February 11, 2020

Holy New Martyr George of Kratovo (+ 1515)

St. George of Karatovo (Feast Days - February 11 and May 26)


George not being afraid of the fire,
Remained unconsumed by the fire.

The Holy New Martyr George was born in 1497 in Kratovo of Serbia. His parents were Demetrios and Sarah. Young George received a fine upbringing, he attentively studied the Holy Scriptures, and he was pious and chaste. His father died when he was ten, so he had to support his family by taking on the trade of a goldsmith. Being a handsome young boy, in order to avoid being abducted, molested and indoctrinated by the Turks, he fled with his mother's approval to Sofia in Bulgaria when he was twelve. There he lived with a devout priest named Peter.

Under Father Peter the young George continued his education and working at his craft as a goldsmith. Certain Muslims took notice of him and desired to convert him to Islam. A certain knowledgeable Muslim one day went to George to persuade him to convert, but as a pretext he went with enough gold to commission from George a piece of jewelry. He received a considerable sum for this work, including food and a large tip in order to win George's affection. The money George received he put aside for his mother. However, the Muslim scholar remained in the shop and began a religious dialogue with George.

Little did the Islamic scholar know was that George at eighteen years old was well versed in both the teachings of his own Orthodox Christian faith as well as that of his Muslim neighbors. As they talked, George showed the Muslim how what he offered was temporary pleasures, riches and glory in this world, but what he sought was to live a virtuous life on this earth in order to live eternally with Christ. He therefore put the Muslim to shame and left him dumbfounded. Instead of conceding, the Muslim sought vengeance. He therefore gathered some friends and accused George before the judge in Sofia. He was accused of blaspheming and mocking the Muslim religion and disdaining the authority of the sultan.

To get George to appear before the judge, the Muslim scholar told him that he found employment for George through the judge who sought to commission certain ornaments for his house. When the young and innocent George who merely sought to support his family appeared before the judge to render his services, the judge said that he will give him the work only if he first became a Muslim. Filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the young George again began to refute all the arguments of the Muslims, and remained steadfast in his Orthodox Christian faith.

The judge and those with him became enraged with George, and ordered him to be imprisoned. As he was being led to prison, he was mocked and kicked and beaten by the Muslims on the way. Father Peter saw this and sought for George's release. The prison guard, who was acquainted with Father Peter, merely allowed them to meet and talk. Their conversation was one of encouragement for the young George, who was certain to die for his faith. Father Peter encouraged him to remain faithful and strong till the end, and endure for a short moment the pain in order to gain eternal rest and reward.

A few days passed in which George was continuously urged to convert or die, but he remained steadfast and continuously put the Muslims to shame. Never had George been at the center of such unbridled hatred. The mob wanted to tear him to pieces, but the judge held them back. Seeing that George would not convert, the judge finally asked the mob what should be done with him. They replied that he should be consumed by fire and his ashes scattered to the wind. The judge thought the judgment harsh, but eventually left it to the crowd. The crowd therefore tied George's hands behind his back, put a chain around his neck and dragged him to the marketplace. An Islamic herald then called for the faithful Muslims to gather and bring wood for the burning.

The wood was gathered by the multitude and they brought George to the Church of Hagia Sophia in Sofia. Father Peter followed him and encouraged him to endure and remain faithful to the end, and George asked for his prayers that God will strengthen him. Some Muslims overheard them speaking, and they dragged Father Peter away. However, there was a certain Crypto-Christian who appeared like a Muslim that Father Peter knew, and Father Peter asked him to get as close as possible to overhear anything that George said and what was said to him, and to report it back to him.

The crowd piled the wood and lit a great fire. The Muslims dragged George to the fire, and after his flesh burned for a bit, they would take him away, mocking him and wanting to torture him, but George assured them that he neither feared this fire nor the eternal fire of hell. The fire eventually burned the rope that bound his hands, which allowed George to raise his hands in prayer, do his cross, and surrender his spirit to the Lord. Suddenly a Muslim hit George over the head with a piece of wood, and immediately killed him. A cloud then came over the fire and released a heavy rain to put out the flames. This took place on February 11, 1515 on Meatfare Sunday.

Father Peter then gathered some Christians and they took the body of George to bury him. However, the Muslim mob was not satisfied. They wanted the body of George to be consumed in flames. They therefore proceeded to build another fire greater than the first. The body of the martyr was then cast into the flames, but no matter what they tried, the body would not be consumed. The guards then took the carcasses of animals and threw them into the flames, so the Christians could not distinguish between the bones of George and those of the animals. The body of the martyr however continued to remain sound and intact. The guards informed the Christians to go home and allow the body to burn for a whole day.

While the Christians and Father Peter went home, a certain Christian informed them that he would stay and try to take the body and bring it to the house of the priest. Somehow he was able through a clever operation to take the body and he brought it to the Cathedral of Holy Great Martyr George. The priest then received permission from the judge, who now looked at George as a saint, to bury the body. On May 26, 1515 the holy relics of Saint George were removed from the grave, placed in a coffin, and then brought into the Church of Saint Marina with due honor.

The biography of Saint George was eventually written by Father Peter between 1515 and 1523. The work was published by Serbian intellectual Stojan Novaković in 1867, transcribed from a manuscript held in the National Library of Serbia in Belgrade. Milan Milićević wrote a work on George in 1885. In Bulgaria, where he is known as Saint George the New of Sofia, he became especially honored during the Bulgarian National Revival, after Paisius of Hilandar included him in the list of Bulgarian saints, in his Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya (1762). In 1855 Nikola Karastoyanov from Samokov printed the Life of Saint George the New, based on a manuscript kept in the metropolitan library of Sofia. During the first half of the 19th century Saint George the New became popular also among Bulgarian painters and was depicted in many churches. In Serbia it has been maintained that his father and mother were of Serbian origin. Bulgarian sources claim he and his parents were Bulgarians. According to the Orthodox Church, George of Kratovo is celebrated on 11 February and 26 May.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
By the divine Spirit, you proclaimed, the Creator's, economy, having struggled in the contest George. And though you were brought to the fire to be burned, you refresh us with divine grace. Glorious Martyr, entreat Christ God, to grant us the great mercy.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
By the grace of Christ, your divinely inspired tongue, spoke loudly glorious one, like a divinely-sounding trumpet, voicing the magnitude of impiety, unfettering, the lawless myths. For this Martyr George, you became a holocaust to the Lord.

The new weapon-bearer of Christ, with his wise words, astounded the enemy, and was brought forth, as a sacrifice to the Lord, George we harmoniously praise you.