Saint Raphael, the miraculous Priest and Martyr-Saint. He lived during the last period of the Byzantine Empire and a few years before the Fall of Constantinople. Those were rough, but heroic years! He had faith in the salvation of the Empire through the efforts of the Palaeologus Dynasty. He was very active; he studied a lot; he acquired many posts; he visited many places; he became famous. He suffered and strived for Greece. And yet, he was won over by Christ. Saint Raphael loved Him more than anything else, and served Him to the end. Great is His Grace, and magnificent His Glory. Eternal Grace, given by the Lord, for his great sacrifice! His way was through sacrifice, his life was a sacrifice, even his death was a sacrifice. The Holy Mother Theotokos, herself, appeared weeping in a dream on the anniversary of Saint Raphael’s Martyrdom, and, when asked why She was weeping, she replied that every year on that day She cries for the Great Sacrifice Saint Raphael made for Her and Her Son at Her Monastery at Karyes, on Lesvos Island.


Revelation after half a millennium


     Saint Raphael was martyred in Lesvos ten years after the Fall of Constantinople. However, his glorious life and his martyrdom soon slid into oblivion, due to the terror of the barbarian Turkish conqueror. Time went by and everything was forgotten. Half a millennium had passed by and no-one knew that people had been martyred on the hill at Karyes of Lesvos Island. Occasionally, some would see a Priest incensing that spot, but only as if in a vision. It was also a custom to perform the Divine Liturgy atop the hill every Tuesday after Easter, on day of the Saint's sacred Martyrdom, albeit the origin of this custom was unknown.

     When the right time came, as decided by Divine Providence, everything changed. The Omniscient Lord has chosen our days, a time of unfaithfulness and dissension from God's will, to make his Friend, Martyr Raphael, known again. The time of his obscurity had long gone. Now the time had come for the Grace of the Saint to rise and to enlighten the Christians, granting them Faith, health, strength, courage and hope. During the year of our Lord 1959, the Rallis family, who owned the land where the hill of the Martyrdom was situated, built a Chapel dedicated to the Holy Mother Theotokos. And that was when miraculous incidents began...

     A spring that was dried up had suddenly begun to gush water, thus helping the process of building the Chapel. While the foundation of the Chapel was being laid, a grave was found containing the bones of a Christian whose lower jaw bone was missing. Many local people had started having dreams and visions of an unknown Monk, and even saw him standing in front of them! Gradually, even more people saw, heard or had a dream of him. He made them realize that the bones found in the grave belonged to Him. To some of them he revealed his name ‘Raphael’. To others he said ‘I am a Saint of God and I will work many miracles’. To others ‘I am from Ithaca’. Day by day, the Saint fills in the gaps of his story and reveals unknown parts of his life and martyrdom; thus, through his marvelous revelations, additional martyrs came to be known; among them was a little blonde girl. The Holy Mother Theotokos, Saint Paraskevi and other Saints often appeared in dreams or visions too, confirming Saint Raphael’s claims and reinforcing the lay Christians who had witnessed Divine Revelations.

     Shortly after, Saint Raphael asked that the newly reconstructed Chapel be demolished. As he explained, there were Martyrs’ graves beneath it which had to be revealed. So, under the pressure exerted by the Divine Signs and the witnessed miracles, the locals, at first with some doubts, but, in the end bravely and rigorously, began to demolish the Chapel and excavate the area. There was still some concern about the truth of the incidents, as the unfaithful would gloat over and defame the facts by calling them a mass illusion or, even worse, a fraud. But Lo and Behold! During the excavations, broken marbles and columns, ancient objects broken and blackened by fire, as well as the remnants of an ancient Monastery were to gradually come to light. They even found the official, Byzantine Patriarchic lead seal, which was proof of the existence of the Ancient Monastery, as well as the graves and the Sacred Relics of the Martyr-saints, at the exact places indicated by the Saints themselves in the faithfuls’ dreams, and where the workers were told to excavate. Faith in God and His Saints triumphed, rendering the unfaithful both embarrassed and speechless.

