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April 15, 2010

The Skull of St. Helen of Sinope in Slovakia

Between 10-12 April 2010 the miraculous and honorable skull of Neomartyr Helen of Sinope was brought to Slovakia at the invitation of His Eminence Metropolitan Goerge of Michalovce and Košice to be venerated by the faithful. It was brought from Thessaloniki with the blessing of Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki.

St. Helen of Sinope is considered one of the four patron saints of the Metropolis of Michalovce and Košice in Slovakia and is especially honored as the patron saint of the youth of Slovakia. For this reason hundreds of young people came and venerated her sacred skull from all over Slovakia.

Over a three day period the skull was venerated in churches throughout the Metropolis, and was venerated by thousands.

The Metropolis of Michalovce and Košice celebrates this year its 60th year since its establishment. It is located in the southeastern part of Slovakia. The 14,000 Orthodox faithful there are a significant minority among the Catholic majority. 27 priests serve its 37 communities.


Life of St. Helen of Sinope

The Virgin-Martyr of Christ, Saint Helen, was the daughter of the Bekiary family and lived in the eighteenth century in Sinope, the oldest city of Pontus.

She was a maiden of fifteen who lived with her parents during the 1700s. One day, as she went to the marketplace, she passed by the house of the local Pasha (governor), who, seeing her beauty, was seized by lust for her. He ordered his servants to bring her to him, and made two attempts to defile her; each time, however, he was prevented by a mysterious power that kept him from her like an invisible wall. Determined to have his way for her, he kept her prisoner in his house; but she was able to slip away and run home to her parents' house.

Enraged that his prey had escaped, the Pasha called together the leaders of the Christian community and promised that, unless Helen were handed over to him, all the Christians in the town would be massacred. Grief-stricken and fearful, the leaders persuaded Helen's father to return the girl to the palace. The vile Pasha made several more attempts to rape the Saint, but once again he was restrained as if by an invisible wall as she recited the Six Psalms and all the prayers that she knew by heart. Realizing that he was powerless against her, the Pasha had her thrown in the common jail, then ordered that she be tortured to death. The executioners subjected the maiden to several cruel torments before killing her by driving two nails into her skull and beheading her. They then put her body in a sack and threw it in the Black Sea.

Some Greek sailors followed a heavenly light to the place where the sack had sunk, and divers retrieved the Saint's relics, which immediately revealed themselves as a source of healing for many. Her body was taken to Russia; her head was placed in the church in Sinope, where it continued to work miracles, especially for those who suffered from headaches. When the Greeks were driven from Sinope in 1924, refugees took the head with them. It is venerated today in the Church of St. Marina in Ano Toumbas near Thessalonika. Her memory is celebrated on November 1.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
The most-fragrant flower of purity and the boast and divine offspring of Sinope, Virgin-martyr of Christ Helen most-pure, who struggled steadfastly, and cast down the enemy with the power of faith, and entreats for everyone, to have mercy on our souls.

As an undefiled virgin in the power of Christ you cast down the much-contriving enemy, and you are arrayed in martyrdom, O Virgin-martyr Helen the all-praised.