropolitan Macarius, under November 5). In 1553, after the uncovering of the relics of Archbishop Jonah, an account of this event was written by Saint Zenobius of Otnya (October 30). A special work relating the miracles of the saint is found in manuscripts of the seventeenth century.