     Saint Raphael gradually unfolded the story of His life and martyrdom. He revealed himself to many more believers and even to well-intentioned but unfaithful people in a number of dreams and visions. Christians experienced those divine revelations in different ways: Sometimes Saint Raphael would show them moments of his life like they were present when they took place, or they would hear Saint Raphael narrating his story to them, or they would observe the incidents as though looking through binoculars while they were hearing the Saint’s voice explaining to them what was going on, or they would watch parts of his life-story in dreams like a movie. So, with these varied and wonderful revelations, his eventful life began gradually to unfold, becoming even clearer now, as the Saint continues his revelations in our days.


His childhood

     In 1410, in the old district of Myloi in Ithaca, Odysseus’ native land, and one of the seven Ionian Islands, a sweet little boy was born in Ithaca City- the capital of the island. His parents were very pious Christians and quite passionate Greek patriots. His family consisted of his father, Dionysios Laskaridis, his mother, Mary and his sister, Helen. When baptized, he was given the name George.

     Time went by and in the year 1422, his sister Helen Laskaridis was married to Mark the Venetian, an adjutant and counselor of the Venetian Carlo Tocco I, the Count of Cephalonia and Zakynthos islands, and Duke of Lefkas Island. In the year 1418, young George learnt how to read and write by Father Timothy of the Monastery at Katharon, situated in northern Ithaca. The Laskaridis Family was quite wealthy, which gave him the opportunity to have a broader education. The boy was an adorable, dynamic and truly intelligent youngster. He was very pious and keen to learn new things. So, having attained a sound economic independence and supported by his brother-in-law Mark, George was accepted at Zacharia Aggelou’s School located at a place called the ‘Castle of Saint George’, in the Tocco district. He studied Greek, Latin, Italian and French. But, he was still not satisfied. Always in search of more knowledge, he became acquainted with the doctor-philosopher Paraschos Kouzoulis, who taught him the first lessons in Medicine.

     In 1425, at the age of fifteen, young George attended the classes of Father Photios, a monk at the Monastery of the Holy Mother Theotokos in Omalon, located near Livatho village, and there for the first time he embarked on theological studies quite successfully. Then, George, who considered and called himself Greek, albeit raised and educated as a Venetian, began to discover and grasp Greek culture for the first time. He eagerly began to explore his race and origin - the Greek and the Orthodox ones. At the same time, forced by his naturally powerful and active character and by his patriotism, he convinced his brother-in-law Mark to let him practice the art of war, and guns, so he joined Carlo Tocco I’s Venetian guard to gain experience.

Time went by and in 1427 studious George left the Ionian Islands for the Town of Mystras, in the Peloponnese to attend classes at George Plithon Gemistos' School of Philosophy. There, he met and became acquainted with the subsequent Ruler of Mystras and thereafter Byzantine Emperor, Konstantinos Palaeologos.


Military service in the Homeland


     In 1431, at the age of 21, dominated by extremely strong feelings of patriotism and with the blessings of his family and teachers, George enlisted voluntarily as an army officer in the Greek- Byzantine Army. Because of his extremely broad and manifold education and his significant intelligence, he was assigned the post of centurion and was placed as an adjutant with Prince Thomas Palaeologos’ personal guard, with its headquarters in Kalamata, Peloponnese. In the meantime, he completed his Medicine Studies with the assistance of Doctor Melissinos.

     George had already become very well-known to the superior officials of the Byzantine Empire and to the Church for his impressive education, personal skills, great prowess and staunch character. Thus, in 1437, George Laskaridis, a chiliarch and a doctor, was chosen to join the personal guard of the Emperor Ioannis VIII Palaeologos as an officer of Prince Dimitrios who would escort the Emperor at the Synod of Ferrara-Florence.

