Friday, March 5, 2021

The House, School and Relics of Saint George of Rapsani

First Icon of St. George of Rapsani from 1872

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 a 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. One of his students was a Muslim child who upon being influenced by the atmosphere of this Christian school abandoned Islam and became a Christian. The father of the child blamed George for converting his child, so he found George at the school 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. He was buried there, but on the first night a pillar of light stood over his grave, which frightened the Turks, so the authorities gave his family permission to take his relics back to Rapsani, where he was buried with honors in the cemetery.
 
Around four years later, in 1822, the relics of Saint George were taken to the school where Saint George taught writing for three years, and kept there for veneration. This was in the upper district of Rapsani.

On November 17, 1858 the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos (also known as the Church of the Panagia) was built in the lower district. It was around this time that the Metropolitan of Larissa transferred the relics of Saint George from the school to this church.
 
During the events of the Olympus Revolution in 1878, which had an unfortunate outcome as it led to great destruction in Rapsani, in that it was set on fire by the Turks on February 27, 1878. Apart from the Church of the Panagia, there were also consumed houses, schools, buildings and a large library of the village with about two thousand volumes of various religious and historical books and manuscripts! The beautiful church was rebuilt in the same place and foundation with the assistance of the inhabitants of Rapsani and was inaugurated on August 15, 1878, almost half a year after its destruction.
 
Unfortunately, during this fire the relics of Saint George were consumed as well, except his skull, which by divine providence was being kept during the fire in the Church of Saint Athanasios in the upper district, and was entirely kept from harm. The skull of the Saint was thus brought back down to the Church of the Panagia after it was rebuilt, and it remains there to this day.
 
The school of Saint George, where he taught for three years and where his relics were kept for years as well, was also burned down in 1878, and it was rebuilt as a residence, called the House of Karavasili. There the owner of the house keeps a lamp burning in front of an icon of Saint George in the location of the room where the relics were kept.
 
More recently, a small church dedicated to Saint George of Rapsani was built in the lower district over the location where his family home was located.
 
The House of Karavasili
Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos (of the Panagia)
Skull of Saint George with other relics of Saints
Newly-Built Church of Saint George of Rapsani
 
Road leading from the Upper and Lower Districts, the Church of Saint Athanasios can be seen at the top.
Rapsani

 
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