January 17: Saint George the New Martyr of Ioannina



Memory of the Holy New Martyr GEORGE OF IOANNINA


Saint George was born about the year 1819 in Tzourchli, a village in the diocese of Gravena in Epirus.  His parents were poor and, after their death, he was employed as a stable boy by an Ottoman official.  Even though he remained firmly attached to the Christian faith, his fellow Turkish servants took to calling him Ghiaour Hassan – a Muslim name  Eight years later, he was getting ready to marry a poor Christian girl called Helen, when one of the Turks brought a complaint against him before the local cadi (judge) to the effect that Hassan, being a Muslim, was preparing to marry a Christian.  After much commotion, George, who was reserved and taciturn by nature, managed to convince him that he was a Christian born and bred.  He got married, and entered the service of another Ottoman dignitary in the town of Piliates.  On 12 January 1838, the very day of his son’s birth, he returned to Ioannina to attend to some business.  He was again laid hold of by his former accuser and an excited crowd gathered around them  On being brought before the cadi, George insisted that he had always been a Christian and had never denied the faith of his fathers: the urging and clamour of the Turks could not move him.  He was thrown into prison and the other captive Christians there stirred up in his soul the desire to pursue his contest even to the perfection of martyrdom.  A shining figure appeared to him, eased the weight of his fetters and inspired him with such superhuman courage that he received the death sentence with indescribable joy on the morning of 17 January.  As the thirsty hart hastens to the spring of living waters (Ps. 41:1), he all but ran with his executioners to the gallows.  There he was hanged, and his body was left for three days for all to gaze at.  It exhaled a fragrant scent and the guards themselves could see the heavenly light surrounding it.  The holy relic was delivered at last to Metropolitan Joachim, who gathered all the Christians of Ioannina for the funeral of Christ’s New Martyr.  Many miracles took place during that solemn service, and they continued to occur by means of the relics of the Saint.


-From The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, Volume 3: January, February by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, translated from the French by Christopher Hookway, Holy Convent of The Annunciation of Our Lady Ormylia (Chalkidike), 2001.