The History of the monastery of Saint Raphael
The new and imposing Monastery of St. Raphael situated on Karyes hill – known as the hill of the Monk – is located 14 km north of the town of Mytilene and is dedicated to the Holy Martyrs Raphael, Nicholas and Irene.
Although it has been built quite recently, the monastery is pretty old in terms of history. It was in 1964 when the late Metropolitan Iakovos Kleomvrotou of Mytilene assigned the foundation of a monastery to Abbess Eugenia Klidara. The area at the time was completely empty apart from a bunch of stones here and there.
Legend has it though, that from the area a distinct aroma was being emitted. According to their religious tradition, Christians from Thermi and the surrounding villages used to perform a mass at a holm oak nearby every Bright Tuesday (the Tuesday after Easter). A lot of people claimed to have seen a monk holding a censer wandering around on numerous occasions. Then, he suddenly disappeared in a bright light. Plenty of miraculous events happened as reported by many reliable witnesses.
The Saint presented himself to young and old, men, women and children, pious and sinful people alike. Sometimes he appeared as a priest, and other times as a simple monk revealing that his name was Raphael and that the date of his martyrdom by the Turks took place on April 9, 1463, on an Easter Tuesday as well.
By the revelations made by St. Raphael, the story of his life and torturous death is presented as follows:
George Laskaridis (secular name), was an educated man who served as an officer after he had completed his studies. He was then tonsured a monk and given the name Raphael.
He was also ordained as a priest to serve St. Demetrios Loubardiaris Church, which is situated on Philopappos hill opposite the Acropolis in Athens. Later, he moved to Istanbul and became an Archimandrite.
Due to his educational background he was selected to be sent to an Ecclesiastical Mission in France where he met the young student Nikolaos, the son of a wealthy family from Thessaloniki. Fascinated by the personality of St. Raphael the young boy decided to follow him.
He returned to Greece and after he had taken his holy orders and become a Novice, he came to be the loyal assistant of St. Rafael. In 1453, the year of the Siege of Constantinople they were in Thrace.
The following year they left from Alexandroupolis to go to Lesvos, which was still free. Refugees as they were, they were searching for a quiet place to stay when they arrived at the small port of Thermi.
The locals suggested the Monastery of The Nativity of the Virgin Mary on Karyes hill, where a hermit called Rouvim was living alone. Hence the small brotherhood of Abbot Raphael was created.
The Turks conquered the island of Lesvos – a then Genoan colony – in 1462. In April, 1463, an upheaval in Thermi, which outraged the occupiers led to the Christians seeking refuge in the Monastery.
The Turks attacked the Monastery and arrested Abbot Raphael, his loyal assistant Novice Nicholas, a local noble family and the teacher of Thermi, while the rest of the people managed to find shelter in the nearby mountains. Soon after, the horrible martyrdom of the twelve-year-old Irene, the daughter of the noble family, Novice Nicholas and Abbot Raphael followed. Irene’s parents and the teacher were tormented to death as well. The next night the Christians came and took the bodies. They buried St. Raphael in the ruins of the burnt-out church and the rest of the bodies in the courtyard.
The tombs and relics of the Holy Martyrs were found after divine indications and visions. The lower jaw of St. Raphael was found far from his tomb.
The results of the excavations brought to light various valuable findings. A Patriarchal lead seal of the 14th century, the remains of an ancient Christian Church and Holy Water.
Among the findings there was an old Book of Rites (Archieratikon Engolpion) of the14th century, the relics of Abbess Olympia, who was also tortured to death when in 1235 pirates destroyed the Holy Church of The Virgin Mary which stood there and it is unknown when it had been built.
When the late Metropolitan Iakovos Kleomvrotou verified that the findings were real, he wished to build a monastery to that spot. The Sacred Feminine Communal Monastery of Saint Rafael was established as stated in the decision of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs (29-9-1962).
The Ecumenical Patriarchate in its September 11, 1970, Patriarchal and Synodical Act canonized Abbot Raphael, Novice Nicholas and the Virgin Martyr Irene and placed them among the Saints of the Orthodox Church, setting their feast day to be on Bright Tuesday.
The late Abbess Eugenia writes in her book “The History of the Holy Monastery of Saint Raphael”, p.59 about the revelations of St. Raphael:
“People often ask me how I found myself in this sacred place. I could mention just a few of the countless events that I lived in the glory of the Saints.
When I was the Abbess of The Holy Protection Monastery in Chios I was granted permission by Metropolitan Panteleimon Fostinis of Chios and Hieromonk Kornilios to go to Athens and build a church dedicated to St. Magdalene – my patron saint.
The day I was to get permission from the Archdiocese, for the building of the church, St. Raphael presented himself to me and told me:
“Your plan will not be completed now; you will not build the church you have in mind because I would like you to become the Abbess of my Monastery”.
What the Saint told me, his will, did not take long to be confirmed. I received a letter from the late Metropolitan Iakovos Kleomvrotou of Mytilene that wrote:
“Via me the humble Bishop of Mytilene, you are invited by the Saints and the people of the community as well, to serve as the Abbess of the Karyes Monastery, which will soon become a Women’s Monastery”.
After his letter and an awe-inspiring vision I had, I decided to go.
The Saint had appeared and invited me:
“Come to me”,