Monkmartyr Agathangelus of Esphigmenou of Mt Athos

The Monk Martyr Agathangelus, in the world Athanasius, was born in the city of Enos, Thrace, and was raised in a strict Orthodox family. After the death of his parents Constantine and Krystalia, he became a sailor. The Turks wanted to convert the skilled and intelligent youth to Islam, but knew that he would not do so of his own free will. So they arrested him in the city of Smyrna, wounded him and threatened him with death, then demanded that he become a Moslem.

The youth was terrified and promised to do as they asked, hoping to escape from the bullies and then go back on his promise. However, he was unable to do this for a long time. Tormented by pangs of conscience, he was able to quit the city and seek refuge on Mount Athos. Igumen Euthymius of Esphigmenou monastery confessed him and blessed him to become a novice.

St Athanasius considered even his most intense efforts insufficient to atone for his sin of apostasy. He believed that he had to suffer martyrdom for Christ, and he began to pray about this.

On the fourth Sunday of Great Lent the nineteen-year-old youth was tonsured as a monk with the name Agathangelus.

St Nicholas the Wonderworker appeared to the new monk in a dream and promised to help him. The igumen of the monastery saw this as a special sign, and blessed St Agathangelus to bear witness to Christ at Smyrna before those who forced him to become a Moslem.

In the Ottoman courtroom the confessor told how they had compelled him to accept an alien faith. Then he publicly renounced Islam and confessed himself a Christian. They began to cajole and admonish St Agathangelus to reconsider his statement. He replied, “I will not give in to you, nor to your threats, nor to your promises. I love only Christ, I follow only Christ, only in my Christ do I hope to know happiness.”

The judge threatened him with death by torture. “I am prepared to endure all for my Christ! I accept every manner of torment with the greatest joy! I ask only that you do not tarry in carrying out your word,” the saint replied.

They bound St Agathangelus with heavy chains, hammered his feet into wooden boots, and threw him into prison. With him were two other wrongly condemned Christians. One of them, Nicholas, gave an account of the saint’s martyrdom.

On the following day, St Agathangelus was again brought before the judge in fetters. Bravely enduring all the torments which the Turks had readied for him, he again was sent to prison. Nicholas told him that a certain influential man would intervene before the judge for his release, but St Agathangelus wrote a note to this man asking that he not attempt to free him, but to pray to God that he be strengthened for martyrdom.

The saint readied himself for the final trial. At midnight, it was revealed to him in a vision that they would execute him no later than five o’clock, and he waited for the appointed hour. At about the fourth hour, a watch was placed over him. Seeing no possibility of converting the confessor from his faith in Christ, the judges decided to execute him. Absorbed in prayer, the martyr did not take notice the preparations for execution, nor the large throng of people.

He was beheaded at the fifth hour of the morning, on April 19, 1818. Christians gathered up the holy relics of the martyr and buried them in the city of Smyrna, in the church of the Great Martyr George.

A portion of the relics of St Agathangelus was sent to the Esphigmenou monastery on Mount Athos in 1844.