February 6, 2018

The Turks Who Tried to Destroy the Tomb of Saint Boukolos in the 17th century

Saint Boukolos was the first Bishop of Smyrna, who reposed in Smyrna in the early second century. Before his repose, he chose Polycarp to succeed him, and Polycarp had him buried at the cemetery of the Royal Ephesian Gate of Smyrna. He was buried where a myrtle tree began to miraculously grow when Saint Thraseas was buried there, and it was at the point where the feet of Saint Boukolos's feet were located, and it covered over his grave to his head. This tree had miraculous properties, and when Christians went to his grave to venerate him, they would consume the leaves and fruits of the tree, and the sick would be healed and barren women would be able to bear children. In the fifth century a chapel was built next to the grave.

Unfortunately, in the year 1663, the area of the grave of the Saint was bought by a certain Turk, who wanted to cut the tree down, and destroy the grave, so as to prevent Christians from gathering at his property. However, as he cut down the tree, he mistakenly cut off his foot, and thus bled to death. Christians saw this as divine intervention, and daily would visit the grave of the Saint, which now had no tree, and they would offer incense and light candles. 

A few years later, a new owner bought the site, and he flattened the ground to build properties. On February 6, 1667, which was the feast of the Saint, though he was unaware of it, he opened the grave and scattered the relics. When the Christians came to celebrate the feast of the Saint, they found his relics scattered everywhere, so they gathered them and dispersed them to the various churches in the area, while at the same time many kept some portions for themselves and brought them to their homes. Pious Christians would still visit the grave however, and the miracles continued. It wasn't until 1858 that the Church of Saint Boukolos and Polycarp was established at the site, that still operates till today.

On February 6, 2015 Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Mayor Aziz Kocao─člu of ─░zmir planted olive and myrtle tree saplings at the exterior space of Saint Boukolos Church, and they have now become a main tourist attraction, where numerous visitors and locals hasten to tie pieces of cloth to the branches of the myrtle tree to make their requests known to the Saint.