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February 7, 2011

Holy New Martyr George of Alikianos in Crete (+ 1867)

St. George the New Martyr of Crete (Feast Day - February 7)

                                           By Metropolitan Titus (Sylligardakis) of Rethymnon

Crete is well known as an island which gave birth to heroes and martyrs. The Cretan honor roll of saints lists both old and new martyrs whose blood dyed the land of our forefathers. The holocaust of the Arkadi Monastery is a sculptured icon of the Cretan Revolution of 1866. Brave men of Crete are her honored trophies. Victory slipped away from the pashas and aghas. The flag of freedom waved like a symbol of life and death for those about to die. Cretan honor was never defeated in the land which Turks occupied. Honor and victory are the emblems of every Cretan battle. Canons, knives, sticks and stones, fists and shouts, teeth and hatchets are the weapons that the rebels brought to hew down the Muslim hordes.

The Cretan Revolution of 1866-1869 was a continuum with the Revolution of Greece of 1821. The will for freedom of the Cretan populace was irrevocable and was loudly proclaimed by the words "Union or Death". The spirited and easily aroused people of Crete did not ask anything more than what their Holy Creed and Symbol of Faith allowed - the freedom and resurrection of their ancestry, their religion, their ethos and their traditions. Union with Greece - the motherland of motherlands - their own motherland, was their quest. Among the many cities and towns that rushed to attack the enemies of Crete was the village of Alikianos situated in the ecclesiastical district of the Diocese of Kydonia and Apokoronou. Alikianos means "strong" or "paved with gravel", named for its fortified position situated in the middle of a lowland full of orange groves irrigated by the river Kerites, Iordanos, or Platanias as it is known today. It is surrounded by the White Mountains which peak proudly to great heights. Alikianos defended its sacred land with fierce battles and heroic struggles during the years of the Turkish occupation, the Revolution of 1866, and again under German occupation in 1941.

This is where Saint George the New Martyr belongs - the Revolution of 1866 - a symbol of the Church of Crete's new generation of saints. For he fell in battle dying for Christ at the age of only twenty-one. The piety of his good parents nourished him well. His father Nicholas was a priest born on the island of Folegandros in the Cyclades. His mother Katherine Bouzianopoulos was Cretan, born in the historic and heroic village of Therisso of Kydonia, daughter of a noble and honorable family. The Saint's upbringing was uniquely Christian. His farm work did not deprive him of study despite his modest education, for he loved to read the biographical accounts or Synaxarion of the holy martyrs. In these texts he found his soul's burning desire quenched, and this gave peace to his life. "I cannot rest, neither can I sleep contentedly unless I satisfy my hunger for reading."

During the difficult year of 1865, he read the life of a great martyr, and prayed: "My Christ, make me worthy to shed my blood for love of You." Saint George had a brother who was blind, yet he was an "eyewitness" of this confession. The persecution of the Christians was drawing near as the year 1866 marked the beginning of the great Cretan Revolution which left so many sacrificial victims.

The time for his martyrdom soon arrived. For the New Martyr George was a mail carrier and courier who delivered letters and proclamations of the leaders of the revolution. On Sunday, February 5th 1867, George was in the village of Fournes in Kydonia, participating in the struggle as was his duty as courier. A great number of Turkish soldiers then surrounded the village and seized many Cretans, including blessed George. But because he carried revolutionary documents he attracted special attention, and his death by torture was imminent. George was urged to accept Islam and be saved. However, despite advice and concessions, martyrs of the Faith will stand firm. Neither Moustafas Pasha nor Bachris Aghas, nor the Christian officer Hatzimanuel Fouglanakis succeeded in convincing him to avoid martyrdom.

"I am a Christian and I die a Christian." He felt no remorse because he was young, nor did he feel sorrow for his own life, or his elderly parents, his sister or his blind brother. He was not shaken by the ailing and tears of his fellow Christians, their wives, children and relatives. Standing firm in his convictions he declared his martyrdom: "Cut me up into even smaller pieces than you have cut others. Because the more you torture me, so much more will my Christ glorify me."

This was his martyric stand. So the Turks did not kill him quickly, but in measures. First they cut off his ears, then his nose, tongue, hands and feet. They cut off his genital organs, then his eyes and finally his head. His remains were thrown in an unknown place among others killed along with the blessed George. Until today the place of his burial is unknown. But the manner and date of his death have been documented - February 7th 1867.

That is how the New Martyr George died for Christ in the peak of his youth, as told in the proud history of the revolutionary struggles that took place in the year of our Lord 1867. He died in the flowering of his youth as the son of Alikiano, the pride of Kydonia, the Saint of Crete and the athlete of Christ.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You have been perceived, George, as most honored and equal to past spiritual fighters in these latter days. You suffered steadfastly while your body was cut up for love of the Lord. And with the streams of your blood you refresh the faithful who sing hymns to your divine struggle, O New Martyr.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
In the latter days you suffered martyrdom conspicuously, and you were crowned by Christ; and clothed with His divine grace you bravely bore the dismemberment of your body. We honor you for that, New Soldier of Christ, George.

Rejoice, divine offspring of Kydonia and honorable adornment of Folegandros. Rejoice, you who were dismembered for the sake of Christ, Godly-minded and steadfast believer, George. Rejoice, divine son of Kydonia and honorable adornment of Folegandros.

From Cretan Saints, translated by Rev. Timothy Andrews, pp. 16-20.