January 5, 2011

Holy New Martyr Romanos of Karpenisi (+ 1694)

St. Romanos the New Martyr (Feast Day - January 5 and February 16)


For January 5
Romanos contested bravely,
An invincible Roman received by God

For February 16
As to a wedding you ran towards torments,
Martyr Romanos, bravo to your bravery!

Romanos was from Karpenesi. He was totally illiterate. The only thing he knew was that he was a Christian.

One day he heard that some were going to venerate the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and he followed them. After he venerated all of the Holy Places, he also went to the Monastery of Saint Savvas. There he heard the monks reading about the Holy Martyrs, how they suffered so many tortures for Christ preferring instead to receive the future good things. The Saint asked what were these future good things, and when he learned from the fathers about the life to come and Paradise, the desire to receive the future goods through martyrdom was born in him.

Because of this he went to Jerusalem and shared his idea with the Patriarch, who dissuaded him in case he couldn’t endure the tortures and might make matters worse for the Holy Sepulchre and the Patriarchate. This blessed one however who desired martyrdom could not keep within himself the fire that was kindled in his heart.

He therefore traveled to Thessaloniki, where he appeared before the Turkish judge, confessed Christ as true God, the Creator and Savior of the world, and called Muhammad an imposter and antichrist, and his religion an error filled with myths to laugh at. The judge ordered him to be tortured. They beat him mercilessly till the Muslims broke his ribs, they flogged off strips of skin from his back, they tore at his sides with horseshoes, and did many other tortures to force him to deny his faith. Because the Saint remained firm in his belief in Christ, he was ordered to be beheaded.

There happened to be at that time in Thessaloniki the Admiral of the fleet who sought the judge to give him the Martyr to put him in a boat as an oarsman, telling him that this would be worse than death for the Martyr. Because of his position as a rower on board he would be tortured throughout his life mentally and physically. He liked the idea and the Admiral took him, cut his hair and beard, and put him at the paddle.

After a short time however, some Christian friends of the captain bribed him, and he set the Saint free. The Christians sent him to the Holy Mountain, to the Skete of Kavsokalyvia, where he was near Saint Akakios (April 12) who served as his elder. There he struggled continuously and superhumanly, but he had no peace. He lived like a stranger in this life, and he thought neither for food nor water; his mind was on martyrdom.

As the two of them fasted, elder and novice, and as Saint Akakios received a divine revelation regarding the martyrdom of Romanos, he tonsured him a monk and with the prayers of the fathers he let him leave with the goal of confession and martyrdom.

At first he went to Jerusalem in his monastic garb, where he couldn’t complete his goal, because there was a fear that the Muslims would harm the Holy Sepulchre. Therefore he traveled to Constantinople. There he caught a little dog, tied it up to his belt and walked with him to the bazaar. The Turks seeing this asked why he was walking the little dog in such an odd fashion. He responded to them: “To feed him as the Christians feed you Turks.” As soon as they heard this they grabbed him and brought him to the Vizier, where he repeated the same words. Then the Vizier ordered to torture him until he would deny his faith.

They threw him in a dry well, in which they threw their murderers. There the blessed one remained without food for forty days. Later they took him out and tortured him mercilessly in various ways without in any way convincing him. Then the Vizier ordered him to be beheaded by the sword.

As they took him to the place of execution, he greeted any Christian he saw with great joy saying that he was going to a wedding and not a slaughter, a fact that stunned many. Passing by the mosque at the hour when the hodja called for mid-day prayer from the minaret, the Martyr gazed and spat on him, for which cause the executioners immediately cut out his tongue, which he extended on his own for them to cut. And again he intelligently greeted the Christians with blood running from his mouth. When he reached the place of execution they beheaded him, as he thanked God, and his beheaded body on its own fell towards the east, as if it were still alive. Angered by this sign the Turks drove away the mass of Christians. This occurred in 1694 on January 5 or 6, though some say it occurred on February 16th (he is commemorated on both days by the Church).

The holy relic remained three days and nights at the place of execution and divine grace illumined it with a heavenly light, which was seen by all, Christians and Turks. In the end the relic of the Martyr was bought for five hundred piasters by an English captain whose ship was stationed in Constantinople, and he took it to England.

One Christian witness of the martyrdom of Saint Romanos, who was amazed at the joy and courage of the Martyr, when the Turks were shoving and beating the Christians away from the body of the Martyr, payed a Turkish child five piasters to dip a napkin into the blood of the Martyr and bring it back to him. The child did this, but afterwards told this to a Turk, who then sent the child back asking for five more piasters. The Christian did not want to pay this, so he was betrayed to the Vizier to be put to death. However, the Christian was a nobleman and friend of the Vizier, which spared him from death. Instead he was cast into a bleak dungeon where he languished for six months. Every night he would see a ray of light emanating from the spot where Romanos was martyred, and this strengthened him and consoled him; otherwise, "I should have perished from my extreme hardships." He was released later for four thousand piasters, after which he and his brother sold all their belongings to travel to Jerusalem and Mount Sinai. They then sailed to Mount Athos where they became monks. The older brother, Agapios, ended his life at the Monastery of Docheiariou, to which he donated the napkin with the blood of the Martyr. The other ended his days at the Monastery of Koutloumousiou.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You first struggled ascetically on Athos, and received the Divine will through the teachings of the Venerable Akakios, and hastened towards the trials of martyrdom and death, and you, O Romanos, stand beside the crown-bestowing Christ, interceding for us, O all-glorious one.

Ode 8 of the Canon in Praise of All Saints of Athos
Let us honour in songs the glorious Romanos, pride of ascetics and sweetness of the new martyrs of Christ, whom the Skete of the Lavra of Kavsokalyva blossomed as a rose, and whom Akakios, young in years and old in asceticism had as his own disciple.