Saint John was born the son of a nobleman during the reign of King Davit Kuropalates.
For his love of Christ he left his family and the world to be tonsured a monk. After informing the royal court of his decision, Saint John received a blessing from his spiritual father to travel to Greece, where he settled at a monastery on Mt. Olympus.
At that time, as a “sign of friendship,” the Byzantine emperor returned the Georgian lands he had conquered to King Davit Kuropalates, but as a “sign of dedication,” he demanded that children of the nobility be sent as surety. Among those sent to Byzantium was Saint John’s son, Ekvtime. Saint John begged the Byzantine emperor to release his son, and when Ekvtime was finally freed, John took him back with him to the Monastery of Saint Athanasius the Athonite (the Great Lavra).
At that time the famed Georgian military commander Tornike Eristavi came to visit Saint John. Tornike was soon tonsured a monk and given the new name John (the saint is commemorated as John-Tornike), and he settled at the Monastery of Saint Athanasius the Athonite as well.
Soon the Georgian faithful began to flock to the Monastery of Saint Athanasius, and John withdrew from the monastery to a more secluded place, where he constructed a cell and a church in honor of Saint John the Theologian. Two more churches were later built in that same area in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos and Saint John the Baptist. In such a way the celebrated Iveron Monastery of Mt. Athos was established, with Saint John as its first abbot.
After the repose of his faithful friend and assistant Saint John-Tornike, it became difficult for Saint John to continue to labor on the Holy Mountain. He and several of his disciples planned to leave Athos, but in the end they remained at the insistence of the Byzantine emperor.
John soon fell ill with gout and was bedridden for several years. Prior to his death he summoned his son, Ekvtime, confessed to him his sins, and designated him abbot of the Iveron Monastery. He told his son that Saint Giorgi (later “the Builder”) should succeed him as abbot, then blessed all the brothers and “fell asleep among the ranks of the righteous in the arms of his son.”
Saint Ekvtime robed the holy relics of his fleshly and spiritual father in costly linens and later erected a church in honor of the Archangels over his grave.