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November 26, 2016

Saint Sophianos, Bishop of Dryinoupolis (+ 1711)

St. Sophianos of Dryinoupolis (Feast Day - November 26)

Saint Sophianos was an important religious figure of his time in the region of Epirus, and is considered the precursor of Saint Kosmas the Aitolos (Aug. 24). He was probably born in the village of Polytsani, in the Pogon region of Northern Epirus. At the time he became Bishop of Dryinoupolis* (modern southwest Albania) the religious composition of the region was changing due to massive conversions to Islam.

In 1672 he founded a Greek school in the local Monastery of Saint Athanasios. In recognition of the danger that Christianity was shrinking, Sophianos resigned his bishopric and became a monk a few months prior to his repose in 1711, thus becoming a wandering missionary, preaching from village to village.

Because of his pious character he was respected and honored by both Christians and Muslims. There was the case of a young Muslim girl who desperately appealed to the Saint, unable to find her embroidered with gold coins fez. After fervent prayer it was revealed to him that the fez was in the nest of a stork, indicating the exact spot where she later found it, in gratitude to the Bishop.

Another miracle of his from historical sources and oral testimonies, speaks of a traveler who visited the Monastery of Saint Athanasios. There the monks were talking about a certain miracle, and Saint Sophianos was present among them, who listened attentively. The traveler initially seemed skeptical about this narration of the monk and then strongly expressed his disbelief. The Saint then ordered a young monk to go to the fireplace and get three pieces of cherry wood which were burned. He asked the stranger and unbelieving traveler along with the monk to follow him to the courtyard, and taking an ax he planted the three burned pieces of wood. He then told the traveler that these would bloom and bear fruit next spring, and by this God would empirically show how the reported miracle narrated by the monk was absolutely true. And indeed by his prayers the miracle happened. The burned wood caught root, and the leaves and berries blossomed as he foretold. Till this day it is found in the courtyard of the Monastery, which today carries the name Monastery of Saints Athanasios and Sophianos.

Saint Sophianos' last days were spent in the Monastery of Saint Athanasios in his hometown of Polican (Pogon), where he taught Orthodoxy and letters to the village children. He reposed on 26 November 1711. His sacred skull and relics are kept in ornate containers, which were transferred for security reasons from the Monastery of the Saint by the revered priest of the village Fr. Euthymios Kalamas, and they were brought to the Church of the Archangels in Polytsani, and are still kept there today as a source of sanctification and blessing.


* From the Roman period there was a fortified settlement named Hadrianoupolis in the region, named after the Roman emperor Hadrian. During the 6th century the Roman Emperor Justinian I, as part of his fortification plans against barbarian invasions, moved the settlement 4 kilometers southeast in the modern village of Peshk√ępi, in order to gain a more secure position. The city is also referred in Roman sources as Ioustinianoupolis. During the 11th century the city was named Dryinoupolis, a name possibly deriving from its former name or from the nearby river. It was also, from the 5th century, the see of a bishopric (initially part of the Diocese of Nicopolis, Nafpaktos and then Ioannina).

Anointed with the myrrh of the hierarchy, you showed yourself to be a notable chief priest and inspiring healer of Christ to all, and you wisely shepherded the people of the Lord, Venerable Sophianos, through words and deeds, and now you entreat Christ at all times, to have mercy on those who bless you.

Showing yourself to be the sacred shepherd of Dryinoupolis, like the Hierarchs of old imitating them in all things, all-blessed Sophianos, by your inspired success you were magnified.