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May 19, 2015

Saints Julian and Julias the Missionaries from Aegina

Sts. Julian and Julias (Feast Days - January 7 and 31; May 19)

In Aegina, Christianity spread rapidly and unhindered. This island was the origin of two great missionary figures who were also brothers from the early fourth century, Julian the Deacon and Julias the Presbyter. Julian was born in 319 and Julias in 330, and both brothers came from a rich Christian family in Aegina, probably in the village of Pahia Rahi in Aegina. After receiving a basic education on the island, they went for higher studies in Athens, studying at that time with Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and the future emperor Julian the Apostate.

Julian and Julias, admiring the work of the Apostle Paul, decided to imitate him. They returned to Aegina where they prepared for their mission. After their ordination by the Bishop of Athens, they preached, baptized, built Christian churches and destroyed the temples of idols. In Corinth they angered Arians who sought to kill them. Then they embarked on their long journey, initially intending to go to Italy, they went to preach the true faith to the inhospitable Balkan lands, in Bohemia, Poland and Hungary.

The following incident happened to the Saints in a village of the Danube region. There they saw a crowd of people gathered in the square, and in their midst was tied up a young man who was demon possessed. The pagan priests were preparing to burn him alive, to spare the village. The Saints exorcised the demon and healed the young man through the power of the Cross. The crowd of people were amazed, the sacrifice was cancelled, the young man survived, and many people of the village came to believe in the true God revealed by Julian and Julias.

During the reign of Theodosius the Great, when Pope Damasus I was in Rome, the two brothers visited Rome in order to venerate the spot where Saint Paul was beheaded, among other shrines of the martyrs. There the Saints met two important people that played a significant role in their future. The first was Emperor Theodosius, who gave the brothers handwritten authorization to freely spread Christianity throughout the empire. The second was Pope Damasus of Rome who, recognizing their abilities, sent them to Northern Italy, specifically to Milan, in order to aid the bishop of that region, Saint Ambrose. It was there that they did their greatest work, baptizing Christians, building churches (approximately 100), and healing the sick. Most importantly they brought peace to the Church of Novara.

Later, after fifty years of struggles and journeys, they decided to withdraw. Each chose an island: Julian in Gozzano on Lake Maggiore and Julias in Cusio on Lake Orta. This was the first time the two brothers separated in their lives. Julias chose a deserted and isolated island, full of rocks, snakes and reptiles, and no boatman would take him there out of fear. Julias therefore lay out his robe on the water and crossed over in a wondrous manner. There, with the help of God and the power of Christ, he "trampled upon serpents and scorpions" and subjugated them.

Julian became very sick and reposed at the age of 72 in January of 391. He was buried in the Church of Saint Lawrence, which he established. Julias lived in peace for another ten years in prayer and fasting on his island, which also took his name (San Giulio). He was buried in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in January 401. The memory of Saint Julian is celebrated on January 7, Saint Julias on January 31, and the translation of their relics on May 19.

Their Veneration in the Orthodox Church

The memory of these two brothers were forgotten by the Orthodox Church for many centuries, although they were honored in the West. News about these Saints became known to the local Church in Aegina in 1961 when pilgrims from Gozzano, led by the priest Don Giuliano Ruga senior, visited the birthplace of the Saints in Aegina to celebrate the 600 year anniversary of the translation of their relics to a church built in their honor (1361-1961).

Since then there has been open communication between Gozzano and Aegina, culminating in the installation of a plaque with relics of the Saints and fragments of their tombs in the Church of Saint Dionysios in Pahia Rahi on 21 April 1991. Relics of the Saints were presented to the Church of Saint Dionysios previously on 28 April 1968, which later moved to the Church of Aeginian Saints in Livadi and returned in 1991 to the church in Pahia Rahi.

In Aegina their memory is much celebrated in the chapel dedicated to them in their hometown of Pahia Rahi. This chapel was built in 2008, next to the Church of the Archangels, the first parish of the village. It is the only chapel in Aegina, and perhaps all of Greece, dedicated to the two holy brothers.

The feasts of the Saints that are celebrated take place on January 7th in honor of Saint Julian and January 31st in honor of Saint Julias. The translation of the relics of these two Saints is celebrated on May 19th, and this is their primary feast day in Aegina. They are also celebrated on July 30th with nine other Saints of Aegina.

It is hoped that the dream of the late Metropolitan Hierotheos of Hydra, Spetses and Aegina will be fulfilled, so that a sizeable temple will be built in Aegina dedicated to Saints Julian and Julias to honor them in their hometown of Pahia Rahi.