St. Irene, New Martyr of Lesbos


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Commemorated on April 9 (also on Bright Tuesday)

The Newly-Appeared Martyrs of Lesbos, Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene were martyred by the Turks on Bright Tuesday (April 9, 1463), ten years after the Fall of Constantinople. They began appearing to various inhabitants of Lesbos in 1959 and revealed the details of their lives and martyrdom. These accounts form the basis of Photios Kontoglou’s 1962 book, “A Great Sign” (published in Greek).

St. Irene was the twelve-year-old daughter of the village mayor, Basil. In the spring of 1463, the Turks raided the monastery at Thermi and captured the monks. Irene and her family had come to the monastery to warn the monks of the invasion. The cruel Hagarenes cut off one of her arms and threw it down in front of her parents. The pure virgin was then placed in a large earthen cask and a fire was lit under it, suffocating her. These torments took place before the eyes of her parents, who were also put to death. Her grave and the earthen cask were found on May 12, 1961 after Ss. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene had appeared to the people and told them where to look.

Others who also received the crown of martyrdom on that day besides St. Irene and her parents, Basil and Maria, were Theodore, the village teacher; and Eleni, the fifteen-year-old cousin of St. Irene.

St. Irene usually appears with a long yellow dress reaching to her feet. Her blonde hair is divided into two braids which rest on either side of her chest.

Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene (and those with them) are also commemorated on Bright Tuesday. Dr. Constantine Cavarnos has given a detailed account of their life, miracles, and spiritual counsels in Volume 10 of his inspirational series, “Modern Orthodox Saints” (Belmont, MA, 1990).

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)