November 2, 2014

Holy New Martyrs Lambros, Theodore and One Who Was Anonymous, Who Were Martyred in Vrachori (+ 1786)

Sts. Lambros, Theodore and Anonymous (Feast Day - November 2)

The Holy New Martyrs Lambros, Theodore and someone else who we have not come to know by name came from the Peloponnese and were merchants in their profession.

Remaining for some time in Ioannina for commercial reasons they came to learn the Albanian language. In 1786 they decided to return home to the Morea. They departed and arrived at Vrachori (today known as Agrinio) where they decided to spend the night. At the entrance of the city stood a tax collector to collect a Harac, or poll tax, as required from the Roman subjects. The three merchants plotted to pretend to be Muslims, in order to avoid having to pay the tax. Passing by the place where the tax collector sat they greeted him with the Muslim greeting "Salaam Alaikum". The tax collector, thinking they were Muslim Arvanites, let them pass freely. They entered the city and went to spend the night in some house in order to continue on their journey home early in the morning. The Turks, however, wanted to see where the foreigners were staying and perhaps learn from them some news out of Ioannina, so they sent someone to the home in which the Saints were staying. When he approached the house he did not immediately knock on the door, but he stood outside to listen to what they were saying. The Saints inside at that time were telling the landlord of the house how earlier that day they escaped from having to pay the tax by a single "Salaam".

Once the Turk heard this he understood that they were Christians, and without going in he ran immediately to deliver the news to those who sent him. Like wicked beasts they raided the home, grabbed them and literally dragged them away, taking them to the court where they told the judge:

"These three men, although Romans, passed by our tax booth and greeted us with Salaam Alaikum. They must be condemned because they said that which was customary of the Turks and not the Romans. And since they mocked the faith then according to the law they must be punished. Unless they have come to love Islam and be circumcised, for which they will be honored."

The judge then asked the Saints if all these things were true. The Holy Martyrs frankly responded:

"Yes, it is true that we greeted as was customary for the Turks in order to avoid having to pay the tax, but we have not come to love Islam."

The judge responded:

"Now you must certainly become Turks if you want to save your lives, or else you will be tortured and killed."

When the Saints heard this, they gave the appropriate response to the judge:

"We, illustrious Master, said these things in order to save money, but for us to deny our faith is impossible. Do with us what you will."

The judge then ordered them to be mercilessly beaten and to be locked in prison.

There in the prison, each comforted one another.

Indeed, one who was literate would say, "Be careful, my brethren, do not flinch and lose out on the bargain we have received. Soon we will need to endure a little bit in order to gain eternal life. Let us not be saddened for our relatives, nor our friends, nor our temporary homeland, but let us stand gallant in the faith of Christ, that we may enter joyfully into the other homeland, that has no end."

Having fasted for several days in prison, they were again brought before the judge, who after interrogating them, ordered them to once again be beaten and imprisoned.

Five days later they were led once again to court where a judgment was issued.

The executioners took them and hung one of them from a tree near the market place, the other outside of the Church of Saint Demetrios, and the other at the edge of the square, where the main road enters the city.

So the three martyrs, without expecting it, received crowns of victory from the Lord.

Note: St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, in his Synaxarian of the New Martyrs, mentions three neomartyrs who were martyred in Vrachori in 1786, without mentioning their names however. The late Fr. Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis, after research, managed to find the names of two of the Saints, Lambros and Theodore.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.