May 19, 2015

Holy New Martyr John the Dragati, also known as Arnaout-John (+ 1845)

St. John the Dragati (Feast Day - May 19)

The Albanian in origin and soldier John, nicknamed "Arnaout-John" (in Turkish the Albanians are known as Arnaouts), was a Muslim who was baptized a Christian and given the name John. He found a home in the village Agios Ioannis Phaistos in Crete and lived a pious and devout life, exercising the profession of a dragati (rural constable), in order to ensure their livelihood.

Certain rebels killed two Turkish gypsies. The Ottomans, who hated John because he renounced their faith, found an opportunity to take revenge. They complained to the secular authorities of the region saying that he was the murderer of the Turkish gypsies, accusing him also of seeking to exterminate Muslims after changing his religion.

John was arrested and sent to trial in Heraklion, where he proved his innocence. But the judge Rechit-Effendi asked him to change his religion once again to show that he did not kill due to a religious rivalry, otherwise he would be condemned to death. However, John courageously confessed Christ. For three days he was tortured with horrible tortures. Among other things, they placed a burning iron pot on his head.

When Saint John gave his soul to God, the Pasha ordered that his body be given to the Christians for burial. They took it and buried him in "Spitalia" (the area around the old Health Service in Heraklion).

The martyric death of John caused grief and indignation to scatter among the Christians in the area of Heraklion. The day of the martyrdom took place on Saturday 5 May 1845. And as Stephanos Nikolaidis mentions in his biographical notes: "There was a fearsome stance of Christians against the government due to the death of Arnaout-John by means of frightful suffering." To satisfy the people, the president of the court Rechit-Effendi was exiled and replaced with Koulouktzi-Meimouri.

After some time, the translation of his relics took place, and they were found to be sanctified. The Consul of Russia took them and sent them to Kiev with other relics, where they are kept until today.

The discovery of this Saint is due to the comprehensive research of the Chancellor of the Metropolis of Gortynis, Fr. Chrysostomos Papadakis, who also wrote a wonderful book about the life of the Saint, as well as about the village of Agios Ioannis.

The Service of Praise to the Saint was composed by the Great Hymnographer of the Church of Alexandria, Mr. Haralambos Bousias.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.