The Martyrs Julian, Marcian, John, James, Alexius, Demetrius, Photius, Peter, Leontius, Maria the Patrician, the Protospatharios ("Sword-Captain") Gregory and others suffered for the holy icons in 730 under Iconoclast Emperor Leo the Isaurian. Emperor Leo deposed the holy Patriarch Germanus from the patriarchal throne and threw him in prison, raising up onto the patriarchal throne the iconoclast Athanasius.
By decree of the emperor, all icons were to be confiscated from homes and churches and then destroyed. At Constantinople from the time of the holy Emperor Constantine the Great, there was over the so-called "Copper Gates" a wonderworking icon of the Savior, made of copper.
On January 19, 730, the emperor and Patriarch Anastasius gave orders to seize this icon. The crowd was outraged at this sacrilege. In the crowd was St. Mary, a woman from an illustrious family, who with many others rushed the ladder and pulled it from the wall to keep the soldier from touching the icon. The ladder came down, and the soldier standing on it fell to his death. Protospatherios Gregory and the nun St. Theodosia also took part in the defense of the icon.
Learning of this, the emperor executed a multitude of the faithful, the names of whom are known only to the Lord. Protospatherios Gregory also received a martyr's death. Some of the Orthodox are known, however: Julian, Marcian, John, James, Alexius, Demetrius, Leontius, Photius and Peter, who were locked up in prison and kept there for eight months, each day receiving 500 blows. They remained alive by the power of Christ and bravely endured their sufferings. Eventually, the emperor ordered that these men be burned with a red-hot iron and their heads cut off.
St. Mary, who had not been locked up in prison, voluntarily accepted a martyr's death. The bodies of the martyrs were buried in a coastal area near the church of the holy Martyr Theodore, and were discovered incorrupt 139 years later.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org )