October 28, 2015

The Four Holy New Martyrs of Rethymno (+ 1824)

Four Neomartyrs of Rethymnon (Feast Day - October 28)

Angelis and his brother Manuel, the sons of John Tetzepes, were well off married men with children who lived in the town of Melampes, near Rethymno, Crete. Their cousins George and Nicholas, sons of Constantine Tetzepes, also lived there and were well off married men with children as well. All four were farmers. As the island was under Turkish occupation, the four young men were Cryptochristians, like many of their fellow countrymen. Officially they had Turkish names and ostensibly conformed to Islamic customs but, in reality, they remained faithful to all the traditions of the holy Orthodox Church. They fought valiantly in the Greek War of Independence from 1821 to 1824 and, when the Turks recaptured Crete with the help of Egyptian troops, they were no longer afraid to declare their faith.

Soon after the Turks regained power, the tax-collectors went from village to village to gather the levy imposed on Christians. The four young men, whom everyone thought were Muslims, went up to pay their tax with the rest of the Christians. They declared that they had been Christians from their youth and that they were only waiting for the moment to unite themselves to Christ in martyrdom. Thus they were imprisoned around July of 1824.

After Mehmet Pasha failed to persuade them to embrace Islam, he ordered his town crier to announce the following: "Tomorrow morning (Tuesday) the four infidels (Christians) will be executed by the Great Gate (the gate of the Venetian wall). There will be interesting events, including many clowns. The pastry shops and other stores will be closed. Turks and Greeks will come to the spectacle."

They were all beheaded with "Lord have mercy!" on their lips until their last breath on October 28, 1824 at the "Great Gate" of Rethymno. Their holy relics shined with the uncreated light as, for three days, they were contemptuously left lying where they were killed. Then Anthony Papadakis, the pasha's interpreter, requested permission to have them buried, and with pious Christians gathered them up, and they were buried at the Monastery of Saint Constantine, called Arkadion. A Russian ship captain, in port at the time, took some relics, which he transported to Russia.

From that time, these four holy Neomartyrs have worked many miracles. Their four holy skulls are kept in the church that bears their name in Rethymno. In Rethymno they were honored as saints on October 28, 1837. An official Patriarchal and Synodical Act confirmed their sainthood on August 29, 1977.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Offspring of Crete and nurtured in Lampes, let us praise our New Martyrs George, Angelos, Manuel and Nicholas. They were slain for their faith in the Lord. They shed their blood voluntarily in Rethymno. Because they have confidence in Christ, they will always intercede for our souls.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Let us loudly and devoutly sing praises to the courageous Martyrs from Melampes, who died for Christ our God in Rethymno, and let us gladly celebrate their memory.

The four courageous Martyrs of Christ patiently endured the tortures of the tyrants and the shedding of their blood. Let all of us faithful honor them with hymns of praise.