     To be faithful to the historical facts, we must mention here that, unfortunately, the unwise regent Ioannis H’ Palaeologos convened this Synod in order to beseech the heretic and schismatic Pope Eugene of Rome, to send military assistance in exchange for the unification of the Western and the Eastern Church, because he was terrified by Sultan Murat’s and Turahan Bey’s threats.

     From the very first moment, the Committee of the Eastern Orthodox Church, head of which was Patriarch Joseph, was greatly mal-treated by the Papals during the two-year Synod of Ferrara-Florence. A very common and preferred method of the Westerners was the use of insults and the indirect or direct use of physical, moral and psychological violence against the Orthodox. For example, while the Orthodox Committee was on its way to Ferrara, the Pope notified the Patriarch that as soon as he arrived, he should kiss his feet, which the Patriarch refused to do. Moreover, from the first night's stay, the Orthodox Patriarch was given a pigsty as lodgings. Furthermore, even though the Papists were obliged to provide the Orthodox with food, they violated their obligation, by condemning them to starvation, leaving them with no food or money for many months. As a result, the Orthodox Hierarchs had to sell their clothes or beg for food.

     It was clear that during that fake Synod of Ferrara-Florence, Orthodoxy and Hellenism were ridiculed. The heretic Papists’ hatred towards Orthodoxy, the anti-Hellenism, the betrayals, the sectarianism, the egocentric ambitions, the subservience and the nonsense, all surpassed every possible limit. The only one who remained pure and fought bravely for Orthodoxy was Saint Mark of Ephesus (Evyenikos), while George Scholarios and George Plithon Gemistos were also just. Gemistos departed with his brother for Venice to avoid signing (Saint Raphael must have escorted them, as an officer of Prince Dimitrios). They proved to be the true pillars of Orthodoxy for the Byzantine Empire during those dismal years.

     In November of 1444, the united Christian troops, led by the Hungarian John Ouniadis and the King of Poland Vladislav, took part in a fatal and totally destructive battle against the Turkish troops of Sultan Murat B’ in Varna, Bulgaria. The Christian troops, right before the battle began, hastily sent a letter to the Governor of Mystras, Konstantinos Palaeologus requesting additional military units. Indeed, a Byzantine troop, with George Laskaridis as a Chiliarch, left for Varna immediately. However, two days before their arrival in Varna, they were informed that the battle had already been fought and the Christian army was dramatically defeated by Sultan Murat. After that, the Byzantines ceased all further action and returned to Mystras.


God's call


     On their way back to Mystras, they passed near Serres and visited the Sacred Monastery of John the Baptist. The Chiliarch George Laskaridis’ soldiers took a rest there. A milestone in his life was when he became familiar with two of the monks there. One of them, whose monastic name was Gennadius, was the former unionist praiser of the Pope during the Ferrara Synod, a very well-educated Philosopher. His lay name was George Scholarios, who, after Divine Enlightment, repented and became a monk, stating that a Turkish turban is better than a Latin tiara. Because, he said, only the land is in danger by the Turks, whereas both the land and the Faith are in danger by the Latins. Monk Gennadius later became Patriarch Gennadius. The other Monk was father John, a pious figure, who motivated the Chiliarch-Doctor George Laskaridis to realize that only close to God would his soul find the peace he so much longed for. After the unit arrived at Mystras, George Laskaridis resigned from the Army, returning his weapons to the Head of the unit, General Frantzis. George Laskaridis following an unutterable, divine call, stayed close to father John at the Monastery of John the Baptist.

     In 1445 at the age of 35, after six months of practicing silence and in prayer, George was tonsured a Monk by the Abbott of the Monastery, and was named Raphael after the Archangel, who had appeared in visions and enlightened him with ineffable messages from God. Father Raphael stayed with pious father John until his death and for two years afterwards, when he became a deacon, a priest and finally an archimandritis. Afterwards, he came to Athens, where he kept preaching on Filopappou Cliff at the Church of Saint Dimitrios Loumpardiaris near the Acropolis, where he served Divine Liturgies working as a priest and also as a preacher. He reinforced the Orthodox morale and courage of the Athenians, who were suffering under the Venetian occupation. Inside this Church we can still find his sacred icon and attend Divine Liturgies that honor him.

