September 13, 2021

Saint Aristides and His Veneration in Greece

St. Aristides in a fresco from the Church of Panagia Phaneromeni in Aigio
 By Aristides G. Theodoropoulos

On September 13, the Orthodox Church honors and celebrates the memory of Saint Aristides, this eminent and eloquent Athenian philosopher and famous martyr of Christ, who became better known in Ecclesiastical History and Patrology by his famous Apology, which is also the oldest surviving apologetic text.

This eminent Christian philosopher, ardent apologist and glorious martyr of the 2nd century AD was born in Athens and studied classical philosophy at the famous Philosophical School of Athens.

He then became an ardent defender of Christianity and Christians, after battling with his famous apologetic work at a particularly difficult and critical time for the course of the Church. In fact, through his Apology, which is titled "On Godliness", he managed to prove the correctness and superiority of the Christian faith, the eternal truths of the Gospel of Christ, but also the excellent ethos of the first Christians of Athens, who were at that time stigmatized by the unjust and cruel attitude of the Roman Empire towards the Christians, as well as the liberated life of the pagans. On the southwestern slope of the historic hill of Lycabettus of Athens that bears his name, was the safe spiritual refuge, to which he resorted to pray and draw strength to continue his arduous struggle. In this blessed place his memory is honored annually with a festival.

However, his unwavering faith in Jesus Christ in combination with his arduous struggle for the persecuted Christians, as well as his fiery preaching for the propagation of the saving message of Christian truth caused intense discomfort and indignation to the Roman emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D.), who also decided to prosecute him. He first went to Rome to give his defense, but was later transferred to Athens, where he continued to preach Christ despite the many tortures he underwent. At the end of his earthly life he was taken to the marketplace of Athens, where he died at the gallows on September 13, 120 or 134 AD, a day on which the Orthodox Church honors and celebrates his all-honorable memory.

The fiery faith and the struggling mindset of this eminent Athenian philosopher and martyr of the 2nd century AD are praised through his Asmatic Service, the Supplicatory Canon and the Salutations, all composed in the Saint's honor by the Great Hymnwriter of the Church of Alexandria, Dr. Haralambos M. Bousias. Excerpts from the Service of the Saint have been set to music by the Protopsaltis and Choirmaster of the majestic and eponymous new Church of Saint Andrew, the Patron Saint of Patras, Mr. Aristides Bouhajer.

The spread of the name of the Saint throughout the Greek land contributed to the spread of his honor with the construction of temples in his name in Crete (Zerviana Kissamos, Anogia and Kynigiana Mylopotamos, Stylos Apokoronou, Lygaria Sirathimou, Latzimas Rethymno), Santorini (Exo Katoikies Fira), Tinos (Steni, Panachrantos Portou), Lesvos (Leimonos Monastery), the city of Karpenisi and Arkitsa of Fthiotida, while the Saint is also honored in the parish of Saint Gregory the Theologian in the district of Tikala.

Many icnographers, starting with the foremost Photios Kontoglou (1895-1965), have depicted the figure of the Saint in temples and monasteries of our country.

Remarkable is the hand-painted mural by Evangelos Gini of the Athenian Saint in the beautiful and monumental Holy Metropolitan Church of Panagia Phaneromeni in Aigio, founded in 1898, which dominates the center of the city and was designed by the famous German Ernst Ziller. It is noteworthy that the name of the Saint was carried by important spiritual people of the region, such as the late iconographer of Aigio Aristides Karvelas (+ 17 April 1989), who composed a Service in honor of the patron saint of Aigio, Panagia Trypiti, as well as the parish priest of the historic Church of Saint Andrew in the city of Aigio, Fr. Aristides Koutsopoulos (+ 19 February 2009). The memory of the Saint in the wider area of the prefecture of Achaia is honored in the Holy Temples of the Holy Cross of Lower Achaia, which is adorned with an exquisite portable icon of the Saint, a work of the iconographer of the Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Bala and Saint Dionysius the Areopagite in Patras on 76 Evia Street, as well as in the Holy Temples of Saint Panteleimon of Aigeira and the Transfiguration of the Savior in Krathiou Akrata in the area of Aegialia.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.