December 11, 2010

Saint Nikephoros Phokas, Emperor of the Romans

St. Nikephoros Phokas (Feast Day - December 11)

Nikephoros II Phokas (Latinized: Nicephorus II Phocas) (Greek: Νικηφόρος Β΄ Φωκᾶς) (c. 912 – 10 or 11 December 969) was a Roman Emperor (963–969) whose brilliant military exploits contributed to the resurgence of the Roman/Byzantine Empire in the tenth century.

Besides his brilliant military exploits, he played a significant role for the Church as well. He helped St. Athanasios the Athonite build his first monastery on Mount Athos, the Great Lavra, and granted to him the land. It was said that underneath his imperial garb he wore a rason, secretly wishing to become a monk and abandon his throne. Throughout his reign he maintained an ascetic disposition. He also made a pious attempt to canonize all the fallen soldiers under him as martyrs against unbelievers, but this effort was thwarted by Patriarchs and Bishops.

In the end he was forsaken by his wife, and, in consequence of a conspiracy which she headed with his nephew and her lover John Tzimiskes, was assassinated. They had thought to find him in his bed, but, according to Leo the Deacon, he was asleep on the floor beside his holy icons, for he frequently slept on the floor like an ascetic. His head was cut off and paraded on a spike, while his body was thrown out the window. He was buried at the Church of the Holy Apostles, while John Tzimiskes became Emperor John I. An inscription carved on the side of his tomb reads: "You conquered all but a woman".

His commemoration as a saint is found in Great Lavra Codex B 4f. 133 where there is a Service and Canons written for him.

Read more here.