     When in 1449 Konstantinos Palaeologus, the so called Dragon because of his courage, became King of Constantinople, father Raphael went immediately to Constantinople to meet and congratulate his old friend. The King, taking into account his personality, skills and education, kept him in Constantinople and made him a Councillor. Father Raphael very soon became widely known. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople usually sent father Raphael as its representative in many religious and medical meetings in different cities abroad. Meanwhile, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople named him Ecumenical Preacher, a title that would enable him to preach the Orthodox Christian Faith in many different cities.


Meeting Nikolaos


     In 1451, during a meeting in the French town Morlaix, near Brest in the area of Bretagne, Raphael met a 27 year old Greek law student, Nikolaos. Nikolaos was born in the year 1424 and raised in Thessaloniki. His Family was comprised of his father Georgios Konstantakis, a lawyer, his mother Anna and his sister Zoe. As recorded in his biography, the Konstantakis family had its origins in the town of Ragoi, Media in Asia Minor. In 1445, Georgios Konstantakis sent his son, Nikolaos, to Morlaix, France, to study law at the local university. However, overwhelmed by material pleasures, Nikolaos had been spending his time entertaining himself and enjoying social life instead of studying. Nevertheless, by collaborating with councillor father Raphael and influenced by his exemplary way of living and his valuable advice, he changed his way of life and, eventually became a priest. First he became a monk, then, because of his exemplary way of living and his passion for Orthodoxy, Father Raphael ordained him a Deacon and kept him as his assistant, assigning him tasks in different cities, to preach Orthodoxy.

The Fall of Constantinople


     On December 1452, while Raphael and his Deacon Nikolaos were in Constantinople, Emperor Constantine arranged for a Liturgy together with Cardinal Isidorus, a representative of the Pope, at the Church of Hagia Sofia. The Emperor had the false hope that the Pope's military help would save the country from the Turks. Indeed, that Liturgy was held in December 12, 1452, the feast day of Saint Spyridon. However, Raphael refused to participate in it, nor did he allow his Deacon go there. He knew very well that it was a betrayal of the Faith. ''Enough is enough! Communicating with them can be tolerable, helping them is acceptable, but never a Liturgy with the heretics!'' the Saint said. The Emperor became furious, so he punished them by deporting them to the region of Ainos. Because he had sacrificed honor and glory to defend the Orthodox Faith from the heresy of Papism, Saint Raphael is also called "Confessor". (It should be noted that in the last heroic days before his death, and after realizing that there was no help from the Pope, the Emperor repented for his mistake and received the Sacraments of Confession and of Holy Communion as a true Orthodox.)

     When the siege of Constantinople began, the two Fathers were outside the walls of the City and had managed to escape to Macedonia, in Northern Greece. On Tuesday May 29th, 1453, Constantinople was sacked by the Mongol Seljuks who came from the depths of Asia. However their military Staff were European renegades from Austria, Hungary, Germany, France and other ‘civilized’ and ‘Christian’ European countries. These countries had also equipped the hordes of the barbarian and cruel Turks with state-of-the-art weapons. It must be noted that the Turks paid them handsomely, with gold coming from countries they had defeated and pillaged. Arrogantly displayed inside the Church of Hagia Sofia, one can see weapons to this day, which had been offered to the Turks by European countries, with engravings on them of the year, the manufacture and the country of origin.

     After the defeat of the Christian Byzantium, the barbarian Turks relentlessly slaughtered Christian civilians, burned their homes, looted properties, raped women, and committed many other horrible and gory barbaric acts. All those atrocities, albeit not approved, were certainly dealt with incredible indifference and apathy by our ‘Christian Brothers’ of the West, and with criminal indifference by the Pope, who was luxuriously enjoying his heretic and immoral life.

