December 6, 2016

Holy New Martyr Nicholas Karamanos of Smyrna (+ 1657)

St. Nicholas the New Martyr of Smyrna (Feast Day - December 5)


Although you previously denied you were martyred,
And you received a crown Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas was from the city of Smyrna in Asia Minor, where one day, due to some scandal about which we know nothing, he said in anger that he would become a Muslim. Overheard by some Muslims, he was brought before the judge, who asked if it was true that he wanted to embrace Islam. To this Nicholas replied: "God forbid I should ever deny my Maker and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the true God who will judge the living and the dead and will give to each according to their deeds."

When the judge heard this he ordered Nicholas be beaten and insisted he deny his Christian faith, but Nicholas courageously accepted and endured the beating, strengthened from above. Then he was sent to prison where the judge ordered that he not be given anything to eat or drink, and they were to beat him twice a day.

These instructions were carried out until Nicholas was brought back before the judge, who tried in every way possible to convert Nicholas to Islam. However, neither flatteries or promises or threats shook his faith. Instead, he told his tormentors: "Even if you throw me into the sea, or burn me in fire, or cut me up into pieces, I will not deny my sweetest Jesus."

When the judge heard these words, he ordered for Nicholas to be circumcised anyway, and this was done as he was bound to a column. With this Nicholas continued to say: "I am a Christian, I believe in my Christ as true God. I will not become a Turk."

Those words brought Nicholas more jail time and tortures which Nicholas accepted with great joy, thanking God for giving him the opportunity to suffer for His name. Then the judge sented Nicholas to die by hanging. Thus in the year 1657, the Holy Martyr was hanged. His body lay exposed for three days. Then two Christians were forced by the Turks to take down Nicholas' body, tie a rope to his legs, and drag him to the sea in which they were to cast his body. Certain French Christians then recovered his body after bribing Muslim authorities, and they took it with honors to France, and there they greatly honored him, to the glory of Christ our God.*


* In a Jesuit report from Smyrna in 1658 written by the Jesuit priest Pere Vabois, it sought to prove that the Greeks of Smyrna had embraced union with Rome and therefore were blessed with unique signs of God's mercy. The proof of their superior faith, the report says, was the martyrdom of Nicolas Caseti, a native of Smyrna, which took place a year before in 1657. It then gives a long account of his martyrdom, making the case that he was a hero of Catholicism, rather than an Orthodox Christian. He writes: "One of his [Caseti's] children is now in the school of the fathers of our Company: that suffices to show he was in the path of the Roman Church." However, according to Nikodemos the Hagiorite in his New Martyrology, Nicolas Caseti is called Nicholas Karamanos, and does not speak of any contact he had with the Jesuit missionaries. Rather, he only points out that he was greatly honored by the French who recovered his body and took it with them back to France, where it was received with honor. It is believed that this curious remark of Nikodemos is a legend, indicating in fact that the actual body of Saint Nicholas was never recovered, but in fact remained in the sea, while his son was taken back to France where he was educated in a Jesuit school. See also "Du Glorieux Martyre de Nicolas Caseti" by Auguste Carayon in Relations inédites des missions de la Compagnie de Jésus a Constantinople et Dans le Levant (1864) here for the full account of Father Vabois.