Brief life of the Saint
He was born in Adrianople of Thrace from a great family. He married the daughter of Theodore Laskareos [the writer of the Great Paraklesis to the Theotokos], Irene, and accepted the throne of Nicea (1222-1255AD).
John was a pious and merciful king, and the people loved him greatly for his Christian ways, his meekness, his humility, his good ethics and his commitment to divine things.
Having ruled with Christ-like ethics, he fell asleep in peace on October 30th, 1255. He was buried with great honor in the Holy Monastery of the Savior Christ, which he himself had built, known as Sosandron.
The wondrous Relic of the Saint
The precious body of the most-pious, righteous, brave and merciful king was buried in a Monastery that he had previously built named Sosandra, though later, through the wondrous revelation of John himself, he sought to have the relic transferred to Magnesia [Asia Minor]. When they went, however, to open the tomb to transfer his relic, instead of an odor, there was a sweet fragrance like a garden of flowers. But this is not all. The dead appeared as if he were sitting upon a royal throne, without any darkening, without any odor, without any signs that he was dead! Seven years he was in the tomb, and his color was the same as a live human being. He appeared in reality as if he were alive, but a marble king. And in addition, his clothes appeared incorrupt as if he had just put them on. Thus God glorified those who glorify Him on earth!
The precious relic of the Holy king John Douka Vatatze the Merciful worked a great many miracles, healing wondrously the sick through the Grace of God, casting out demons and healing a multitude of passions, through the indwelling of the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
In 2001, the Holy Metropolis of Didymoteichou, Orestiados and Soufliou mentioned in their annual calendar: "until 1992, the memory of the emperor John the Merciful was honored every year in the church of Magnesia which he built, and where he found his final repose, and also in Nymphaion, his beloved home" (Ostrogorsky).
But what happened to that Church? What happened to the incorrupt relic of the "Marble King"? What does this have to do with the "legend", or with prophecies of the rebuilding of the City [Constantinople], for which he had suffered so much?