     At this point, we need to sadly remind that the Europeans and the Pope have displayed the same attitude towards the ensuing atrocities committed by the Turks during the twentieth century, such as the genocide of the Armenians in 1915; of the Greeks in 1922; of the remaining Greeks in Constantinople in 1955; of the Greeks in Cyprus in 1974; also, against the nation of Kurdistan in 1990-1998. And, of course, the horrible crimes committed by the Europeans and Americans against Orthodox Serbia in 2000 - all of which should be judged as crimes against humanity.

     Striving to flee from the ravaging and rampageous Turkish hordes, father Raphael and father Nikolaos left the region of Ainos where they had been exiled initially, and moved on to Alexandroupoolis in Thrace Province of northern Greece. Given that Christians were facing slaughter, captivity, being burnt alive and other tortures by the ruthless and barbarous Turks, they sought free and safer lands. Thus, the two fathers, along with other refugees, boarded a small boat to go from Alexandroupolis port to Lesvos Island - a relatively nearby island under Venetian rule - in the hope of finding quiet monastic refuge.


The peaceful and creative years on Lesvos

On March 14, 1454, due to severe weather, the small boat was unable to reach the harbor of Mytilene; thus, after a dangerous and long journey, Providence finally anchored it at the welcoming coast of Thermi village on Lesvos Island. The poor but hospitable and pious denizens of Thermi welcomed them cordially. The head of the village, Basil, and the teacher from Epirus, Theodore, guided them to the Sacred Monastery of the Nativity of the Holy Mother Theotokos at Karyes -approximately 14 kilometers from the city of Mytilene- where the Elder Ruben was cloistered and the Sacristan Akindynos also resided.

     That sacred Monastery was built in the year 801 by the Empress Irene the Athenian, who was exiled from Constantinople by her son and successor to the Throne, and who ended up in Ayiassos on Lesvos Island. A year later, in 802, she built the "Trouloti" Church dedicated to the Holy Mother Theotokos, at Pyrgoi, Lesvos Island, near Thermi. Irene the Athenian, who was cloistered there during the last years of her life, finally passed away piously in the women's sacred Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos. On May 11, 1235, Muslim pirates raided the sacred Monastery, overtoook and looted it, stealing all the valuable sacred Vessels that were kept there. They also raped, tortured and slaughtered the Nuns, and finally set fire to the Monastery's buildings. The atrocity, brutality and cruelty displayed by the Muslim invaders was preserved thanks to the narrations that survived throughout the centuries. The pirates had slaughtered some of the Nuns and tortured others in such a way that they lost their mind. They hung the old and paralyzed Nun Efrosyni from a tree, and then burnt her alive. They even removed the Abbess Olympia’s cassock and set fire to her body with flaming torches. Then they pierced her ears and jaws with two large, glowing hot nails and nailed her body onto a board using 20 large nails, and finally left her to die in the flames that were burning down the Monastery.

     The Monastery remained ruined and abandoned for approximately 200 years and was restored in 1433 by a pious and wealthy woman named Melpomeni. She was the wife of merchant Konstantis Yalinas; they had a young daughter, Vasiliki, in 1423, and a son, Akindynos, in 1425. Akindynos suffered from paralysis of his right leg at birth. Father Ruben who was staying in their estate and Melpomeni had been praying for a miracle, which eventually happened in 1433. The Holy Mother Theotokos cured the young boy’s paralysis, when they washed his leg with water from the fountain at the abandoned Monastery. After this miracle, Melpomeni dedicated herself to the service of the Lord, up until the day she passed away, in September of 1455. Meantime, she had fulfilled her promise to rebuild the ruined Monastery that was dedicated to the Birth of the Holy Mother (which was now co-dedicated to Saint Paraskevi). When her son grew up, he became a sacristan at the Monastery, and lived together with father Ruben.

