July 3, 2019

Finding of the Grave and Relics of Saint Raphael in Karyes of Mytilene in 1959

Finding of the Grave and Relics of Saint Raphael in Karyes
 (Feast Day - July 3)

In 1959 a pious Christian couple, Angelos and Vasiliki Rallis, became owners of Karyes on the island of Lesvos. They had been living in Mytilene when they heard of a mansion in Thermi of Karyes that was long haunted by a monk. In her testimony of these events, Vasiliki Rallis recalled: "In 1925 my mother and my uncle - Constantine Marangos, brother of my father, who was killed by the Turks in 1922 at Kydoniai (Aivali) - acquired an olive grove at the region known as Karyes. They purchased it from the National Bank of Greece. This estate had belonged to a Turk named Hasan Effendi. The region of Karyes, which consists of the estate they bought and those around it, was also known as Kalogeros (which is translated as 'monk'). It was thus named because, ever since the people of Thermi remember, it was regarded as haunted by some monk. Many shepherds and other persons have often seen there a monk walking about. They also heard church bells and chanting. The same monk who used to be seen at Karyes was also appearing at the Turkish mansion inside Thermi."

Vasiliki goes on to recount: "When the refugees came in 1922, some families took up residence in that house. It so happened that my mother and uncle Constantine Marangos went and lived there. They dwelt in the mansion - and I together with them - for about ten years. During this period, they often saw a priest censing, especially on Saturday nights and on the eve of holy days. They called him 'the phantasm that causes no evil.' They were not afraid."

Concerning the olive grove at Karyes, which was near the village of Thermi, Vasiliki spoke further: "When my uncle Constantine Marangos purchased the estate at Karyes, he made a vow to build upon it a chapel. There existed then, at that site, a large broken marble, which served as a Holy Altar. Near it was an enormous holm-oak, which provided shade. This marble together with the oak, was spoken of as the country Chapel of the Panagia. There were no walls. The people of Thermi would gather here on the Tuesday after Pasha, when a Divine Liturgy was performed. The event assumed the form of a great festival. Why they kept this custom they knew not. It was simply a tradition which they had received from earlier generations."

Although Constantine vowed to build a chapel, he neglected to do so and died in 1950 without fulfilling his vow. The mother of Vasiliki, as well as Kostas Sideras (who worked for Constantine in his bakery), would see him in their dreams saying that his heir, which was his niece Vasiliki, should fulfill his vow, because his failure to do so was oppressing his soul. According to Vasiliki's mother Angelike Marangos: "Early in July of 1959, my son-in-law, Angelos Rallis, began excavating the foundations for the chapel. He did this after a family discussion about the matter, in which he, my daughter Vasiliki, Maria Marangos (the widow of Constantine), and I took part. Moreover, we all agreed on this enterprise. A builder went up to the olive grove and marked out where the foundations were to be laid. He then left the laborer, Doukas Tsolakis, to commence the digging."

Doukas Tsolakis then goes on to recount: "When the builder and Mr. Rallis left the site where the chapel was to be erected, I began, alone, digging to open the foundations. The next day, the 3rd of July, exactly at noon, I found a grave within the area which had been marked by the builder. This discovery occurred without any previous indication in a dream by anyone. The stone slabs which covered the grave had evidently been brought here from another place, as there are no mixture of quicklime and ground red tile known as kourasani, at the joints of the slabs, and distinguished the outline of one of them. Each slab was about a meter long and two-thirds of a meter wide."

He goes on to recall: "Lifting two of the heavy slabs, I saw an untouched skeleton. There was no soil at all inside the tomb. The head was about thirty centimeters away from the body. Beside the head there was a red tile with three crosses inscribed on it by means of a knife or some other sharp instrument. This showed the bones were those of a Christian. I noticed also that the lower jaw was missing. I removed the relics and cast them out, in order to open up the space. Then I took all the larger remains and put them in a sack. Later, I took the sack and placed it under an olive tree. It remained there for about five days. One day, a child who had come with his grandmother took a stone and broke the skull. I, thereupon, transferred the relics into an empty cement bag and put it under another tree."

Doukas Tsolakis then goes on to explain how the next day, in his frustration, he took the bag and cast away. That night at 7:00 p.m., he went to pick up the bag he tossed and an electric shock went through his hands. This happened three times. He was forced to make the sign of the cross at this point, something he had not done in twenty-seven years, and after this he was able to easily lift the bag and put it on another tree, where it remained for three weeks. Meanwhile the chapel was being built.

It was Doukas Tsolakis who found the grave and relics of Saint Raphael, though they did not yet know his name, as he had not revealed himself up to this point. They realized however that this was the hieromonk that haunted the mansion of Thermi.