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March 15, 2015

Holy New Martyr Manuel of Sphakia, Crete (+ 1792)

St. Manuel of Sphakia (Feast Day - March 15)


You were slaughtered like a sheep all-blessed one,
And brought into the fold above O Manuel.

After the Ottoman Muslim conquest of Crete, the Orthodox Christian Cretans rose on a number of occasions seeking to expel the Ottoman Muslims from their island. After each uprising many Orthodox Christians fled the island and others were enslaved and forced to convert to Islam. Among those Orthodox Christians enslaved at a very early age was a young man named Manuel from the town of Sphakia who was taken and circumcised against his will.

When the opportunity presented itself, Manuel escaped from Crete and landed on the island of Mykonos where he went to an Orthodox priest and confessed. Manuel was given a penance and later was received back into the Orthodox Church through Chrismation.

On the island of Mykonos, Manuel married and was blessed with six children. His wife, however, proved to be unfaithful, but Manuel, fearing God, decided not to punish her in any way; he simply took the children and left his house. His brother-in-law, however, blamed Manuel for leaving his wife and threatened revenge.

One day, transporting a shipment of wood from the island of Samos to the island of Mykonos, Manuel encountered a ship on which his brother-in-law was serving. Before the Muslims, the latter accused Manuel of having been a Muslim who was now an Orthodox Christian.

When taken before the captain, Manuel was asked by him to what religion he belonged. Manuel answered, "I have been an Orthodox Christian since birth."

But the captain reminded him, "Once you were an Orthodox Christian, then you willingly became a Muslim. So you must return again to our faith, for if you do not agree to do this, I will make you suffer without mercy and you will die."

Undaunted, Manuel replied, "I was an Orthodox Christian, I am an Orthodox Christian, and I will die as an Orthodox Christian."

Angry, the captain had him tortured during the entire trip to Chios where he handed Manuel over to the admiral of the fleet, the Kapudan Pasha.* When they arrived, Manuel asked a fellow Orthodox Christian to find him an Orthodox priest to counsel him and to hear his confession. But none of the priests would come, for they were afraid. One did send him advice through a third party. This encouraged Manuel so he could say to himself, "It is the same with me whether I die today or tomorrow. The world is transient. Rather than die tomorrow a sinner, it is better to die today for my faith and save my soul."

The Kapudan Pasha had Manuel brought before him for questioning. When he asked Manuel what he was, Manuel responded, "I am an Orthodox Christian." But the Kapudan kadi had Manuel's trousers lowered and he saw his circumcision and asked how that had come about.

Manuel responded by saying, "I am an Orthodox Christian since birth, but I was enslaved when I was very young and forced to become a Muslim. Now I am an Orthodox Christian again."

The admiral responded by ordering his immediate execution. Manuel's reaction to this was, "Glory to You, O God." They took him to the Old Fountain where Manuel willingly knelt and awaited the executioner's sword. The executioner, however, was inept and was not able to behead Manuel with a single stroke. Enraged over this, the executioner took hold of Manuel as though he were a sheep and cut his throat, separating his head from his body. The vali then ordered Manuel's body weighed down and thrown into the sea.

The Orthodox Christians who witnessed Manuel's martyrdom were greatly moved by it, for this act validated and strengthened their own faith.

Thus Manuel, the slave from Crete, sacrificed his life for the love of Jesus Christ on the island of Chios** on March 15th, in the year 1792.***

From Witnesses For Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period 1437-1860, by Nomikos Michael Vaporis, pp. 213-215.


* Küçük Hüseyin Pasha

** The area of his execution in Kardamyla, Chios is marked with a shrine till this day.

*** It was a Monday, and the execution took place at 4:00pm.

The life of St. Manuel was written by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite. A manuscript of the life of St. Manuel is in the library of Xenophontos Monastery in Mount Athos. In 1959, by decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate under Patriarch Athenagoras, upon recommendation from Metropolitan Isidore of Lampi and Sphakia, the New Martyr Manuel was officially recognized as a Saint in the Orthodox Church. Monk Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis composed a service in his honor. A church was also built in his honor in Sphakia, Crete. In 2010 a church was dedicated to St. Manuel on the island of Patmos. In Mykonos, he is celebrated with a procession on the last Sunday of September, with a processional icon painted in the form of St. Manuel established by Photios Kontoglou.

Martyrdom shrine of St. Manuel in Chios

Procession in Mykonos