     Holy Providence had arranged for both fathers, Raphael and Nicholas, to find a welcoming Monastery on Lesvos Island, so they settled there and father Raphael later became its abbot. Brother Raphael became the spiritual leader of all the population of the island. Everyone used to refer to him as the "Elder Saint" at Karyes mountain. His words magnetized and calmed their hearts. Thanks to his advice, many people found the right path leading to the Savior. One of them became a monk with the name Stavros and joined the Brotherhood of the Monastery at Karyes. Elder Ruben passed away peacefully and was buried with honors by the brethren. The pious abbot Raphael dedicated his life to charity and led the sacred Monastery once again to a spiritual blossoming. In 1455, he built a small hospital next to the Monastery called Preventorium, where he practiced medicine as well. Meanwhile, he also built a nursing home and an orphanage where he took care of 80 orphan children. The Saint revealed in a dream that the orphans should eat first and, if there was food left over, the fathers could then eat also.

     During that peaceful and creative period of their life, the fathers met and associated cordially with the head of the community, Vasilios and his family, as well as with the teacher, Theodore. Saint Irene, Vasilios' daughter, was baptized by Saint Raphael; he prayed to the Lord to provide her with Christian virtues. Little Irene had, indeed, a kind and humble soul and loved the fathers so much that she wanted to spend all her time with them at the Monastery. Providence had planned to keep them together in Eternity. That moment was approaching…

The occupation of Lesvos Island and of the Monastery at Karyes

     At the end of October and the beginning of November 1461, the Turks invaded and occupied the island of Lesvos. In April of 1462, the people at Thermi could no longer bear the exorbitant taxes so they rebelled against the Turks. The Turk Sultan Mohammed II then became outraged with the rebellion and sent armed troops with specific orders to subdue the Christians' uprising by every means. The savage barbarians won after a 17 day battle, and, wanting to set an example, they massacred the entire population.

     On Great and Holy Thursday, the 4th of April 1462, the Monastery's sacristan, Akindinos, went to the village market near the Monastery to stock up on supplies, where he heard about the approaching invasion of the Turks against the Monastery. He immediately rushed back to inform Brother Raphael about it. Without hesitating, Brother Raphael hid all the Holy Relics and Liturgical Vessels of the Monastery inside a Crypt, so that the Turks would not find and destroy them.

     On Good Friday, the 5th of April 1462, the Turks, with their leader Arif Aga, were informed by the anti-Greek, German-Jew doctor named Schweizer that some of the rebel Greeks had found refuge inside the Monastery. Thus, on Good Friday, they attacked the Monastery, right after after the Service of the Procession of the Epitafios (the Bier of Christ). As soon as the attack began, Abbot Raphael showed the rebel Greeks a secret escape route, advising them to hide out in the Pantera mountain nearby. The Turks attacked the Monastery viciously, and finally took it over without any resistance by the brethren. The Turks arrested all of them, as well as all the laypeople who were present. Among them were the Abbot of the Monastery, Father Raphael, the Deacon Nicholas, the town elder Vasilios, his wife Maria, his 12-year old daughter Irene, his 11-month old son Raphael, his orphan, 16-year old niece Helen, and the village teacher, Theodore from Epirus. Abbot Raphael remained in the Monastery to face the brutal invaders, believing that the Good Shepherd will never abandon His flock, but, if necessary, that he would sacrifice himself. The others wholeheartedly decided to stay with the Abbot to support him and to join him in Martyrdom, given that they considered themselves pious Brothers and Sisters in Christ and His followers.

     The Monk, Father Stavros, and Melpomeni's son, Akindynos, escaped capture following Saint Raphael's suggestion. They were the ones who later were to bury the Martyrs' sacred bodies, as Saint Raphael had foretold.


