Martyr Mauricius at Nicopolis in Armenia

Saint Mauricius was one of the forty-five martyrs of Nicopolis, Armenia who suffered during the reign of the emperor Licinius (311-324). Licinius, the ruler of the Eastern Empire, fiercely persecuted Christians and issued an edict to put to death any Christian who would not return to paganism. When the persecutions began at Nicopolis, more than forty people appeared voluntarily before their persecutors, in order to confess their faith in the Son of God and accept martyrdom.

The procurator Licius, before whom the holy confessors appeared, was amazed at the bravery of those who voluntarily condemned themselves to torture and death. He tried to persuade them to renounce Christ and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, but the saints remained steadfast. They refuted all the governor’s arguments, pointing out to him the folly of believing in the vile pagan gods. The procurator ordered the confessors to be tortured and imprisoned.

In prison the saints rejoiced and sang the Psalms of David. St Leontius inspired and encouraged the brethren, telling them of the bravery of all those who had formerly suffered for Christ. In the morning, after repeatedly refusing to offer sacrifice to the idols, the saints were tortured again.

St Leontius saw the intense suffering of the martyrs and worried that some of them might falter and lose faith. Therefore, he prayed to God that their end would be swift.

When the holy martyrs sang Psalms at midnight, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to them, and the prison blazed with light. The angel told the martyrs that their contest was near its end, and their names already were inscribed in Heaven. Two prison guards, Meneus and Virilad, saw what was happening and believed in Christ. On the following morning, the governor decided to put the martyrs of Christ to death.

After beastly tortures they were burned in a fire, and their bones were thrown into a river. Pious people found the relics, gathered them up and saved them. Later on, when freedom was granted to the Church of Christ, a church dedicated to the 45 Martyrs was built on the spot.