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December 17, 2018

Holy Martyr Niketas the New

St. Niketas the New Martyr (Feast Day - December 17)


A new athlete of our times,
Equal to the athlete Niketas of old.

The Protovestiarios and Grand Logothete Theodore Mouzalon (d. 1294) wrote an Encomium to this Saint, which is our only source of information about him. He writes that Niketas was born with the name Theodore in Ancyra of Galatia and when he was ordained a Reader he was renamed Niketas in honor of Saint Niketas the Goth. With two merchants he traveled to Nyssa, then in Seljuk hands, when he was twenty, in order to visit his aunt, sister and her husband. When they arrived in Nyssa it was the month of Ramadan and Niketas with his two companions were observed drinking wine. For this Niketas and his two companions were arrested and brought before the judge.

Before the judge they were interrogated, and Niketas informed the Muslim judge that drinking wine during Ramadan was something permitted to Christians, who were not required to keep the Muslim fast. And when Niketas called Muhammad a false prophet, the judge became enraged and had them whipped. A burning stake was prepared outside the city, and the two companions of Niketas converted to Islam, urging him to do the same. The aunt of the Holy Martyr at first pleaded with her nephew to convert to Islam and save his life, but she was rebuked by her nephew who told her to imitate not Eve but the mother of the Maccabees.

At the place of execution, where a Muslim mob gathered, they began to stab Niketas with sharp knives. Niketas was then burnt at the stake on the feast of Saint Niketas the Goth. He was then buried next to the tomb of Saint Gregory of Nyssa by his parents and the Bishop of Koloneia. For seven days a miraculous light shone at the grave, which the Muslims thought to be conjured by his mourning mother. We are not told the exact date of this event, but it took place during the reign of Andronikos II Palaiologos (1282-1328).