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March 9, 2016

How the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste Saved a Greek Village in 1905

By Archimandrite Chrysostomos Maidonis,
Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of Ierissos

In the village of Gomati, which is in the region of Halkidiki, there was once a dependency of the Athonite Monastery of Xeropotamou. The land property of the dependency was expropriated and there only remains the church in honor of the Holy Forty Martyrs. The feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs is the main celebration of the village. The Metropolitan of Ierissos always celebrates the Divine Liturgy and a table is laid out for all the pilgrims who come from the village and neighboring villages.

The Holy Forty Martyrs are associated with a miraculous rescue of the village from certain destruction, which is preserved in the oral tradition of the people.

In 1905, Turkish soldiers came as envoys from Madem Aga of Stratoniki to take men to work in the mines. As is known, all the villages of Northern Halkidiki (12 villages called the Mantemochoria) were obligated to send men to the mines. However, the residents of Gomati reacted against the recruitment of workers and they killed the Turkish soldiers.

This enraged the Turks and the Sultan ordered for the village to be burned and the residents punished to set an example. So a corps of soldiers set out from Thessaloniki in the direction of Gomati with the purpose of carrying out the order that was issued. As soon as they arrived near the village, where the Church of the Holy Forty is located, a wondrous thing took place. The commanding officer took pity on the people and changed his mind:

"Why should I punish them in such a hard way?" he thought.

He arrived at the village square and gathered all the Christians there, who were terrified as they awaited their just punishment. Then the Turkish officer asked:

"Tell me, what saint is your church outside the village?"

"The Holy Forty," responded the residents.

"Really? Is it the Holy Forty? Do you know what my name is? My name is Sarantos [Greek word for "Forty"]. Leave aside that I am a Turk. I come from Sebaste in Asia Minor, where the Holy Forty were martyred. My mother bore children, but none of them survived. A Christian woman told my mother to dedicate one to the Holy Forty. There in Sebaste, Christians and Muslims lived together. I am the child that my mother dedicated to the Holy Forty, and I am alive and bear their name. Well, the Holy Forty who saved me, have also saved you. Because as soon as I arrived in front of your church, I changed my mind. Let us go now, all together, and thank them."

Together they went, full of gratitude, with the Turk, and went to the dependency of the Holy Forty. There the Turk knelt before the icon of the Saints, and full of emotion removed a golden lira and hung it on the icon. With gratitude everyone thanked the Holy Forty for their miraculous rescue.

And when we hear and read about this miracle, let us glorify the Triune God, Who is wondrous in His saints.

Source: From Αγιορείτικη Μαρτυρία, Τριμηνιαία έκσοσις Ιεράς Μονής Ξηροποτάμου, Τεύχος 11. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.