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March 5, 2020

Holy New Martyr George of Rapsani (+ 1818)

St. George of Rapsani (Feast Day - March 5)


By your contest for Christ you cultivated,
Bringing forth George excellent fruits.
On the fifth George endured honorably a great contest.

The Holy New Martyr George came from a rich and noble family of Rapsani in Larisa of Central Greece. His father's name was Hatzilaskaris and was the son of Anastasios Psaltos. His mother's name was Smaragda and was the daughter of Theodoros Sakellaridos. His sister Maria was married to the priest of Rapsani, Father Christodoulos Karazeses. Father Christodoulos was also a teacher at the school of Rapsani, and George was one his students. George graduated from this school in either 1815 or 1816. Upon his graduation George also became a teacher of writing there.

Being a renowned school of the area, a certain Turkish Muslim sent his son to be educated there, and among his teachers was the young man George. The young Turk adapted to the school climate and was competing with his classmates, encouraged by his teacher George, perhaps benefiting from him with special care. However, because a Greek education of the early 19th century was closely associated with an Orthodox Christian education, the young Turk became influenced by these teachings. These teachings began to affect his life, so that he found it difficult living in a Muslim environment with his family during vacation times in Dereli. His father soon noticed this change in his thoughts, beliefs and morals. Not only did the boy gain a great respect for the Greeks, but he also showed a disdain for Islam.

The father went in search of the culprit and found him at the school in Rapsani. He found George and tied him up and dragged him to Tyrnavos, where Veli Pasha, son of Ali Pasha, governed. The father accused George in the courts of the serious crime of Christianizing a Muslim child. The verdict if found guilty would be death. George was indeed found guilty and for this he was tortured without mercy then beheaded. This took place on March 5, 1818 when George was twenty years old.

The martyrdom took place at the barracks on the river islet of Salabria, near the long bridge. The Turks buried him in that area as well. Yet over the course of two nights, a bright light appeared over his grave, which was clearly seen by the Turkish soldiers. For this reason the authorities had his family come from Rapsani to retrieve the body of the Neomartyr. The sacred relic was brought to the cemetery of Rapsani, which was around the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos, near the Karazese household. There his relics can still be found. A church in his name is also built over the spot where his childhood home stood.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Offspring of Rapsani and its fervent protector, and newly-appeared soldier, of the Master of all, George the New Athlete, let us the faithful honor with hymns, for he pours forth every form of grace from God, to those who cry unto him: Glory to Him Who strengthened you, glory to Him Who crowned you, glory to Him Who works through you, every manner of healing.