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May 10, 2021

The Mystery of the Missing Relics of Saint Cyril VI, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 1821)

The martyrdom of Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril VI of Constantinople on 18 April 1821 by the Turks, who was hanged in Adrianople and whose body was dumped in the river Evros, is still a topic of discussion in the remote village of Pythio in the eastern part of Didymoteicho, on the Greek-Turkish border.

A few meters from the only cafe of the village where the few residents gather to discuss their lives and the news, there is a narrow alley with the empty tomb of the Patriarch, above which stands a chapel dedicated to his memory that is cared for daily by the residents. In 1993 the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece recognized him as a Saint of the Church, but no one knows where his sacred relics are located.

Saint Cyril was born in Adrianople. In 1803 he was elected Metropolitan of Iconium, while in 1810 he took over the Metropolis of Adrianople. In 1813 he was elected Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople after the resignation of Patriarch Jeremiah IV. In 1818 he was forced to resign due to pressure from Sultan Mahmut II, while, it is said, he was an advisor to the Filiki Etairia, a Greek secret society that planned the Greek Revolution. After his resignation, Cyril returned to Adrianople. In 1821, at the Metropolis of Adrianople, the janissaries, by order of the Sultan, hanged him and after three days threw his body into the river Evros.

Days later, Christos Argyrios, a resident of Pythio, found the body of the Patriarch tangled with wood in the riverbed. According to the residents, Argyriou hid the body of Cyril on his cart, covered it with wood and then secretly buried it in the yard of his house.

"Where his tomb is now was the location of the house of Christos Argyrios who had retrieved the body of the Saint when he was hanged by the Turks and thrown into the river Evros. He was buried on his property and later they built his grave there and now it is an empty grave", said the municipal councilor of Didymoteicho, Ioannis Sarsakis. Pythio belongs administratively to Didymoteicho.

However, no one knows where the relics of Cyril VI are today.

"It is unknown, no one knows. When Pythio was liberated, exactly 100 years ago, Thrace and Eastern Thrace were liberated. At that time, the remains were transported to Adrianople. This liberation lasted for two years, however, when, after 1922, with the catastrophe, someone allegedly took them down to Athens, to the Benaki Museum. The former Metropolitan of Didymoteicho, the late Nikiephoros, had searched for them but could not find anything. Today it is unknown where his remains are", concluded Mr. Sarsakis.

The inhabitants of Pythio would like the sacred relics to be found and returned to the grave. 
Saint Cyril VI is commemorated on April 18th, unless it falls on or before Easter, when it is transferred to the Sunday of Thomas. On this day every year the residents celebrate the Divine Liturgy at his empty grave.