Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Life, Miracles and Churches of Saint Anastasios the Weaver from Peristerona, Cyprus

St. Anasatasios the Weaver (Feast Day - September 17)

Life

Regarding the life of Saint Anastasios, we have sources that say he came to Cyprus from the Holy Land in the seventh century with the Arab invasion, and others that he came with the Alaman Saints as a soldier of the Crusades in the twelfth century to the Holy Land and later found refuge from the Arabs in Cyprus. In both cases, he came to Cyprus with 300 other Christians.

Leontios Machairas, the 15th century chronicler, reports that Saint Anastasios was one of the 300 clergymen and lay people who fled to Cyprus from Jerusalem, in 638, in order to escape the wrath of the Arabs who had just conquered the city:

"When the Saracens took the promised land, then the poor Christians came out from their hiding-places and went wherever they found refuge. There were archbishops, bishops, priests and lay people and they went wherever they could reach. And one group came to famous Cyprus. They were about 300 in number and, hearing that Greeks were in charge there, they went, from fear, from one place to another, digging the ground and going in there and praying to God … Saint Anastasios the Wonderworker found himself in Peristerona."


An old Synaxarion of the Saint records:

"This man, our blessed Father Anastasios, was in the time of the Emperor of the Christians, Alexios Komnenos and his son John. Together with 300 other Orthodox from Alaman [Germany], he lived the monastic life in Palestine, which was then subject to the Orthodox Emperor. When the so-called Holy War was declared and was undertaken supposedly for the holy pilgrimage sites, these soldiers also came with the others. Seeing that the Orthodox were abused in wars by the Latins, who were commanders of the earthly army, they enlisted with the Heavenly King. The took the arms of the monastic state in Cyprus, where, living in deserts and mountains, dispirited, mortified and under attack from demons, they defeated every temptation by the power of Christ, Who strengthened them. Through their great virtues they also were able to work many miracles, not only while they lived but also after death. Thus, to this day, those who approach the grave of Saint Anastasios with reverence find him to be an excellent physician, who is swift to help those who invoke his aid. By his prayers, Christ our God, have mercy upon us, O lover of mankind."

From this we can likely conclude that Anastasios was a genuine Orthodox Roman monk who came to Cyprus with a large number of Christians, since the number 300 is symbolic for a large number.

Saint Anastasios never stopped working in order to earn his daily bread. In a hewn-out cave, which he chose for his ascetic life, he set up his loom and wove sacks in which cereals could be kept or transported. On his grave, on a little ledge, the wooden shuttles he used were kept, in very good condition, until August 1974. People wanting his help would rub themselves with them in order to be cured. Later they were placed before his icons in the two neighboring churches, the old monastery one and the new one. Pilgrims would also bring wax figurines on his account.

The memory of Saint Anastasios is celebrated on the 17th of September.

The tools of Saint Anastasios

Miracles

A) From the Narratives of Papa-Theodore Kakouris

1. Before I became a priest, in the old church there had long been a wax effigy of a child. We later gave it to candle sellers to melt it. When I became a priest, one Sunday after the Divine Liturgy two women approached me. I opened for them the old church in order to venerate. In the meantime I saw them looking around with curiosity. One of them even said: "I'm looking for one thing, my Father, and I can't find it. I had sent here a wax offering of a child and I don't see it." I told her that we had it for many years and we had sent it to be melted. I asked her where she was from and she answered me: "I'm from Cyprus, but now I live in Australia." She continued saying: "I lived in Australia with another woman and I had a child that was paralyzed for twelve years. I took him to many doctors, but unfortunately he was not cured. One night, while we were sleeping, I heard a loud bang. I got up and put on my cross, because it was a strange noise. The other woman asked me: 'What happened?' Meanwhile the entire house was full of light and two men appeared. One of them, who was slightly tall, pointed to the other and said: "This is Saint Anastasios and he will heal your child." Then they immediately disappeared, along with the light. The next day, when the child awoke, he was completely well. Afterwards I sent money to a relative of mine in Skala to have a wax figurine made for an offering, and I commissioned her to find where Saint Anastasios was in order to bring it."

2. Sometime around 1960-61 one Sunday, after church, there came from Ormideia a car with 5 or 6 pilgrims. One of them said to me: "This Saint is my doctor. When I was young, I was completely paralyzed from the waist down. One day my father took a rock and made the sign of the cross over me saying: 'My Saint Anastasios, heal my child.' He then took me up and brought me to bed. A half hour later I got up and I was completely cured."

