Saint Jonah born in the city of Galich into a pious Christian family. His father was named Theodore. The youth received monastic tonsure in one of the Galich monasteries when he was only twelve years old. From there, he transferred to the Moscow Simonov monastery, where he fulfilled various obediences for many years.
In the late 1420s, Jonah had transferred to the Simonov Monastery, where he again fulfilled various obediences for many years. He was close to Metropolitan Photius, who would make him bishop of Ryazan and Murom. After Photius's death in 1431, Grand Prince Vasili II nominated Jonah for the post of metropolitan. Due to Vasili's war with the appanage princes, Jonah did not leave for Constantinople until the end of 1435. The newly-elected metropolitan journeyed to Constantinople in order to be confirmed as metropolitan by Patriarch Joseph II. Shortly before this the nefarious Isidore, a Bulgarian, had already been established as Metropolitan. Spending a short time at Kiev and Moscow, Isidore journeyed to the Council of Florence (1438), where he embraced Catholicism. After Isidore had been condemned by a council of Russian hierarchs and clergy in 1441, for his support of Catholicism and the reuniting of the Eastern and Western Churches, they deposed him, and he was compelled to flee secretly to Rome, where he died in 1462.
St Jonah was unanimously chosen Metropolitan of All Russia. He was consecrated by Russian hierarchs in Moscow, with the blessing of Patriarch Gregory III (1445-1450) of Constantinople. Metropolitan Jonah received the patriarch's approval only after Constantinople's collapse in 1453. This was the first time that Russian bishops consecrated their own metropolitan. St Jonah became metropolitan on December 15, 1448. This signified the establishment of the autocephaly of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1451, Jonah took under his control the Lithuanian diocese.
In 1451 the Tatars unexpectedly advanced on Moscow. Metr. Jonah led a procession along the walls of the city, petitioning God to save the city and the people. Seeing the dying monk Anthony of the Chudov monastery, who was noted for his virtuous life, St Jonah said, "My son and brother Anthony! Pray to the merciful God and the All-Pure Mother of God for the deliverance of the city and for all Orthodox Christians."
The humble Anthony replied, "Great hierarch! We give thanks to God and to His All-Pure Mother. She has heard your prayer and has prayed to Her Son. The city and all Orthodox Christians will be saved through your prayers. The enemy will soon take flight. The Lord has ordained that I alone am to be killed by the enemy." Just as the elder said this, an enemy arrow struck him. The prediction of Elder Anthony was made on July 2, on the Feast of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos.
Confusion broke out among the Tatars, and they fled in terror. In his courtyard, St Jonah built a church in honor of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos to commemorate the deliverance of Moscow.
St Jonah reposed in the year 1461, and miraculous healings began to take place at his grave. Jonah was glorified as saint by the Russian Church.