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October 26, 2022

The Pitcher Containing the Blood and Dirt of Saint Demetrios

One of the most important treasures of the Orthodox Church is kept in the Church of Saint Demetrios in Thessaloniki. It is an ancient pitcher made of ceramic which is claimed to contain the actual blood of Saint Demetrios that was mixed with the dirt from the ground on which his martyric blood was spilled. The blood and soil within the pitcher are dried up, but when mixed with water it is commonly referred to as holy myrrh, since the Saint is known as the Myrrhgusher.

The priest of the church, Archimandrite Damaskenos Petikas, says that the church acquired this important relic on October 23, 1985, and recounts that the pitcher was in the hands of the Savva family, a family of Thessaloniki that goes back centuries, who lived since the Byzantine era in a house below the Church of Saint Demetrios, near the current Church of Saint Nicholas. The house was completely destroyed by the great fire of August 1917 and then all the written evidence regarding the history of the family and the acquisition of the pitcher was also destroyed.

According to oral accounts, at the place where the house was, there was also a small chapel (shrine) in which - in a specially constructed alcove - there was a wooden box of deep green color with representations of yellow flowers and inside it the pitcher was kept. In fact, they went to the chapel through an underground tunnel about six meters long, which was destroyed after the fire. When delivered the pitcher was originally sealed. Later, however, at the urging of a clergyman of the family, it was opened and very sparingly a little myrrh was administered to the sick, who mixed it with water and drank it after a twenty-four-hour fast. The same people described that the sick were getting well and their faith in the Saint was being strengthened.

During the great fire of 1917, the family, in their panic to be saved, quickly left the house, but did not abandon this sacred relic. Their first thought was to preserve their religious heritage, the pitcher of their patron saint. Therefore, they managed to dig in the yard and hide the sacred pitcher there. A few days later Photini Christodoulou - a child at the time - accompanied by her uncle, dug and recovered the pitcher. In fact, from the blows with the pickaxe, the mouth of the pitcher broke a little, but luckily the damage was not irreparable. Then, the pitcher was moved to the house of Smaro's sister on Praxitelous Street and from then on its existence ceased to be known to the people of Thessaloniki. However, it was the family's wish that it be handed over to the church once it has been restored.

With the transfer of the Sacred Head of the Holy Great Martyr to Thessaloniki on October 25, 1978, the last descendant of the Asterios Papakonstantinou family, Konstantinos, a lawyer in Athens and son of Smaros, who was also the owner of the pitcher, decided to hand it over himself, so that is found together with the holy relics of the Saint. However, he did not make it, since he died suddenly. Photini Christodoulou, however, as the last descendant of the Savva family, decided to fulfill the wish of all her ancestors and handed over the pitcher with the holy myrrh, so that it could be deposited in the sacred ciborium of the Saint.

The Savva family of Thessaloniki, whose roots are lost in the depths of centuries, firmly believed that the pitcher and the holy myrrh inside were genuine. Moreover, the form of the old house and the surrounding ancient remains confirm that the "refuge", that is, the underground gallery where the Saint taught, was located at that point. In fact, the Thessaloniki archaeologist Petros Papageorgios, a researcher of Byzantine Thessaloniki, in his study "On the Ancient Icon of the Great Martyr Saint Demetrios, the Patron Saint of Thessaloniki" in 1982, states verbatim that "inside the pitcher is kept the dried blood of Saint Demetrios, which, mixed with water, cures the people who are inflamed with faith." Today this sacred ceramic is kept with respect in the sacristy of the temple, together with the sacred vessels and the sacred relics of the holy great martyrs. It is placed for veneration during the Vespers of Saint Demetrios, while it is not excluded that at some point, when conditions permit, it may be placed in the sacred ciborium, where the relics of the patron saint of Thessaloniki are placed, so that the hundreds of believers who visit the temple every day can venerate it.