3. Giakoumis Poullis told me the following miracle: "On the ay of the feast of Saint Anastasios someone came from Lefkoniko and told me, 'Every year I come to you village for the feast, because Saint Anastasios made me well. Once I was paralyzed and i couldn't walk. My father, to cure me, would bring me here to venerate and to rub his instruments on me. One year, when we came to the grace of the Saint for the feast, on the road as we departed, between Lefkoniko and Peristeronopigi, I got out of the vehicle and walked.


B) From the Narratives of Matthew Fikardos of Limmesol

4. In 1967 I worked at the post office of Lefkoniko. A week before September 17 I went with my wife to Limmasol to see my sister-in-law, who had a sick child named Andrew Fourlis. The child was 14 or 15 years old then and he often have a seizure and foam would come from his mouth. As I was chatting with my wife, I stated that September 17 was the feast of Saint Anastasios. Then my sister-in-law asked for more information, to find out where the Saint was. When I explained to her, she told me: "I have seen Saint Anastasios dressed in white with his church three times in my dreams, and he told me, 'You have taken your child to many doctors and clinics. I am Saint Anastasios and I have two clinics. Bring your child to my old clinic."

So my sister-in-law took Andrew on September 16 to Peristeronopigi. As they passed the village in order to first go to Lefkoniko so we could go to the Saint together, she saw the church from afar and yelled: "That's the church I saw in my dreams!" The others in the bus asked why she yelled such a thing, and she explained to them her dream. Then they arrived in Lefkoniko, and before we departed the child suffered a brief crisis. Arriving at Peristeronopigi we first venerated in the new church. We then went to the old church and went down to the tomb of Saint Anastasios. There, as soon as we rubbed with the tools, the child, whom my wife held by the hand, said to us: "uncle, I am now relieved from the burden." From that moment the child became well and never suffered from his illness again. Now Andrew lives in Australia.

Old Church

The Monastery of Saint Anastasios

The Turkish occupied village of Peristeronopigi is built in the plain of Mesaoria located 23 kilometers northwest of the city of Famagusta.

Saint Anastasios lived in this area and is considered the patron of the village. The Saint lived in a cave at the north end of the village of Peristeronopigi. This cave was the basis for the initial development of reverence towards the Saint while he was alive, while after his death, during the 15th century, a church was built in his honor, which with the creation of cells for monks, it was turned into a monastery.

A person entering the entrance of the church goes down nine steps and on their base he or she will see another cave carved into the rock, which is coated and whitewashed and it survives up until the present. It is a narrow place and has a vaulted roof, which in the middle was based on a column that had a height of two meters. The column was based on a Corinthian column which was stepped on by the sick who embraced the column and rotated three times around it in order to heal from pain and neuralgia.

On the south side of the cave, under a stone bench the tomb of Saint Anastasios is to be found. Before the Turkish invasion an icon of the Saint was placed on the stone bench, along with the wooden tools used by him when weaving bags. These tools are believed to have therapeutic properties and they were rubbed on the aching part of the body by those who requested the assistance of the Saint for their treatment. The cave, the church and the cells were enclosed within a large square space in which columns, animal heads, vertebrae columns and a stone urn were to be seen.

An inscription in the church shows that with the caretaker of the Monastery Leontios and the iconographer and decorator Pilaretos, the church was decorated with a beautiful iconostasis, various icons on the walls, and pews. After the death of the caretaker Leontios, in 1800, the Monastery had a flock of sheep, goats, rams, etc. In 1875 the Monastery of Saint Anastasios operated a Greek school, until then the children of the village of Peristeronopigi went to school at the village of Lefkoniko.

New Church

During the feast day of the memory of Saint Anastasios, on the 17th of September, many pilgrims from the villages of the plain of Mesaoria and the mountain villages of the regions of Pitsilia and Marathasa swamp the village of Peristeronopigi in order to honor the Saint.

In 1953, a new, large and resplendent church dedicated to Saint Anastasios was built next to the medieval church of the Monastery.

With the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, both churches of the Monastery of Saint Anastasios were desecrated and looted. Recently, the stolen sanctuary doors of the old church of the Monastery of Saint Anastasios were discovered in Japan at the Kanazawa College of Art. In 1996 there were efforts to bring them back to Cyprus, but in vain. Today the Monastery of Saint Anastasios is used as an animal pen.

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