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November 28, 2019

The Holy Fifteen Martyrs of Tiberioupolis, Patrons of Kilkis

Kilkis is a city in Central Macedonia, Greece. During the First Balkan War of 1912, the Ottoman Empire was defeated by the Balkan League and forced to concede almost all of its European territories, leaving Kilkis within the new boundaries of Bulgaria. In the Second Balkan War of 1913, the Greek army captured the city from the Bulgarians after the three-day Battle of Kilkis-Lahanas between June 19 and June 21. The battle was costly, with over 8,652 casualties on the Greek side and 7,000 on the Bulgarian side. The significance of the Battle of Kilkis-Lahanas can be appreciated by the fact that Greece named a battleship after the city, the Kilkís. Kilkis was almost completely destroyed by the Greek Army after the battle and virtually all of its 13,000 pre-war Bulgarian inhabitants were expelled to Bulgaria. The new town was built closer to the railway tracks to Thessaloniki, around the Greek Church of Saint George, and was settled by Greeks who were expelled from Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, especially from Strumica.

Because Strumica (ancient Tiberioupolis) was the site of the martyrdom of the Holy Fifteen Martyrs of Tiberioupolis, they were the patron saints of the city with the main Cathedral dedicated to them. When the Greeks were resettled in Kilkis, they brought with them the old icon of the Fifteen Martyrs and changed the local Church of the Transfiguration into the Church of the Pentekaídeka Martýrōn (Five and Ten Martyrs) and made these Holy Martyrs the patron saints of Kilkis just as they were for the Greeks in Strumica. They also brought with them an old revered icon of Saint Demetrios, so they changed the local Church of Saint Athanasios into a church dedicated to Saint Demetrios just as they had in Strumica. The greatest treasure the Greeks brought to Kilkis from Strumica was the sacred relic of the right hand of the Hieromartyr Peter the Presbyter, one of the Fifteen Martyrs. The resettled Greeks were so many that Kilkis was temporarily renamed Néa Stromnítsa (New Strumica). On July 19, 1967, by royal decree, the Holy Fifteen Martyrs were declared the patron saints of Kilkis, whose memory is celebrated on November 28th, and it was to be a day of celebration and no work.

In 1968 the Church of the Pentekaídeka Martýrōn suffered damage due to an earthquake, so construction began on a new church which stands today on June 12, 1977. The door-opening of the church took place on November 27, 1989 while the consecration took place on October 21, 1990. In this church the old icon of the Saints and the sacred relic are still kept.