Saturday, August 16, 2014

Life and Veneration of Saint Stamatios of Volos (+ 1680)

St. Stamatios of Volos (Feast Day - August 16)

Biography and Martyrdom

Information about the life of Saint Stamatios come from John Kariophyllis, who wrote a short account about the Neomartyr, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite in his New Martyrology, in which he refers to his source John Kariophyllis but also indicates a different date for his martyrdom, and the Athonite monk Iakovos Kophos of New Skete, who along with the martyrdom also wrote a service of praise in his honor in 1860.

Saint Stamatios was born in the village of Agios Georgios Nileias in Magnesia on the northwest side of Pelion. The exact year of his birth has not come down to us, but according to local tradition he was a descendent of the family of Stamatopoulos. Noteworthy is the fact that villagers today show the ruins of an old house, which is considered the ancestral home of the Saint, as well as an old fountain which bears the name "The Fountain of Stamatopoulos or of Saint Stamatios".

From a young age Stamatios was distinguished for his faith in Christ and his love for his enslaved country. Hence, living in the seventeenth century, he experienced intensely the oppression of the Greeks by their conquerors and especially the economic hardships of the time.

The residents were exhausted economically, often forming committees of the most respectable persons of the area who addressed the Sublime Porte, requesting tax relief.

Around 1680 a certain Aga came to the region to gather the Harac (a land tax in the Ottoman Empire for non-Muslims) of Valide Sultan Kosem, to whom was given the peninsula of Magnesia. This Aga was very oppressive in the collection of the tax, treating Christians unjustly and oppressing them. Desperate, residents decided to send a delegation to Constantinople, to the Sublime Porte, in hopes of finding justice. Stamatios was a key member of this delegation. They thus travelled to Constantinople, presented themselves to the Vizier, and began to complain about the injustice of the Aga.

The Vizier, however, because he was friends with the tax-collector, ordered for them to be thrown out, so they were pushed out and beaten. Some of the delegation, the Saint among them, complained loudly shouting about the injustice done.

Then some Turkish officials standing nearby, who were friends of the Aga, separated the Saint from the rest and brought him before the Vizier, falsely testifying and slandering the Saint saying that he became a Turk and now is going around as a Christian. Of course, the Saint strongly denied this accusation before the Vizier. But he sent him to the authority to be judged on this matter, where the Saint was interrogated and he again denied the accusation, saying that he was slandered. The judge then told him: "So if you never became one, become one now." The Holy Martyr with a loud voice replied: "I certainly would not be so mindless as to deny my Christ. It would be better for me to die and be with my Christ, then to live in this world with its myriad of pleasures and glories."

When the judge saw the firm stance of the Martyr he sent him to the Vizier, who tried in many ways, with flatteries, promises, honors and positions, to dissuade the Martyr. He even promised him to make him his aide. For a second time the Saint confessed his faith in Christ and said in a loud and firm voice: "I have my Christ as my riches, my glory and my honor, Who dwells in the heavens, in glory and life eternal. Your honors and glories are perishable and quickly lost with all those who seek them."

The Vizier ordered him to be imprisoned and tortured. After some days he was ordered to be brought again before the Vizier, who again tried to lure and persuade him through terror. For the last time the Martyr responded: "Even if you condemn me to innumerable deaths, I will never deny my Christ. I am ready to be tormented for His Name for the rest of my life."

Then the Vizier became enraged and gave him over to the prefect to kill him. They beheaded him on Monday 15 August 1680, in front of the Royal Palace, next to Hagia Sophia.


His Feast

The memory of Saint Stamatios is honored by the Orthodox Church on the day after his martyrdom, on August 16th, because the day of his martyric end coincides with the great feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. By decision of the late Metropolitan Christodoulos of Demetriados and Almyrou (who later became the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece), it was decided that the memory of Saint Stamatios in the Sacred Metropolis of Demetriados be honored on the first Sunday after August 15th. This decision was taken because on August 16th Saint Apostolos the New, who was beheaded in Constantinople on 16 August 1686, is celebrated festively in the village of Agios Lavrentios in Pelion. The fact that they are both associated in the New Martyrology of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite with the 16th of August, led for many years to mistakenly identify the two martyrs Stamatios and Apostolos, since both were martyred by beheading in Constantinople by difference of only one day, and in addition they came from neighboring villages in Pelion.

Saint Stamatios is also honored with special reverence in the Parish Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in the town of Gymno in Evia, as well as on the borderline Aegean island of Chios, where the religious consciousness of the residents celebrate those who bear the name of Stamatios and Stamatia on August 16th. Noteworthy is the fact that on 16 August 1992 the beauteous Chapel of Saint Stamatios was consecrated by Metropolitan Dionysios of Chios, Psaron and Oinoussai, which was erected at the expense of the shipowner Mr. Stamatios Fafalios next to the Sacred Church of the Annunciation (Panagia Moutsainis) in the town of Vrontados. Saint Stamatios is widely popular in Chios and he is also honored in the Parish Church of Saint John the Theologian in the city of Chios, where the left part is dedicated to his memory, and at the Chapel of Saint George - Saint Stamatios in the village of Ververato of Chios, where on his feast there is a large turnout of believers from throughout the island.

Procession icon of the Saint in the Church of Saint Makarios in Vrontados, Chios.

Services

The athletic competition and courageous confession of Saint Stamatios are sung about and celebrated also through two services of praise, that were written in honor of the glorious Neomartyr.

The first service was written in 1860, 180 years after the martyrdom of the Saint, by the Athonite monk Iakovos Kophos of New Skete (Codex 805 of Vatopaidi Monastery) and was first published in 1991 at the expense of the theologian and author Mr. Apostolos Zacharos. The second service was published in 1924 at the expense of George John Pappopoulos, who also composed it, expressing in this way his honor and reverence for the Holy Neomartyr Stamatios.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Procession icon of St. Stamatios belonging to a family in Chios, depicting St. Stamatios with the Holy Mandylion, since they both celebrate on August 16th. Below the Saint is St. Diomedes, who also is commemorated on August 16th, and on the other side the beheading of St. Stamatios is depicted.

This is the oldest known icon of the Saint painted in 1860 and belonging to a family in Chios.

The Chapel of Saint Stamatios next to the Church of Panagia Moutsainis in Vrontados.

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