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May 14, 2018

Holy Martyr Isidore of Chios

St. Isidore of Chios (Feast Day - May14)


Isidore is gladdened with the hope of the crown,
And he went to be beheaded after the crown.
On the fourteenth Isidore was beheaded by the sword.

The Holy Martyr Isidore lived during the reign of Emperor Decius (249-251) and was from Alexandria of Egypt. From childhood, Isidore adhered to the faith of Christ and spent his entire life in fasting, prayer and good works. He was a Roman soldier who was sent with a fleet to the island of Chios under the military commander Numerian. Because he refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods, a centurion named Julian betrayed him as being a Christian to Numerian.

At the interrogation before Numerian Saint Isidore without flinching confessed his faith in Christ the Savior and refused to offer sacrifice to idols. Numerian urged the Saint not to expose himself to tortures and to obey the will of the emperor, but Isidore answered: "Even if you kill my body, you have no authority over my soul. I possess the true, living God, Jesus Christ Who now lives in me, and after my death He will be with me, and I am in Him and will remain in Him and I will never cease to confess His Holy Name as long as my soul is in my body." The Saint was handed over to torture. During the time of torments he praised Christ God and denounced the pagan idols.

When the Saint's father learned that Isidore was a confessed Christian, he journeyed to Chios to convince him to deny his faith. He succeeded in convincing Numerian to deliver Isidore into his custody, and proceeded to try to convert him. The Saint, however, entreated his father to open the eyes of his soul and behold the truth concerning Christ. His father was uncompromising, and could not accept that his son believed in the Crucified Nazarene and refused to accept his ancestral religion of idols. He condemned him and delivered him to the commander Numerian, entreating him to expedite the death sentence of his son.

First, the commander ordered that Isidore be beaten with ox hide, then dragged along the ground over rocks, and after that they cut out his tongue. Even without his tongue, Isidore, by the Spirit of God, spoke and confessed the Name of Christ. Meanwhile, the punishment of God came upon the commander and he, suddenly, became mute. Finally, the mute commander gave the sign to behead Isidore. Isidore was elated at this sentence and after praising God went to the place of execution where he was beheaded.

After the execution his body was cast without burial into a well to be devoured by animals, but the courageous Ammonios (Sept. 4) and Myrope (Dec. 2) secretly took his body, censed it, and honorably buried it in a special place. The villainous Numerian heard that the martyr's body had been stolen and wanted to kill the two guards ordered to guard the body from being taken. Learning that innocent men would suffer for her good deed, blessed Myrope appeared before the authorities and acknowledged that she had taken the martyr's body and buried it.

By order of Numerian, the entire body of Christ's holy virgin was severely whipped, and finally she was cast into prison covered with wounds. But the Lord did not leave His martyr comfortless. At midnight a heavenly light illumined the prison, and many angels, with Saint Isidore in their midst, appeared to her: "Peace be to you, Myrope," Saint Isidore said to her. "Your prayer has reached God, and soon you will be with us and will receive the crown prepared for you." The holy martyr rejoiced and at that moment surrendered her soul to God. A sweet fragrance issued from her body, filling the entire prison. One of the guards, seeing all of this and sensing the fragrance, believed in Christ, was baptized, and soon received a martyr's death. Later on Ammonios himself accepted a martyr's death in the city of Kyzikos.

The body of Myrope was interred beside Isidore's, and a chapel erected over the graves. Saint Markianos, Oikonomos of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, built another in the fifth century next to the Church of Hagia Eirene. He also transferred to Constantinople the skull and a portion of the relics of the Saint, which he placed in the Church of the Panagia in Peran.

Mosaic in the Chapel of Saint Isidore in Venice of the Translation of the Relics of the Saint to Venice

The existence of the remainder of the relic on the island of Chios, together with numerous miracles there, is testified in the sixth century by Saint Martin of Tours (Glory of the Martyrs, 101): "The martyr Isidore is buried on the island of Chios - such is the name of the island. In the Saint's church there is a well into which he is said to have been thrown. After drinking from the water of this well, possessed people, people with fevers, and other ill people are often cured. It is said that believers often see there a light similar to a burning candle. I myself met a priest who insisted that he had often seen this light from the mouth of the well. On this island a seed is picked from the mastic trees that, so they widely say, are not found in other regions."

Tomb of St. Isidore in Chios

There is a local tradition that in the place where Saint Isidore was martyred, the mastic trees shed fragrant tears at the suffering of the Holy Martyr of Christ. The tradition holds that the mastic, which is a major product of the island of Chios, can only be gathered and prepared from the trees in the area of the Saint's martyrdom. Thus the masticha, or mastic, is a divine gift, and a blessing to the people of Chios.

Tomb of St. Isidore in St. Mark's Cathdral in Venice

Saint Isidore's body was stolen by the Latin priest Cebrano Cebrani from Chios, when Doge Domenico Michiel was wintering in Chios, and taken to Venice in 1125, where it was hidden in the palace of Doge Domenico Michiel; it was re-discovered in the early fourteenth century and exposed to public veneration in Saint Mark's Cathedral, where also a chapel was built dedicated to the Saint. In 1356, the relics of Isidore and Myrope were moved by the Latins to their chapel in the Church of Saint Mark in Venice, thus connecting this martyr from Alexandria with the Apostle Mark who preached the gospel in Alexandria. On September 17, 1627 the skull of Saint Isidore encased in a silver and jeweled reliquary, was stolen from Constantinople by a local Christian financed by Venetian authorities and translated to Venice, where it arrived on March 1 in 1627.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Enlisted by the King of the Ages, thou didst spurn the earthly king with his army and boldly preach Christ our God. Therefore thou didst complete thy contest and shine forth as His glorious Martyr. Entreat Him to save our souls, for we honour thee, blessed Isidore.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Thou hast become a great guide to the world through thy prayers. Wherefore today we praise thee with hymns, O holy Martyr, glorious Isidore.

Your head was cut off by a sword, having cut off the devices, of error O Athlete, and you were united to Christ, the head of all, by participating in his passion, O Isidore.