Consecrated Metropolitan of Durres in 1923

Theofan Stylian Noli was born on January 6, 1882, in the village of Ibrik Tepe which is south of Edirne (Adrianopole) in European Turkey. He was known usually by the shortened name Fan. His father, Stylian Noli, was a cantor in the Orthodox Church, and through him Fan learned of Orthodox church music and its Byzantine tradition. He received his early education in the Greek secondary school in Edirne. In 1900, he moved to Athens and worked in various low-paying jobs, including as a copyist, and in itinerant theater groups as a prompter and actor. When one such group visited Alexandria, Egypt, in March 1903 he left the company and found work as a teacher of Greek and as a church cantor in the small Albanian colony in Shibin el Khom. Here he began writing in Greek and translating Albanian literature into Greek. Through his teacher, the monk Nilos, Fan learned more about the traditions of Byzantine music and his fascination grew such that he resolved to become an Orthodox priest. It was here in Egypt that he was introduced to the Albanian political world through the nationalist leaders of the Albanian community. They encouraged Fan to immigrate to the United States where he could make better use of his talents. And so he did in April 1906.

In New York, Theofan Noli met with Abp. Platon of New York and Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky who conducted an investigation of the Albanian community. After being satisfied, Abp. Platon agreed to ordain Fan Noli. Thus, on February 9, 1908, Abp. Platon ordained Fan as deacon, and followed this with his ordination as an Orthodox priest on March 18, 1908, at St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York. He was twenty-six years old. Then, on March 22, 1908, the young Fr. Theofan celebrated the first liturgy in Albanian in the Knights of Honor Hall in Boston, using translations he had prepared. For the next several years he built his community. Then, for four months beginning in August 1911, Fr. Theofan toured the Albanian communities throughout Europe, holding church services in Albanian in Kishinev, Odessa, Bucharest, and Sofia.

Paralleling his career in the Orthodox Church, Fr. Theofan was active in Albanian politics. From February 1909 until July 1911 he edited the newspaper Dielli (The Sun) in the Boston Albanian community. On April 28, 1912, he founded the Pan-Albanian Vatra (The Hearth) Federation of America with Faik bey Konitza. He had become the recognized leader of the Albanian Orthodox community, as well as having established himself as the writer and journalist of the nationalist movement. Graduating from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Fr. Theofan hurried to Europe to attend the Albanian Congress of Trieste in March 1913, as Albania had been declared independent by Ismail Qemal bey Vlora in November 1912. Then, in July 1913 he visited Albania for the first time.

While in Albania, Fr. Theofan served the first Orthodox church service in the Albanian language. For a time in August 1914 he was in Vienna, but as World War I opened and intensified he returned to the United States in May 1915. He again assumed the editorship of the Boston Dielli, now a daily paper. Then, as the war generated conditions in Albania became more chaotic with an attendant political vacuum, the Vatra Federation in the United States began considering itself as a quasi-Albanian government in exile. Fr. Theofan upon his return became its president

On November 21, 1923, Archimandrite Noli was consecrated Bishop of Korca and Metropolitan of Durres. He was now the head of the Orthodox Church of Albania.  Metropolitan Theofan's dream of an Albanian national church was fulfilled on April 12, 1937, when the Patriarch of Constantinople recognized the autocephaly of the Church of Albania. In 1953, he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he bought a house using part of a $20,000 grant from the Vatra Federation. Here, he died at the age of 83 on March 13, 1965.

Source: Orthodox Wiki