His name is not know by many people. However he constitutes a real gem in the newer history of Cyprus and a heroic figure and a new martyr of the Orthodox Church. Polydoros was born in Nicosia, Cyprus a little bit after the middle of the 18th century. He was hung in New Efessos (Yeni Kusandasi) on September 3rd 1794. Those were difficult years.Years of darkness. Years of harsh slavery. Even so, his parents Hadjiloukas and Lourdanou,who were God-respecting and devoted persons, made sure to give their child a Christian upbringing and they send him to study theology.
When Polydoros grew up, he was naturally intelligent and creative and for this reason, he got started in the trade business. For his work, he began to travel in various parts of the world including Egypt. For a time, he followed the advice of his parents, and was careful about who he made friends with and their voices echoed permanently in his ears and restrained him from getting into bad company. However with time his attention became weak. In one of his travels in the country of the Nile, he became acquainted with a rich renegade from Zakynthos and went under his service.
In this job, he became connected with various types of men his age. The types that we would call today, men of the underground living, the type of men who had no moral barriers. Very soon Polydoros begun the night life, drinking and getting drunk, playing cards and spending the whole night until dawn in the various joints of debauchery.
One evening in one of these joints of pleasure, he became very drunk and in his drunkenness, he changed his religion and became Muslim. His new religion did not offer any joy to him and neither could it offer him the minimal mental satisfaction. Despite the money that he gained, the positions and the greatness that his new life ensured him, he could not find any happiness in his life. On the contrary the guilt that began to wake up in him and started to grow day by day and multiply, could not let him find rest. His conscience hit him hard and without mercy, it was a whip which strickened him without pity.
One evenings while he was in such a mental agitation, he remembered his house with sweet nostalgia. His parents were illiterate but they had the education of faith and virtue. Before they went for sleep in the evening, they all used to kneel down in front of the icon of the Virgin Mary and prayed to Her to look after them from the Turks. Now,it was the religion of these same Turks that he bowed to. Then he remembered the advice of his good mother. She told him the following words once when he did something which he should not have done and felt uneasy and distressed. "My child", she told him, "the only thing that appeases and gives peace to an upset conscience is penitence and confession". This recollection strengthened him somehow but also pushed him without any delay or postponement to leave Egypt and go to Beirut. When he reached there, with great agony he ran to see the local Orthodox Bishop. When he found him, deeply crashed, he fell in front of him and requested to accept his confession. He told him everything. He did not withhold anything. The Bishop who was a devoted clergyman, listened to him with compassion and teardrops of affection. At the end, after he gave him comfort which strengthened him, the Bishop advised him that for his safety and in order to find peace to resort to a monastery.
Polydoros listened to him with attention. He thanked the good spiritual father, left and hurried to execute the Bishop's advice. He took residence in a monastery, however he remained there for only a short time. Under the fear of exposing his spiritual father he left soon. He traveled to various places and ended up at the island of Chios. There he visited another spiritual father and once again with pain in his heart, he took confession and asked him to once more allow him to become accepted in the Orthodox Church. The spiritual father accepted his penitence. He read the forgiveness prayer and anointed him holy myrrh and gave him communion.
"The importance of one having such a spiritual Father was clearly acknowledged by the New Martyrs during the years of the Turkish yoke. This we learn from their lives, and from the lives of the Holy Fathers to whom they fled for comfort prior to their martyrdom, as a fitting preparation. In the life of St. Makarios, Bishop of Corinth, which was written by Athanasios of Paros, we read that many laymen went to him for confession and advice, there being among them many who afterwards courageously went to martyrdom for their Christian faith. Athanasios gives the names of three of them: Polydoros the Cyprian, Theodore the Byzantian, and Demetrios the Peloponnesian. Before going to their martyrdoms, they spent a period of time at the hermitage of St. Makarios on the island of Chios. He, as a wise and experienced trainer of martyrs, as Athanasios calls him, prepared them well for the test of martyrdom—by confession, fasting, prayer, and encouragement. Thusly prepared, they went to martyrdom with exceeding courage and great gratitude to St. Makarios for the good which he had done: that is, in preparing them to receive the crown of martyrdom.” (http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/discourselivingworld.aspx)
After his re-establishment in the bosom of the Church, Polydoros left for the city of New Efessos in Asia Minor. His desire to really rectify his sin, did not leave him in peace. A thought twirled continuously in his brain. The thought was for him to visit the Turkish Authorities and with frankness to declare in front of them his faith to Christ and his devotion to his will. One day he presented himself in front of the mufti (the Muslim judge and priest) and without fear asked him.
