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May 19, 2020

Holy Hieromartyr Melchizedek, Bishop of Kisamos (+ 1821)

St. Melchizedek of Kisamos (Feast Day - May 19)

Melchizedek Despotakis, originating from Heraklion in Crete, became a monk at a young age and went to the the city of Iasi, Romania for higher education as an apprentice near the teacher Kleoboulos. In January 1818 he was ordained Bishop of the Diocese of Kisamos and Selino, succeeding Ioannikios. Being brave and with a thriving national phronema, he had been introduced into the Revolutionary Organization called “Filiki Eteria” (Friendly Company) by Pangalos Varnavas. He became a leader of the revolution of 1821. He had a brave and fearless character and, as a bishop, he repelled many unjust demands of the Turkish Janissaries.

In mid-May 1821 the Turks in Chania, already knowing the moves of the Bishop in the province of Selino, once he returned to his diocesan headquarters, which in those years was the village of Episkopi in Kisamos with the ancient Church of the Rotonda (Archangel Michael) as the metropolitan church, the Turkish commander of Chania, Serif Pasha, demanded the arrest and imprisonment of the Bishop. The Pasha, obeying the demands of the mob, ordered for the Bishop to be arrested on the charge that "he toured his provinces, encouraging his people to revolt." They led him to the prisons of Chania to be imprisoned in Fort Splantzia (Turkish district then) along with his deacon Kallinikos, from Beroia, who was hated by the Turks for his way of teaching, and they sneeringly called him “Nizamzetitlin”. They arrested him in the village of Pervolia, in the house of Konstantinos Gerakakis.

The Turkish mob, with shouts and uproar, demanded that the Bishop and his deacon be delivered into their hands. The Pasha gave permission and from that point on, we rely on eyewitnesses to give us the true account of what happened.

“They hanged the bishop after having humiliated him by dragging him around the streets of Chania naked, mocking him, plucking the hairs from his beard and hitting him on the head. After hanging him, they removed off his eyes and mutilated his holy body. They did the same to his deacon Kallinikos,” wrote Cretan members of the “Filiki Eteria” to the people of Hydra on 25 May 1821.

There are some notes kept at the French Embassy of Chania which report that the Bishop’s last words to his tormentors were: “Eat my flesh, you beasts, but the spirit that I now hand over to my Maker you cannot hurt. I firmly hope that God will punish you very soon for you have so unfairly shed the blood of Christians.”

Bishop Melchizedek of Kisamos and his deacon Kallinikos were hanged "with despicable insolence" on a plain tree in the Square of Splantzia in Chania on May 19 1821. It was the day when Christians celebrated the Ascension of the Lord. There, several years ago, was erected a commemorative plaque which reads: "ON 19 MAY 1821 THE TURKS HANGED ON THIS PLAIN TREE THE BISHOP MELCHIZEDEK AND KALLINIKOS THE DEACON FROM BEROIA. MAY THE MEMORY OF THESE MARTYRS BE ETERNAL."

On 21 September 2000, the Ecumenical Patriarchate officially acknowledged Bishop Melchizedek, as well as all the other clerics who became martyrs during the years 1821–1822, as Saints.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
By the divine Spirit, you were shown to be, a shepherd of your flock with your staff, heavenly Melchizedek of Kisamos, and by hanging your path was completed, inheriting a heavenly habitation. Wherefore intercede, all-glorious one, to Christ God, to grant us the great mercy.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Offspring of Beroia, and adornment of Crete, to the trophy-bearing soldier, Kallinikos we sing hymns, esteemed with honor by the martyrs, his life ended by hanging, showing himself to be a model of Orthodoxy, to whom the faithful cry out: Glory to Him Who gave you strength, glory to Him Who made you wondrous, glory to you who glorified Jesus by your divine contest.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
The glory of Chania and the boast of Crete, the martyrdom of Melchizedek the president of Kisamos and Selino do we honor together with that of the revered Kallinikos, for their contest by hanging was seen to be as a liberation by the Cretan slaves. Glory to the prize-giver Jesus, glory to Him who liberated us, glory to Him Who through you grants us the forgiveness of sins.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.