April 5, 2010

The Paschal Martyrdom of Neomartyr Panagiotis (+ 1820)

Below is an account of the Englishman Joseph Wolff, an eccentric missionary to the Jews, who relates that when a young man named Panagiotis, in his ignorance of Islamic law entered the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem (the Dome of the Rock), some fanatic Turks grabbed him and brought him before the Pasha of Damascus as a defiler of the Islamic temple. The Pasha offered him the chance of becoming a Muslim in order to avoid death. Panagiotis remained steadfast to his Christian faith, and for that reason he was beheaded on April 5, 1820. He was 25 years old.

Facts not mentioned in this account is that Panagiotis was originally from Peloponessos, Greece but was raised in Magnesia of Asia Minor as a servant. Also that he was apprehended after worshipping at the Tomb of Christ in the Holy Sepulchre.  His beheading took place on the way towards the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist near the Pillars of David. Before his beheading they stripped him, broke one hand at the wrist and cut off the fingers on the other. They did this to make him afraid and convert him to Islam. Also, the 5000 piastres paid by a Greek convent for the body of Panagiotis was probably paid by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Panagiotis was buried by the fathers of the Holy Sepulchre at the Cemetery of Holy Zion.

You can read the entire journal of Rev. Wolff here.

Mosque of Omar in the 19th cent.

The Holy Sepulchre

Now I will relate a remarkable instance of modern martyrdom. A young Greek, some years ago, whose name was Paniotes [Panagiotis], was servant to a Turkish Nobleman, called Osman Effendi. He came with his master to Jerusalem, and when Osman Effendi went to worship in the Mosque of Omar, this young Greek accompanied him. Soon after Osman Effendi undertook a journey to Damascus, intending to return to Jerusalem, and left Paniotes to await his return. When the Pasha of Damascus arrived here, on his annual visit, Paniotes was accused to him of having profaned the Mosque of Omar, by having entered it; he was summoned to appear before the Pasha, and questioned as to why he did so; he answered that he had followed his master, whom it was his duty to follow. The penalty was death or to turn Muhammedan, which was much pressed upon him. Paniotes exclaimed, "Christ is risen, who is the Son of the living God. I fear nothing."

Pasha: "Say God is God, and Muhammed the Prophet of God, and I adopt you as my Son."

Paniotes: "Christ is risen, I fear nothing."

They led him out before the Castle of David, and drew up the soldiers around him with their swords drawn; but Paniotes exclaimed, "I am a Christian! Christ is risen! I fear nothing!" He knelt down and prayed to Jesus Christ the Son of God, and exclaimed, "Christ is risen! I fear nothing." Even Christians advised him to turn Muhammedan. He exclaimed, "Christ is risen! I fear nothing." The executioner lifted up his fine hair which he wore, as many Greeks do, flowing down to the shoulders, and struck him several times with the sword so as to draw blood, in the hope that he might relent, but Paniotes continued, "Jesus is the Son of the living God"; and crossing himself he exclaimed, "Christ is risen, I fear nothing," and his head fell.

The Greek convent paid 5000 piastres for leave to remove his body and bury him.

Wolff, J. (1839). Journal of the Rev. Joseph W╬┐lff: In a series of letters to Sir Thomas Baring, Bart: containing an account of his missionary labours from the years 1827-1831: and from the years 1835-1838. London: John Bums (pp. 232-33 LETTER V. Linthwaite, 2d April, 1839.)

Joseph Wolff preaching in Palestine