"Tell me Master, is it legal and right to give back a fake thing which was given to me a little while ago with fraud?"
The mufti replied affirmatively."Yes, he said to him, it is legal".
Then Polydoros added,"I request that you give me this decision in writing". The mufti wrote his decision and gave it to him. As soon as Polydoros took the decision(the fetfa) in his hand, without losing any time, he ran to the Muslim religion judge (the Cadi) and showing the decision of the mufti he told him,"Ten years ago I was cheated and I was made to deny my faith. I threw away the gold which I had in order to take the dirt. Now I regret it. I am sorry for what I did and am distressed and I cry. Take your dirt and I will take back my gold. I was Christian! I will remain Christian! And I am ready to die Christian!"
Upon hearing the words of the confessor, the cadi tried hard to retain his anger.He tried to say something. He began with flatteries. He advanced to promises. He tried to make Polydoros change his mind by promising him money, positions and honors... and concluded, "Once you were Christian. Now however you are Muslim"."No! No!" Polydoros protested intensely,"I am Christian and I will die Christian". The cadi was not disappointed. He continued the promises. Seductive promises. Improbable. But nothing.
At the end, when he was convinced that his efforts were lost, he ordered for Polydoros to be seized, and put him in prison were they begun the tortures. All night the executioners tortured the martyr. To count the different kinds of tortures Polydoros went through is impossible. We will say only this. The next day with his face deformed from the all night abuse and his body broken from the cruel beatings, Polydoros was led in front of a council made of Turkish nobles. For the second time Polydoros with enviable frankness declared his faith Christ and his irrevocable decision to die for it. In all the threats and pressures which they made, his answer was,
"I am Christian! I will remain Christian! And I will die Christian". His inflexible insistence had angered all the members of the Council, and in order to find a exit in the impasse, they ordered to throw the Saint once again in prison and have the tortures repeated. The executioners with unrestrained fury seized the victim again and threw him in a dark cell. There with cannibalistic passion,which is so well known even in our times,they begun their macabre work. They tied up the hands and the legs of the martyr in order for him not to be able to move and with whips they strucked him constantly everywhere. The Saint's body became a single wound from which the blood ran abundantly. After that, they put boiling hot irons and burning bricks on his shoulders and his armpits. In addition they inserted an iron rod into his penis. At the same time, some others put over his head a burning hot pot as a cap. We will not mention any other tortures as it is too much for us, not to mention that it is difficult for some-one even to read them. We will add only this. The courageous martyr endured all of them with courage and unique perseverance. He endured them by receding with faith, "Lord forgive me''. He had already decided for death and thus the pain did not scare him. With these martyrdoms he passed the whole night.
In the morning some executioners took the martyr and led him with insults and shoutings to the square in front of the judge, where he waited seated on a tall platform between a lot of Ottoman officials. A little below gallows were set up. The martyr looked first at the gallows and later at the judge. He felt a feeling of comfort seeing the first, and disgust as he looked at the second.
"Hey!! what you say?", shouted the judge with a sardonic laughter. "Did you knock some sense in your brains or you still insist in your opinions?''.
