May 14, 2011

Saint Isidore and his Basilica in Chios

St. Isidore of Chios (Feast Day - May 14)

A Roman officer in the navy, Isidore confessed himself as a Christian to the commander of the fleet, Numerian, while they were on the Aegean island of Chios. Because he was unwilling to repent and worship the gods of the state, he was tormented and beheaded.

His body was cast into a cistern. A young Christian woman, Myrope (Dec. 2), with the help of a friend Ammonios (Sept. 4), retrieved the body although it was guarded by soldiers. On learning that the soldiers would be put to death if they failed to find the body, Myrope went to Numerius and confessed that she had taken Isidore's body, but refused to say where it was then interred. Numerius had her publicly flogged, then thrown into prison.

Before she died, Myrope had a vision of Holy Isidore, who "encouraged her with the news that although she was about to die for what she had done it would not have been in vain because she would be giving her life for Jesus Christ and not for Isidore or their Christian friends." Later on Ammonios himself accepted a martyr's death in the city of Kyzikos.

Myrope body was interred beside Isidore's, and a chapel erected over the graves. Saint Markianos built another in the fifth century next to the Church of Hagia Eirene in Constantinople. In 1356, the relics of Isidore and Myrope were moved by the Latins to the Church of Saint Mark in Venice.

Tomb of St. Isidore

Basilica of Saint Isidore in Chios

The Basilica of Saint Isidore in Chios is an Orthodox monument, with the remains of an early Christian basilica partly covered by a small church with a low cement roof, located in Letsaina of Chios town in Chios. The first excavation research of this site begun by G. Soteriou in 1918 and continued by A. Orlandos, in 1928. Excavations were also conducted in the summer of 1981 and 1982, by the 3rd Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities.

In the basilica are preserved mosaic floors decorated with geometric patterns, and many relief architectural parts. Inside the church there is a subterranean vaulted crypt where the relics of St. Isidore and St. Myrope (who martyred in Chios during the Early Christian period) were once kept.

The Early Christian Basilica of Saint Isidore was built on the remains of an earlier, Roman structure. According to tradition, the church was built in the second half of the 7th century, during the reign of Constantine IV Pogonatos. In the course of its long history, it has undergone several repairs, probably during the Frankish occupation, in the late Byzantine period and in modern times. Five architectural phases - the earliest of which dates to the 5th century - have been distinguished in the building, which was finally ruined by the earthquake of 1881.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Enlisted by the King of the Ages, you spurned the earthly king and his army to boldly preach Christ our God. Therefore, you have completed your contest and shine forth as His glorious martyr. Entreat Him to save our souls, for we honor you, blest Isidore.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
In your combat with the dragon, you gained the victory, O martyr Isidore. As a radiant beacon from Egypt, you shone forth to illumine all under the sun, advancing towards Him who shone forth from the Virgin Mother of God, for whose sake you were slain, O Passion-Bearer, offering yourself as a fragrant sacrifice.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
In thy holy prayers to God, thou hast shone brightly, a great guide for all the world. Wherefore, we praise thee on this day, O Saint, thou Martyr of godly mind and boast of Chios, O glorious Isidore.