Archbishop THEOFAN (“Fan” S. Noli), founder of the Albanian Orthodox Church in America, was a versatile man whose talents and interests carried him to a position of preeminence in the Albanian world. An outstanding prelate, he has been called an Apostle of the Albanian renaissance and independence. Has was the most respected and influential Albanian of his time – a symbol of unity and fraternity for all Albanians, whether Christian or Muslim, democrats or socialists, rich or poor.
Clergyman, writer, historian, translator, journalist, orator, statesman, diplomat, musician – Archbishop Noli was at ease in all those roles. The wide range and quality of his achievements brought him international recognition in religious, diplomatic and literary circles. George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Mann, and Ian Sibelius were among those who paid their respects to his scholarship and creative ability. For a while in 1924 he served as Albania’s Premier.
A man of great learning, he held degrees from Harvard [B.A., 1912], the New England Conservatory of Music [B.M., 1938], and Boston University [Ph.D., 1945]. His translations into Albanian the works by Longfellow, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Ibsen and Omar Khayyam have won the admiration of lay people and scholars alike. His aspirations for the American Orthodox Church uniting all prompted him to translate an awesome array of Orthodox books into English.
Fan Noli came to the United States in 1906. He lived and worked in Boston. His home for many years was a modest apartment on Bladgen Street, behind the Boston Public Library. He liked that address mostly because of its proximity to the library, where he did much of his research.
Small in stature, and rather frail-looking in his late years, he had a powerful voice, sparkling eyes, an expressive face and a contagious laughter.
Archbishop Noli’s life and work were a testimony to the democratic principles and ideals of America which he cherished, and taught his followers. He was an outstanding American of Albanian origin who embodied, in word and deed, the spirit of Christianity, the spirit of Albanian heritage, the spirit of the founding fathers of our country.