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September 12, 2016

Holy Hieromartyr Autonomos, a Bishop in Italy

St. Autonomos the Hieromartyr (Feast Day - September 12)


On your altar lay a sacrifice O Word,
Autonomos your sacrificer was killed with stones.
On the twelfth Autonomos was slaughtered with stones.

The Holy Hieromartyr Autonomos was a bishop somewhere in Italy when the violent persecution of Emperor Diocletian broke out in 298. For this reason he fled Italy and came to a village of Bithynia called Soreoi,* in the easternmost part of the Gulf of Nicomedia, where he received hospitality from a Christian named Cornelius. After being there for a long time, Autonomos built a chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael, and ordained Cornelius a Deacon. Leaving Cornelius in charge of the Christians who gathered around Bishop Autonomos and his chapel, he set out for Lycaonia and Isauria to proclaim the faith of Christ. He then returned to Cornelius and ordained him a Priest. When he learned that Diocletian came to Nicomedia, and had great rage against the Christians, including himself, for this reason he fled to Mantinion and Claudiopolis, cities around the Black Sea, where he proclaimed the teachings of piety. Returning once again to Soreoi, he found the community prospering, so he ordained Cornelius a Bishop.

Having accomplished this, he set off for other parts of Asia Minor, proclaiming the end of the delusion of idolatry and unbelief, and planting the words of piety and faith. While he was in a village near Soreoi called Limnae, he brought the inhabitants to the light of the knowledge of God, and baptized them. When the Martyr and Hierarch of Christ accomplished these things, the pious Christians saw the impious Greeks constantly making sacrifices to demons at a high place on a particular festival, and acting unseemly, so they became enraged with righteous anger. Wherefore they emboldened each other, and went to destroy all the idols. When the Greeks heard this, they were determined for revenge, so they waited for a time when the servant of the Lord Autonomos would perform the divine mystagogy. Soon after Bishop Autonomos was serving the Divine Liturgy in the Church of the Archangel Michael in Soreoi, and the Greek pagans came armed with stones and sticks and other weapons, and after striking the parishioners with these, lastly they killed Saint Autonomos in the Holy Altar, as he was liturgizing before the Lord in the year 313.

A pious deaconess named Maria, together with other godly women, took the holy relic and buried him in a brilliant manner. During the reign of Constantine the Great, a church was built over the tomb of the Saint. This took place when a certain man named Severianos was setting off for a new post as governor of Egypt. Since he feared travel by sea, he made the long circuit around the gulf by a road which took him near the tomb of Autonomos. Suddenly his mules refused to advance and, however hard they were whipped, they stood in place. A wise bystander explained to Severianos that he needed to promise to build a church there in honor of Saint Autonomos, and then the mules would move. Indeed he made the promise, and the mules immediately proceeded on their way. When he returned he dedicated the church to the Holy Martyr.

In the year 430, a certain priest had the old church pulled down because water was pouring into it from the balconies and he feared great damage. Not realizing that the Hieromartyr’s body had been buried beneath the church of Severianos, he rebuilt the church in a new spot by the sea. But after another sixty years, during the reign of Emperor Zeno, and imperial guard by the name of John was out hunting and shot a hare at the spot where Autonomos was buried. That night the Hieromartyr appeared to him in a dream, ordering him to pitch a tent where he had shot the hare and to stay there as his neighbor. John swiftly did as he was told. Years later the Hieromartyr appeared once again, revealed his identity, and told John that his relic was buried beneath the tent. Struck by this vision, he related it to Emperor Anastasios, who built a church there. The relic of the Saint was found incorrupt: the hair was thick, the skin firm and all the hairs of the mustache were still in place; the eyes also were opened. The church was dedicated during the reign of Emperor Justin II to Saint Autonomos.*


* This village is probably identified with the modern village of Tepekoy. See "St. Autonomus and His Church in Bithynia", Clive Foss, Dumbarton Oaks Papers Vol. 41, Studies on Art and Archeology in Honor of Ernst Kitzinger on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday (1987), pp. 187-198.

** The Church of Saint Autonomos was the scene of a dramatic event in 602, the flight and capture of Emperor Maurice, deposed by Phokas. He and his family took refuge in the church; the emperor was detained there by arthritis but sent his son Theodosios on to seek help from the Persians. According to some sources, the imperial family was murdered on the spot; others report that they were brought back to Chalcedon and were executed. They do agree however on the location of the church: it was 150 stades (about 30 km) from Constantinople, near Praenetus.

It was around this time that the church was enlarged and became a monastery, which was visited by Saint Theodore of Sykeon in 612. Saint Theodore venerated the relic of the Saint there and served the Divine Liturgy. Many people came to visit him there over a three day period, he worked many miracles, and after blessing the monks there he departed. Also, an abbot of this monastery was at the Seventh Ecumenical Synod in 787.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
You rose from the West as a heavenly-illuminated star, and shined toward the East with the rays of your ways, the Sun of the glory of Christ, you glorified with your steadfast contest, wherefore you were glorified in your divine work, our Father Autonomos. Glory to Him Who gave you strength, glory to Him Who crowned you, glory to Him Who works through you all manner of healings.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
With reverence you served the divine mysteries, O wise one, and became an acceptable sacrifice while partaking of the cup of Christ. Now, as you stand before Him, holy martyr Autonomos, unceasingly intercede for us all.