The Martyrdom of the Saints

     From the moment that Brother Raphael was arrested on Good Friday, repeated interrogations took place in a distinctive brutal way. When the Turks realized they would never obtain the information they wanted with their interrogations, they moved on to tortures. They first grabbed the 11-month old baby Raphael from his mother’s arms, dropped it on the ground and killed it by beating and stepping on it. Then they tied up his mother, Mary, on a tree, because she was screaming and crying and desperately trying to reach her baby and take it back.

     They then began to brutally torture the 12-year old Virgin Martyr Irene, daughter of the village elder, Vasilios, in front of her mother. Seeking to terrorize and demoralize the parents and force them into denying the Faith and revealing where the rebel Greeks were hiding, so they began to pour boiling water into Irene’s mouth, then they chopped off her one arm and one leg and flaunted them before her parents, to make them succumb. The mother could not bear to watch her daughter suffer so horribly; she immediately suffered a heart attack and died. Despite the mental ordeal, the father managed to stand firm before all those horrific acts and remained steadfastly resolute. Seeing how their efforts were unsuccessful and useless, the Turks placed young Irene inside a large clay pot and burnt her alive in it, thus completing her martyrdom. It should be noted that this clay pot was discovered during the excavations; inside it was a pile of ashes and some charred bones, all covered over by some rocks. The people who buried the Martyrs had not noticed the bones inside the pot, as the rocks that covered them had catapulted into the pot when the Turks blew up the walls of the Monastery.

     Next, the Turks brutally tortured Vasilios' young niece, Helen -who was a 15 year old orphan since the age of 3- until she could no longer bear the pain, the fear and the bleeding any longer, and gave up the spirit. Vasilios' first torture was a psychological one, when he was forced to witness the martyrdom of his children; thereafter it was was physical, when the Turks cut off his nose, ears and genitals and ripped out his eyes. They eventually cut off his head and jeered at the sight. For this, Vasilios deserves to be regarded and honored as a Martyr-Saint.

     After killing Vasilios, they began to torture the teacher, Theodore, in an equally cruel manner; they cut off his genitals and his arms, then they decapitated him and placed his head between his legs.

     Saint Raphael was the last to be tortured, as the bloodthirsty and cruel Turks were not in a hurry to deal with him. They believed that they could make him reveal everything they wanted, by forcing him to watch all his followers being brutally tortured and murdered and, of course, by physically torturing him as well. He indeed underwent a series of unbelievable tortures. The Turks cursed him, beat him brutally and threatened him. However, he momentarily managed to stand himself up and, grabbing the Crucifix that he wore around his neck, he pointed it at them and fearlessly said: ''We worship Him only, and we will never deny Him!'' The Turks then beat him furiously, they undressed him, they bound his hands behind his back and beat him mercilessly, eventually leaving him paralyzed. They stabbed him repeatedly with their lances and dragged him by the beard over sharp rocks, so that the ground became steeped with his blood. After a while, after seeing that their innocent victim was still holding on and enduring all those tortures as a form of protest, they decided to hang him upside down from a big walnut tree which was in the Monastery's courtyard. The pious Fathers of the Monastery used to hold the Divine Liturgy of the Resurrection under that same tree, every year. When the heartless and brutal criminals (Saint Raphael referred to them as "demon-possessed souls") realized that -despite all the tortures Brother Raphael had been subjected to- he would never deny his Faith or betray the Orthodox Greek rebels, they forced him down to his knees and decapitated him in a particularly gruesome way; instead of sawing off his head starting from the back of his neck, they began from his mouth! The Turks had abandoned his bloody lower jaw on the ground near the rest of his body, however, the Christians who buried the Saint's body did not find it. Instead, it was discovered during a recent excavation. That was how Saint Raphael became a Martyr-Saint for Christ and had gloriously delivered his pure soul to the Lord.

