July 1, 2013

The Holy Revealed Ones (Agioi Fanentes): Gregory, Theodore and Leon

Sts. Gregory, Theodore and Leon the Newly-Revealed (Feast Day - Sunday of All Saints)

Saints Gregory, Theodore and Leon, served as soldiers in the Roman army in the fourth century. Believing vigorously in the truths of the Gospel, under the heretical emperor Constantius they left the army so that they would not be forced to profess the Arian heresy. Leaving the island of Sicily, they fled to an area now called Sami located in the eastern part of the island of Kefalonia opposite Ithaca, where the athletes and soldiers of Christ remained until the end of their lives in asceticism. They did this in a dense forest of low trees and shrubs where they found an old temple in ruins. One day they knelt and prayed, according to the two Latin biographies which confirm local oral tradition (one was written by a Dominican monk in 1348, the three manuscripts of which are in the Vatican, in Venice and in York), and these confessors for Christ delivered their souls to the Merciful Lord on August 24th.

Many years after their repose, their sacred remains were revealed in a miraculous manner. A rich ruler of the island named Michael was afflicted with leprosy, and the three Saints appeared to him in the form of angels, and revealed to him that he would receive healing by finding their remains. He went to the indicated secluded place, and found the unburied, incorrupt (after hundreds of years), and fragrant bodies of the three Saints, whose names he did not know at the time. He venerated them and received complete healing of his leprosy. Out of gratitude he built a church and monastery in their name (Agion Fanenton, which means the Holy Revealed Ones) where their relics remained until they were removed by the Latins during Frankish rule (sometime between 9th-14th centuries).

The marble reliquary of the Saints in Venice

As early as 2004, His Eminence Metropolitan Spyridon of Kefalonia made concerted moves toward the Vatican to allow the scientific examination of the content of the shrine of the Saints in the Church of the Prophet Zachariah in Venice. The missing holy relics of these three Saints were finally confirmed to be those of Gregory, Theodore and Leon on the 30th of January 2009. On February 1st 2009, these relics were transferred back to Greece, temporarily for three months to the Church of St. George Vouliagmenis in Glyfada, and then to the shrine in Kefalonia in Sami. It was in Glyfada that their annual commemoration for the Sunday of All Saints was established. A small portion of the relics were given to the Holy Metropolis of Kefalonia and brought to Sami on May 2nd 2009.

The reception of the relics in Venice

The transfer of the relics to Athens on February 1, 2009

The portion of relics brought to Sami from Venice

The relics in the Church of the Dormition in Sami

The memory of the Holy Revealed Saints Gregory, Theodore and Leon, the Confessors of Orthodoxy who lived in asceticism on the island of Kefalonia, is celebrated on the Sunday of All Saints (the Sunday after Pentecost) by the Orthodox Church. February 1st might also be considered a feast of theirs, commemorating the transfer of their relics back to Greece and then to Kefalonia.

Ruins of the Monastery in Sami, Kefalonia

The Monastery of the Holy Revealed Ones in Kefalonia

The Monastery of the Holy Revealed Ones is built on top of the southern citadel of ancient Sami at an altitude of 226m. Its foundation dates back to 1264 and the remaining ruins date back to the late Byzantine era. After the capture of Kephalonia by the Normans in 1185, there began the gradual decline of the Monastery, which was due to the capture of the holy relics of the Saints by the Venetians and their transfer to Venice, where they were kept in a marble tomb in the magnificent Church of the Prophet Zachariah. In the late 15th century the Monastery was reconstructed, which until the 18th century attracted many monks, pilgrims and foreign travelers.

The icon of the Saints from 1654 that is now in Dormition Church in Sami.

The religious policies of the British in the Ionian Islands in the early 19th century led to the abandonment of the Monastery, which was completed during the earthquakes of 1953 which brought the historic Monastery to ruin. From the iconostasis of the historic Monastery there survived the old treasured icon of the three Saints, dating back to 1654 and is now kept in the beauteous shrine of the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Sami. Next to the ruins of the Monastery a chapel was erected later, where every year on the Sunday of All Saints there is celebrated the memory of the three Confessors and Saints of Kefalonia.

A sketch of the Monastery in Sami from 1813

The Monastery in Sami as it appears today

For video of the Holy Relics of the Agion Fanenton visiting the church of St. Barbara, in Patras on May 1st 2009, and the Supplication Service, see:

The shrine of the Saints in Sami

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Those who were hidden for many years, are once again revealed in this sacred House, Gregory, Theodore and Leon, the great martyrs and faithful servants, let us all praise them and fervently cry out and ever hymn them crying, hail the boast of martyrs.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
In psalms let us hymn the three shining stars of Orthodoxy, who shone again wondrously, and together we glorify the Three-sun God in Unity.

The treasure of that which is greatly loved by all, and teachers of the Lord who have kept all things well, they were shown to be most radiant and faithful soldiers of the faith. For these soldiers, Gregory, Theodore and Leon, were communicants of the things above. We entreat them and with fervor honor their most-wondrous life and the finding of their relics, that the Savior of all may deliver us from all danger, and show us the way to heaven in life, that we may ever worthily glorify, the Three-sun God in Unity.