|Saint Irene of Lesvos|
|Born||ca. 1451, Lesvos|
|Died||April 9, 1463, Lesvos|
|Venerated in||Eastern Orthodoxy|
|Feast||Bright Tuesday, April 9|
|Attributes||blond hair divided into two braids resting on either side of her chest; wearing a long yellow dress|
St. Irene the Newly-Appeared Martyr of Lesvos (ca. 1451– 9 April, 1463) is an Eastern Orthodox saint martyred by Turkish soldiers with her companions Sts. Raphael and Nicholas on Bright Tuesday (April 9) of 1463, a decade after the Fall of Constantinople.
For almost five centuries the inhabitants of Lesvos would visit the ruins of a monastery near the village of Thermi, northwest of the capital Mytilene, on Bright Tuesday. These people had forgotten the specific reason for the annual pilgrimage but remembered that Turkish soldiers had murdered monks in the old monastery there many years ago.
Discovery of Relics
The devout Angelos Rallis chose to construct a chapel by the monastery ruins in 1959. That July 3, workers found the holy relics of St. Raphael of Lesvos as they cleared rubble, and shortly thereafter St. Raphael, along with Sts. Nicholas and Irene, started appearing to many Lesvos residents and told them the stories of their lives. After St. Irene revealed to the residents of Lesvos the place of her grave, her holy relics were discovered on March 12, 1961 in the clay cask in which she was martyred.
When Turkish soldiers invaded Lesvos, the 12-year-old St. Irene and her parents Maria and Basil, the village mayor, rushed over to the Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotókos near Thermi to warn the monks. The soldiers murdered the holy abbot St. Raphael of Lesvos while the holy deacon St. Nicholas of Lesvos watched, and then proceeded to murder St. Nicholas.
The Hagarenes severed one of Irene's arms and threw it down before her parents. While her parents watched, the soldiers put her in a big clay cask and started a fire beneath it, causing Irene to suffocate inside. Then the soldiers murdered her parents; they also beheaded the village teacher named Theodore and killed St. Irene's 15-year-old cousin, Eleni. Thus Irene and her family and neighbors received the crown of martyrdom.
Apparitions and Other Miracles
St. Irene appeared alone and, on other occasions, with Sts. Raphael and Nicholas of Lesvos, expressing to the inhabitants her desire for veneration, an icon painting, and the composition of a church service. Photios Kontoglou painted the icon of the saints based on witness descriptions and Father Gerasimos of the Little St. Anne Skete on Mt. Athos composed the church service for them.
There are numerous accounts of miracles worked by St. Irene and her companions for people who show devotion to the saints. These miracles include supernatural healing of the sick and injured, and the strengthening of faith.
Having contended on Lesvos for the sake of Christ God, you have sanctified the island since the discovery of your sacred relics, O blessed ones; for what reason we honor you, O God-bearing Raphael, together with Nicholas and virgin Irene, as our divine protectors and intercessors with the Lord.
Let all of us honor as our protectors and miracle-workers the holy Martyrs who manifestly contended for Christ. Whose relics were hidden under the earth for many years, and who have manifested themselves to us in wondrous ways, Raphael, Nicholas and Irene, as well as those who contended with them in a godly-minded manner.
Let us honor with hymns the Hosiomartyrs of Christ, divine Raphael and venerable Nicholas, together with Irene, the guardians of Lesvos, for helping all.
Notes and References
- Cavarnos, Constantine. "Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Lesbos,” ‘’Modern Orthodox Saints’’, vol. 10, Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1994.