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August 14, 2021

Holy New Martyr Kassandra of Trebizond (+ 1677)

Trebizond, the capital of Pontus in Asia Minor, was the last bastion of Romiosini after the Fall of Constantinople, when it also fell to the Ottomans in 1461. By the 1600's, while under Ottoman slavery, there existed in Trebizond two powerful Greek families - the Mourouzi family and the Ypsilantis family. These two families had privileges from the Ottomans, which led them to the highest steps of the State administration, and the acquisition of titles, among other things. Yet under Sultan Mehmet IV, the Greeks of Pontus of the 17th century faced incidents of violent persecution with forced Islamization.

At the age of 16, the noblewoman Kassandra Mourouzi married John Ypsilantis. One day John was at the port when he clashed with two Ottoman soldiers who tried to kidnap two six year old Christian girls from their grandfather who was taking them to Constantinople. The old man fought to protect his granddaughters, but he was unable to protect the girls. When John got involved, he killed the two Ottoman soldiers and helped the old man escape with his granddaughters on a ship bound for Constantinople.

During the fight, John was injured, and he managed to return to his mansion, where he was cared for by his now 33 year old wife Kassandra, but he died shortly after.

Now at the age of 33, Kassandra was left a widow with three boys to take care of - Constantine, Demetrios and Emmanuel. On top of this, she had to face Turkish justice, since the Koran explicitly states that if a Giaour is sentenced to death and is not arrested, then his accomplice will be sentenced in his place. In short, since John Ypsilantis died, they would have to kill his wife Kassandra for the murders of the Ottoman soldiers.

In the beginning, the widow Kassandra hid with her three little boys in relatives' houses.

Meanwhile the Ottoman persecutors burned her mansion, they burned the whole village of Ypsilo and insisted on burning other Pontian villages if the noblewoman Kassandra did not surrender.

Kassandra, in order to save her fellow Orthodox people, sent her boys to a relative and surrendered to the pasha of Trebizond.

There she was asked to become a Muslim in order to escape death.

Kassandra refused.

She was horribly tortured until her death on behalf of religion and homeland.

Though Saint Kassandra was martyred on August 1st, her memory is honored on the feast of All Saints.

From her son Constantine came the great-great-grandmother of legendary Prince Alexander Ypsilantis, who with his brothers Demetrios, Nicholas and Gregory pioneered the liberation struggle from the Turkish yoke in the revolution of 1821.