June 17, 2021

Holy New Hieromartyr Parthenios Pagkostas of Patmos (+ 1629)

St. Parthenios of Patmos (Feast Day - June 17)


You were called, Parthenios, to confess Christ,
Courageously you contested, boast of Patmos.

Saint Parthenios, who was known as Panagiotis Pagkostas in the world, came from a noble family on the island of Patmos, and was a ship captain by trade. Commercial reasons often forced him to travel to various ports in Europe, even to those in the distant Netherlands. At some point he no longer desired worldly pursuits and decided to devote his life fully to Christ by becoming a monk at the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Patmos.

In the year 1606 Parthenios signed as Abbot of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian a letter he sent to the governor of the Venetian Republic of Crete. In 1607, the year of the foundation of the Monastery of Zoodochos Pege, he is still the Abbot of the Monastery. This is confirmed by the wall plaque which is the founding inscription on the lintel of the main entrance of the katholikon of Zoodochos Pege: "Parthenios the Hieromonk and Abbot of Patmos...."

He established the Monastery of Zoodochos Pege in Patmos as a female monastery on property owned by his family where there was a church dedicated to the Reception of Christ, and it was close to the family mansion. However, this decision of Parthenios to establish a monastery in Patmos seems to have encountered difficulties and that there were objections. The reactions he encountered did not cancel his goal. The purpose of the establishment of the Monastery was, apart from being spiritual, also charitable. As stipulated in the Testament of the founder, its establishment was aimed at the protection and for the refuge of "widows and unmarried young women". The Monastery was dedicated to "Christ the Savior and His Mother the Life-Giving Spring". It was founded in the year 1607 and already ten years later, in 1617, its fortified wall and the narthex of the katholikon had been completed.

Parthenios, despite the difficulties he faced, sought to secure the Monastery financially and administratively. For its financial support and independence, he bought and endowed the sisterhood with estates in Milos, Samos, Santorini, as well as with many movable and immovable assets. At the same time, he considered it necessary to secure it with administrative autonomy. For this purpose, in the year 1615 he hastened to Constantinople and with the Patriarchal and Synodal sigil of Patriarch Timothy II, the Sacred Monastery of Zoodochos Pege in Patmos was classified among the Stavropegic Monasteries.

An oral tradition depicts Parthenios determining the architectural structure of the Monastery, according to a plan indicated to him in a vision by an Angel of the Lord. After giving it an extremely original architectural look, he made sure to decorate its katholikon with frescoes and an imposing wood-carved iconostasis. The founder also took care, in addition to the landscaping of the Monastery, to collect valuable vessels, part of which are kept in the treasury.

Demetrios Kallimachos, who was secretary of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, has preserved for us two traditions from the early 20th century regarding the death of Saint Parthenios, as he heard it from various elders in Patmos at the time and from Abbot Agathangelos.

In the year 1629 a Turkish fleet docked off of Patmos. The Turkish admiral went to visit the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, and was amazed by the majestic fortified building complex of the Monastery of Zoodochos Pege which was to the southwest of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian. He was particularly concerned about the defensive bastions of the ramparts of this building complex. The explanation that the ramparts were intended to protect and defend the nuns from pirate raids did not seem to have convinced him. The Turkish admiral, suspecting the Monastery of revolutionary aims, ordered that Parthenios be arrested and tortured.

Traitorous residents of the island who were known to hate Parthenios and his work also contributed to having him arrested. Immediately after his arrest, the Turkish admiral subjected him to brutal tortures. After stripping him naked, they tortured him "by cutting off his beard, pouring boiling oil on his chest" and placing "a fiery bronze vessel on his head, and all over his fingers they stuck sharp reeds, and they poured burning oil on his wounds."

To the above tortures, Nikolaos Pagkostas in a handwritten book of 1881 adds one more thing: "The Turks removed his eyes with a fork and because of this the people of Patmos called him a martyr and attributed a healing power against those stricken with fever for those who took dirt from his grave."

After the terrible tortures, Parthenios died. As we said, regarding his death there are two versions. The first depicts Parthenios as dying during the tortures: "Hot oil was poured on the wounds so that the victim of the Pasha's atrocity breathed his last." Gerasimos Smyrnakis reports the event with some variation. He says that, after he was tortured, he was "thrown out of the frigate half-dead and breathed his last after a short time on June 17, 1629."

The above first version of the tradition about the death of Parthenios is accepted by most scholars of Patmian matters. The second version, which is supported by Demetrios Kallimachos and is based on the narrations recorded by the nuns of Zoodochos Pege, states that Parthenios endured the tortures of the Turks, but did not die during them. After being tortured, he was taken by the Turkish admiral to Constantinople, where he was imprisoned. He was released after the nuns of Zoodochou Pege paid a ransom. The fact that Parthenios was tortured, finds both versions of the tradition consistent. This view is reinforced by the fresco of the founder, located above his tomb, on the north wall of the narthex.

Parthenios is depicted standing, with a pale face, closed eyes, beardless, and on the head he is seen wearing a white handkerchief. At this point, comments Gerasimos Smyrnakis, it seems that the painter wanted to portray "Parthenios being in his torturous state and for this reason he was depicted shaved." The depiction of Parthenios with his eyes closed reinforces the information that his eyes were removed with a fork.

Therefore, none of those who preserved the tradition of the tortures Parthenios suffered disagree. The dispute is whether he died during the torture or survived and was imprisoned. 
Till this day Saint Parthenios is invoked by locals to be healed of fevers.