     Saint Nicholas' arms had been tied behind his back; he was hung from a smaller walnut tree in the Monastery's courtyard and tortured night and day by the Turks, who beat and stabbed him with their lances. Because of his frail health, Saint Nicholas did not endure the merciless tortures very long, nor the sight of his beloved Abbot Raphael being dragged on the ground and his blood splashed all over the courtyard. He too suffered a heart-attack and died. As Saint Raphael later revealed, their souls went up to Heaven together.... Together, both in life and in death!

     When a foreign doctor, Dr. Alexander, who had a great respect for father Raphael, heard that the Turks had invaded the Monastery, he ran up there to find out what had happened to him. At the horrific sight of the slaughtered Abbot Raphael, he lost his mind, horrified, and drew a knife to commit suicide, but he too suffered a sudden heart attack and died.

     After the slaughter and the gruesome bloodbath, the bloodthirsty Turks set fire to the Monastery by blowing it up, after first looting as many Holy Relics and valuable religious vessels that they could find. The Martyrs had been slaughtered in the evening of Great Holy Monday, a little before midnight (ecclesiastically, each "day" commences after sunset, so it would have been Great Holy Tuesday), while the destruction of the Monastery had taken place a later, after dawn on Tuesday, the 9th of April, 1463.

     After committing all those atrocities, the brutal Turks moved on to destroy other places, seeking to satiate their morbid instincts with more destruction of Churches and rocks painted with the blood of Martyrs. Among those anthropomorphic beasts, the most prominent and cruel torturers were five: two Muslim Turks, a certain Lazlar, a Circassian and a Turkish-Albanian. However, the Lord’s rage soon caught up with them: Greeks rebels captured and killed them, and buried them together, in a common grave.

The dramatic events that gave us new Martyrs are finally over…

     The following night, after the Turkish hordes had departed, Monks Stavros and Akindynos the Monastery's Sacristan, left the late Elder Joseph’s cave where they had been hiding (Father Stavros and Elder Joseph used to live in that cave in the past as monks), then, they secretly went to the nearby Village of Thermi and begged Father Savvas, the 112-year-old blind priest of the village, to escort them back to the destroyed Sacred Monastery for the funeral services of the Martyrs.

     On their arrival at the place of the Saints' Martyrdom, the blind elder priest began to pray and beseech the Lord to grant him vision so he could see with his own eyes the Saint's place of martyrdom and their sacred relics. And behold, God’s Grace and sanctification came to him! Miraculously, after a dazzling flash of light, the blind priest's vision returned, enabling him to see the horrific sight. Then, after having prayed to the Lord, he performed the funeral service and buried the victims as follows: The sacred remains of Brother Raphael, who had sacrificed himself for the Orthodox Faith and for his country, Greece, were buried inside the Church. Deacon Nicholas’ sacred remains were buried in the the left courtyard of the Church, and the sacred remains of Irene the Virgin-Martyr Irene as well as the rest of the Martyrs were buried in various spots around the Chapel. The sacred relics came to light after many centuries, when the time was right, in our time. After the funeral and the burial of the Martyrs, the Monastery's sacristan, Akindynos, along with Father Stavros, escorted the elderly priest back to the village, where he passed away a few days later.

     After some time, Father Stavros was arrested by armed men of the Turkish patrol who knew that one more monk was still free and they were looking for him. They tortured him cruelly and finally decapitated him, however they didn't manage to make him reveal anything they wanted. He was left unburied for two days, as nobody dared to go to the place of the Saints' Martyrdom, until two local Christians took him and buried him into the courtyard of the destroyed Monastery at Karyes. Later on, the Turks found and tortured the sacristan Αkindynos on Pantera Mountain. His sacred remains were buried in the Monastery's cemetery, near his parents’ graves.

     It was in this quite dramatic way that the series of slaughters which had taken place on the Karyes cliff had finally come to an end. The events had remained secret and were gradually forgotten by the people of Thermi. The only thing that was preserved was the custom of performing the Divine Liturgy on the first Tuesday after Easter on the cliff of Karyes, without anyone remembering or knowing why - until our time.