"I lost my brains only when I was carried away and exchanged my faith with yours. It is madness to throw away gold, in order to take dirt. Now I have found my sanity. Now that I have returned to Christ". In hearing the words of the martyr, the judge lost his patience and shouted,"Hang this gavour (pig) so that we can finish with him. Hang him, his mind does not change". The executioners led Polydoros to the gallows. After he approached them with determined steps, he kissed the rope with respect, made his cross with devotion and serenely accepted the rope to pass through his neck. The executioner pulled the rope. The body was raised in the air, while the Saint's soul flew to the blue chaos of the sky. The corpse of the Saint remained on the gallows for three days. The third day the Turks ordered the Christians to take him and bury him. Some people with good souls, Christians and paradoxically Muslims, lowered the Saint's body from the gallows, washed it with clean water and buried him near the Armenian cemetery with teardrops of admiration and love. Today his skull is kept at the church of Saint Catherine at Plaka, Athens."
a) In New Ephesus lived a Christian named Nicholas. This unfortunate man was possessed by a demon, which spoke with his mouth like child of the Phillipians revealed many times the secrets of those who fled to him. One day the sick man met a cleric, who had in his possession the relics of St. Polydoros and a piece of the rope of the noose, and was saddened by him. He took the holy possessions and went to his house:
As soon as he reached his door and the demoniac saw him he screamed:
-“You here? You here? What have you come to do? What do you want from me?”
The priest without losing time, took the holy relics from his bosom and made the sign of the cross towards the sick man.
The priest approached. He put the relics and the piece of the rope above, and O! the wonder! The sick man made a loud cry and then calmed down. The demon had fled and the man had become well again.
b) In those dangerous and black days when Hellenism, on account of our sins, was uprooted from the cradle of Asia Minor and was chased out, a Hieromonk, the Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of Ephesus Kyrillos Psyllos grabbed the holy skull of the martyr to save it. The furiousness of the Turks against clerics and the control over them to seek them out was unbelievable. Their fury was directed further against the churches and the holy relics. When they uncovered clerics or other people holding icons, relics, etc., they slaughtered them without discussion. The act of the Chancellor was very bold, and had they found him, he would have paid immediately with his life. This pious worker of Christ however was decisive. He dressed like a gerontissa [an Abbess, but in this case it might just mean an old woman], and took with him his very-precious treasure, made his cross and left. An endless line was waiting before him to be searched. As if arriving at the Turkish prison for the search, the Turks were furious. They had uncovered some in disguise and were furious. At that hour when the faithless reviled and beat their victims and screamed in terror the disguised Kyrillou came to be searched.
The pious cleric, without losing his composure, clenched the skull of the Saint to his chest and whispered inside himself:
-“O Saint Polydoros, save me.” And he saved him.
-"Hurry up Turkish woman", the Turk cried and pushed him ahead. In a short time the hieromonk was found dropped into a boat of salvation with his treasure. How did this happen? He did not remember. He didn’t understand. He was saved along with the holy skull of the martyr. When he arrived in Athens, he deposited it in the Holy Church of St. Catherine in the Plaka. There it is found today. Tens of the faithful go every day to venerate it. And thousands every year on September 3rd, which is his feast day, hasten to honor the martyr, the renegade who repented and sought His grace. To fall is a dreadful evil to man. Very dreadful! Great is the worth of repentance. Very great. The fall destroys, degrades. Repentance reinstates, saves. Reinstates man to his father’s house. And it saves him. It makes him “a fellow citizen of the saints and the house of God” In reality! How beautiful it is for men to constantly remember this truth!
Απολυτίκιο Ήχος γ’.
Μέγα καύχημα της Λευκωσίας- μέγα στήριγμα πέλεις Εφέσου- μέγα κλέος τε των δύο πόλεων της μεν γαρ γόνος σεπτός εχρημάτισας την δε τα σα επορφύρωσαν αίματα, αλλά πρέσβευε Χριστώ τω Θεώ, Πολύδωρε, ίνα ρυσθώμεν κινδύνων και θλίψεων.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Apolytikion Of St. Polydoros in the Third Tone (amateur translation)
A great boast of Levkosias- a great protector are you of Ephesus- a great glory of the two cities, of a sacred offspring were who shown to be by the purple of your blood, and intercede with Christ God, Polydoros, that we may be delivered from dangers and sorrows.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!
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