May 28, 2019

Saint Niketas, Archbishop of Chalcedon

St. Niketas of Chalcedon (Feast Day - May 28)

In the northwest area of the island of Lefkada there is a resort village called Agios Niketas, named after a church there dedicated to Saint Niketas, which was built probably in the early 18th century by unknown builders in an uninhabited area during Venetian rule. The church always operated as an Orthodox church and was used by the inhabitants of nearby settlements, at least since the beginning of the 19th century. With the establishment of the Agios Niketas settlement in the 1830s and in consultation with the local Metropolitan of Lefkados and Agia Mavras Eugenios II, originating from the area, the Saint is designated as the patron saint of the new settlement and the sacred temple is transferred to a larger church with easier access, so that it fully serves its inhabitants. According to tradition, at the location where the church is today, there once were rocks. An icon was miraculously found here, that bore the name "Saint Niketas," but he was dressed as a Bishop. When those who found the icon brought it to the Metropolitan, he could not figure out which Saint Niketas this was. Among the saints of the Church there is a Saint Niketas who was a Martyr and another a Monk, but we have none who were a Bishop. In around 1860 experts on Mount Athos were contacted, where there are catalogues of little known saints, and from there they were informed that it was probably Saint Niketas the Archbishop of Chalcedon, who is barely known, and is listed for commemoration on May 28th in the Lavra Codex Δ 39, Θ 87, Δ 36 και Ω 147. A Service was composed in his honor by the Athonite monk Iakovos Melendytes in 1861.

From this information we learn that Saint Niketas was Metropolitan of Chalcedon between the years 726 and 775 and lived during the years of Iconoclasm. He was a Confessor of the Orthodox faith who defended the veneration of icons and suffered for it by being exiled, together with his brother Ignatios. Having stepped down as Metropolitan of Chalcedon, he ended his years in a monastery in Palestine, where he reposed in peace. Other sources have him dying as a martyr in the ninth century during the reign of Leo V.

In the 14th century the relics of a "Saint Niketas the Martyr" were transferred from Nicomedia to the Church of San Raffaele Arcangelo in the Dorsoduro area of Venice. As this Saint was unknown to the people of Venice, he became known as "Saint Niketas of Nicomedia," believed to be a child of the Emperor Maximianus in the third century who died as a martyr. But a study of this relic was made in 1995 which concluded the relic belonged to an elderly man. The researcher further discovered that this relic probably belonged to Saint Niketas the Bishop of Chalcedon, who according to Greek sources died as a martyr but in Slavic sources he died as a confessor. It appears his body was in a Roman sarcophagus from the 9th to the 14th century in a church dedicated to him in the city of Ryssion (known also in Greek as Aretsou and in Turkish as Darika), which was a city about 45 miles from Nicomedia and belonged to the Metropolis of Chalcedon. The Church of Saint Niketas in Ryssion was destroyed in a great fire that struck it in the early 20th century. The relic can still be found in Venice.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith, an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence; your humility exalted you; your poverty enriched you. Hierarch Father Niketas, entreat Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
You shone with the splendor of your deeds, venerable Niketas. You became an heir to the throne of the apostles. Completely filled, O Father, with the teachings of God, you shone like the sun upon your flock. Therefore we cry out to you: Rejoice, beauty of Chalcedon.

The bright boast of the island of Lefkada, and the foundation and eye of the Church, and the savior of the village that bears his name, let us all sing hymns to the Hierarch Niketas.

Church of St. Niketas in Lefkada

Relics of St. Niketas in Venice