In commemorating the 200 years of Greek Independence we focus in this issue on the lives of some of the New Martyrs of 1821.
These heroic Saints witnessed for their faith during the retaliations of the Ottoman Empire against the Greeks and Orthodox Christians.
St Dorotheos (Proios), Metropolitan of Adrianople (+ 1821)
St Dorotheos was born and educated on the island of Chios, and later studied in Patmos, Italy and France. It was through his studies that he became one of the leading scholars of the Greek Enlightenment, and even edited the first edition of the Rudder of St Nicodemus the Hagiorite.
Dorotheos’ faith and studies led to him being ordained a Deacon in 1786. He taught at the School of Chios under St Athanasios of Paros. He took on a role as a private tutor to the children of the ruler of Wallachia in 1796, and subsequently went to Constantinople when the ruler was executed by the Ottoman Turks in 1799. It was there that he was made an Archimandrite.
In 1807, Dorotheos was ordained Metropolitan of Philadelphia in Asia Minor, and in 1813 he was transferred to the Metropolis of Adrianople. In both cities, he focused on education and training future clergy. In 1820 he was appointed to the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and he was there when the Greek Revolution broke out in March 1821.
Along with other hierarchs, Metropolitan Dorotheos was taken prisoner in April 1821. After an Ottoman ship was destroyed by fire in the harbour of Mytilene, St Dorotheos was hanged alongside his brother hierarchs St Joseph of Thessalonica, St Gregory of Derkon and St Joannicius of Trnovo on June 3 1821. Hence, these hierarchs are commemorated on June 3.
The New Martyr Savvas of Stageira (+ 1821)
The town of Stageira in the region of Chalkidiki is best known for being the birthplace of the philosopher Aristotle. It was also the birthplace of the monk Savvas from the Konstamonitou Monastery of Mount Athos, who witnessed for Christ during the 1821 Revolution.
There are differing accounts of his martyric end. Some sources say that Savvas died along with four other monks as part of the revolt in Chalkidiki in 1821. More authoritative sources, however, say that Savvas knew that he was going to be a martyr and that he died alongside a lay person from Stageira at the hands of the Turks passing by Zographou Monastery on Mount Athos.
The New Martyr Zafeirios of Chalkidiki (+ 1821)
At the outbreak of the Revolution in 1821, many families in Chalkidiki fled to neighbouring Mount Athos and took refuge in the monasteries. The young St Zafeirios, a child with firm faith, was amongst them.
The Russian Monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mount Athos has a record which explains that Pasha Abu Bout, an Ottoman governor, ordered his men to occupy the Holy Mountain and capture any people from Chalkidiki hiding there. Many were slaughtered and received the crown of martyrdom. Zafeirios was amongst 70 children who were taken to Thessaloniki, where the Pasha planned to convert them all to Islam and raise them as Turks.
Of the 70 children, Zafeirios alone held fast to his faith and refused to convert. He was brutally murdered and is counted amongst the courageous New Martyrs of the Revolution. He is commemorated on June 11.
The Holy New Martyrs of Crete (+ 1821-1822)
Soon after the onset of the Greek War of Independence, revolts broke out against Ottoman Turkish rule across the island of Crete. The Ottomans took revenge on the Greeks of Crete in response to these revolts, and to the other Greek successes on the mainland.
Many thousands were executed for their faith, with nine hundred killed on 23 and 24 June 1821 in Heraklion, and eighty others in the Diocese of Knossos. Priests and monks visiting Crete from the Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos with the Girdle of the Theotokos were also killed.
Targeted most severely in the massacre known as “o megalos arpentes” (the great ravage) were the hierarchs of the Church of Crete who had gathered in Heraklion for a meeting of the Holy Synod. Saint Gerasimos, Archbishop of Crete was executed first, followed by Saints and Bishops Neophytos of Knossos, Joachim of Cheronissos, Hierotheos of Lampesa, Callinicus of Diopolis, Zacharias of Siteia and Joachim of Petra.
In 1822, there were further martyrdoms of Christians. The abbots of the monasteries of the Diocese of Rethymnon, and its Bishop Gerasimos, were martyred. Bishops Callinicus of Kydonia and Melchizedek were also martyred alongside monks, nuns and lay people from across their dioceses. These Saints are commemorated together on June 23 each year.
The Holy 1241 New Martyrs of Naousa (+1822)
Each year on the Sunday of Thomas, our Orthodox Church remembers the Holy 1241 New Martyrs of Naousa.
During the Greek War of Independence, there was a revolt in the region of Macedonia by the Greeks which was brutally put down by the Ottoman troops. The Greeks were besieged in the town of Naousa, and when Naousa fell to the Ottomans on Bright Thursday of 1822, the massacres started.
The first to be killed were the five priests of the Church of Saint George, followed by many of the other faithful who wished to protect their church from being desecrated. By the time the three days of massacre allowed by Islam finished on Thomas Sunday, 1241 faithful Orthodox Christians were joined to Christ – for whom they witnessed and were martyred.
Four Holy New Martyrs of Rethymno (+ 1824)
Brothers Angelis and Manuel, sons of John Tetzepes, and their cousins George and Nicholas, sons of Constantine Tetzepes, were well off married men. They fought from 1821 to 1824, until the Turks regained power. When the Christians were called to pay taxes the cousins, who had been Cryptochristians, also went to pay. All had thought that they were Muslims. They, however, declared that they were Christians from their youth and that they were waiting to unite themselves to Christ in martyrdom.
Mehmet Pasha failed to convert them and had them beheaded on 28 October 1824 by the Venetian wall’s Great Gate. Their relics were buried at the Monastery of Arkadi. Some of their relics were taken to Russia by a Russian ship captain, who was docked in port at the time. Their four skulls are kept in a Rethymno church bearing their name, and they have worked many miracles.
May all of these saints, and the many others who witnessed for their faith following the Revolution, intercede for us.
Source: Lychnos August-September 2021