May 25, 2018

The Column of Saint Glykeria Which Held Her Sacred Head

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, in his Synaxaristes of the Twelve Months of the Year, informs us in a footnote to the synaxarion of Saint Glykeria on May 13th, that the Holy Martyr's relics were kept in Herakleia of Thrace. There could be found a bronze basin into which the myrrh that flowed from the relics of the Saint was received, and from this myrrh in the bronze basin many pilgrims came and anointed themselves, and it was responsible for a great number of healings and miracles. This bronze basin was also placed on top of the grave of the Saint for the sanctification of holy water.

When John the Faster served as Patriarch in Constantinople, the Bishop of Herakleia found a golden basin in Constantinople, and decided to offer it to the church which kept the relics of the Holy Martyr in order to replace the bronze basin used for the sanctification of holy water on the grave of the Saint. When the replacement took place, the miracles ceased at the tomb of the Saint. After shedding many tears and praying about this matter, it was revealed to the Bishop of Herakleia that the golden basin was unclean. He therefore brought it to Patriarch John the Faster, who upon inquiry discovered that the bronze basin was used by a wise commander and magician named Paulinus, who would use the golden basin to catch the blood of his sacrifices to the demons, since he was a pagan. This information was brought to the attention of Emperor Maurice. The emperor therefore had Paulinus impaled and his sons beheaded for also participating in idolatrous magic.

In the garden of the Archeological and Ethnographic Museum of Tekirdağ (Tekirdağ Arkeoloji ve Etnografya Müzesi), an original Byzantine column of Saint Glykeria is preserved today. It was recarved from an ancient door-jamb or lintel, and is associated with the rebuilding of the Church of Saint Glykeria under Emperor Basil I. The column dates to the 9th or 10th century, has dimensions of 200 x 67 x 41 cm, and inside it in a contained was kept the head of Saint Glykeria. The following epigram is written on the column:

Ὁ τερπνὸς οὗτο(ς) ὡς σορὸ(ς) κρύπτει λίθ(ο)ς
τῆς θαυματουργοῦ μάρτυρο(ς) Γλυκερίας
θείαν κάραν βρύουσαν ὄμβρο(ν) θαυμάτων
ἐξ ὧν ῥῶσις κάμνουσιν πολλὴ πηγάζει·
πιστῶς προσέρχου πᾶς τις ἁγνῇ καρδίᾳ
καὶ θᾶττον εὕροις τοῦ ποθουμένου λύσιν·
ὡς γὰρ κρήνη τις βλύζουσα ζωῆς ῥεῖθρα
οὕτως πρόκειται πᾶσιν αὐτῆς ἡ χάρις.

This lovely stone encloses like a shrine the
divine head of the miracle-working martyr
Glykeria. From it flows a steady stream of
miracles that gives strength to the suffering.
May everyone approach this a pure heart,
and quickly you will see your desired release
fulfilled. Like a fountain of bubbling life, you
will all experience her grace.

Could this column have once contained the bronze basin mentioned above? We can only wonder.

The life of the fifth-century St. Elisabeth the Wonderworker, for instance, written anywhere between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, describes how the Saint’s parents participated in the annual, week-long festival in honor of St. Glykeria, a second-century martyr of their hometown Herakleia in Thrace. The life relates that Elisabeth’s parents Euphemia and Eunomianos

participated in processions and all-night doxologies and visited the holy shrines throughout the city, shrines which contained the sacred relics of the forty holy women, and Ammos the deacon, and of many others. And so, venerating these saints and giving them due honor, they feasted and celebrated with the populace, carrying with them in procession throughout the city the ever-venerated head of the martyr Glykeria, who was beheaded for the sake of Christ. While the Divine Liturgy was being celebrated by Leo, who was bishop of the city at that time, Eunomianos frequently gazed at the head of St. Glykeria, noticing her sometimes smiling slightly as though happy and sometimes with a sad and gloomy expression. He considered this to be a visible symbol of his trust in the martyr and he found his soul divided between happiness and sadness.