October 14, 2015

Saint Ignatios Agallianos, Metropolitan of Mithymna, the Wonderworker (+ 1566)

St. Ignatios the Wonderworker (Feast Day - October 14);
(This icon was probably painted in his lifetime.)

Saint Ignatios, who before becoming a monk was known as John Agallianos, was one of the most important figures in 16th century Lesvos. Information about his life is not entirely clear. It seems, however, that he was born around 1480 in the village of Farangas in Kalloni. He was a descendent of the Agallianos family from Constantinople, and both his grandfather George and father Manuel were priests.

Being the child of a priest, he also served the village of Farangos as the village priest. From a young age he acquired an education and desired to live a monastic life, but he obeyed the will of his father and married a pious woman named Maria prior to his ordination. Having raised children with his wife, he also occupied himself with copying manuscripts. Shortly after his wife and children died during an epidemic, except one child whose name was Methodios, so he decided to live as an ascetic.

A short distance from his village of Farangas was a ruined church, which according to tradition was the central church of the Monastery of Panagia of Myrsini, according to a patriarchal document of 1331. He rebuilt this church, which was owned by his family, and settled there with his elderly father Manuel and his son Methodios. They built new buildings and founded a small monastery.

This monastery attracted many monastic loving Christians, both male and female, so Saint Ignatios decided to establish this small monastery as the Monastery of the Panagia Myrsiniotissa where females could settle, and he installed his monks nearby, where there was a church dedicated to the Archangel Michael, on land that also belonged to the Agallianos family. This is where the Monastery of Leimonos, dedicated to the honor of the Archangel Michael, was established in 1526, with the Saint as its first abbot.

In the Monastery of Leimonos, Saint Ignatios founded a school known as Leimoniada, where he also taught, and many of these students later went on to make their contribution to keeping alive the culture of Christian Greece amid the darkness of ignorance that surrounded them. Ignatios' son Methodios and the monk scholar Pachomios Rousanos, with other learned teachers, also taught there. The Leimoniada school was maintained until 1923, when the Kalloni school system was launched.

In March of 1530 Saint Ignatios wrote his Testament, which survives in two manuscripts of his monastery. This Testament, with three subsequent letters addressed to the abbess and nuns of Panagia Myrsiniotissa, became the Typikon, or Rule, under which his two monasteries that he founded operated.

Shortly after drafting his Testament, the Saint traveled to Constantinople to obtain a Patriarchal Acta and a firman from the Turkish government to add property to the monasteries. While there Metropolitan Makarios of Mithymna departed this life, and the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected him as his successor in 1531. Thereby he handed over the administration of his monasteries to his son, Methodios.  He served as Metropolitan for 35 years, successfully shepherding his flock in peace, and departed to the Lord on the 14th of October in 1566.

His miracle-working relics are venerated at the Monastery of Panagia Myrsiniotissa, where his episcopal see had been transferred.

About the Icon of the Saint (at the top of this page)

This is the oldest icon of Saint Ignatios. That it was probably painted during his lifetime is shown by the fact that the Saint is not identified by name in the inscription, but only by the words “O κτύτωρ”. This is the distinctive feature of the inscription: that while St Ignatios is both “Κτήτωρ”(owner) and ”Κτίτωρ” (founder) of the monastery, the iconographer calls him “Κτύτωρα” probably because he was unable to resolve the dilemma of whether to inscribe the icon as ”O Κτήτωρ“ or “Ο Κτίτωρ”. Another interesting feature is the depiction of a small church in the upper left corner of the icon. The church is painted roughly and unlike any at Leimonos Monastery, perhaps showing that the iconographer was ignorant of the monastic complex. On the back of the image there is inlaid decoration in mother-of-pearl.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
The shepherd of Mithmyna, Ignatios we praise, who with all the saints is glorified in his wonders, let us the faithful continuously laud, in accordance with this his feast, and as one who is great you look down upon us, healing our passions we cry out: Glory to Him Who glorified you, glory to Him Who crowned you, glory to Him Who works through you all manner of wonders.

Monastery of Panagia Myrsiniotissa

Monastery of Leimonos