On the island of Mytilene (Lesvos in ancient times), near the village of Therme, the villagers had a custom of ascending a certain hill on this day to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the ruins of a small chapel, although no one knew whence this tradition sprang. In the year 1959, certain villagers began seeing persons who spoke to them, first in dreams, then awake, both by day and by night. Through these wondrous appearances, which were given to many people independently, the holy Martyrs Raphael, Archimandrite of the Ancient Monastery, and Nicholas, his deacon, together with the other saints martyred on the island, told the villagers the whole account of their martyrdom, which had taken place at the hands of the Moslem Turks ten years after the fall of Constantinople in 1463. The twelve‐year‐old Irene had been tortured, then burned alive in a large earthenware jar in the presence of her parents. On Tuesday of Renewal Week, Saint Raphael had been tied to a tree and his head sawn off through his jaws; Saint Nicholas had died at the sight of this. Although the feast is celebrated today because it is the day of their martyrdom, through the appearances of the Saints as living persons five hundred years after their martyrdom, it is also a singular testimony to the Resurrection of Christ.
For many years a monk had been seen walking on the hill at Karyes in Lesvos, Mytilene in Greece. Many Christians and Turks had seen him. The hill was also called Kaloyeros after the monk, who was seen holding a censor and would disappear in a splendour of light.
In 1917 the Turk who owned an estate with olive trees on the hill at Karyes, Hasan Bei, commissioned the police officer of Thermi, Efstratios Sitara to solve this mystery. The short investigation was soon abandoned as the belief was held that these visions were of a supernatural nature.
There was a small chapel there in the name of Panagia. Residents of Thermi held a service there every Easter Tuesday without hindrance from the Turkish owner of the property.
Many saw the monk. Shepherds grazing their flocks heard singing and bells from the chapel.
Tradition said the monk was killed by the Turks, but when this had happened no one knew. There had also been a female monastery there, but had been destroyed by barbarians. There was a strong belief that the place had Divine Grace and was Holy.
After the destruction and problems suffered by the Greeks in Asia Minor, the Turkish olive tree property was given to a Mr Marangos and his family. They sought permission to build a church.
On 3rd July 1959, excavations began for the foundations of the church. A grave was found containing a human skeleton and giving off a sweet fragrance. The head of the skeleton was resting on a round stone, much like a pillow.The head was about 30cms away from the body. The lower jaw was missing. The excavators also found a ceramic tile from the Byzantine era with a Cross engraved on it.
After the discovery of the grave, amazing phenomena started to occur. The bones were put in a sack by a Mr Doukas Tsolakis. He was in charge of the excavations. He could not lift the sack up due to the excessive weight.Noises were heard from the bones. They were also producing a fragrant incense. One of the workers, a Mr Leonidas Sideras kicked the sack and his leg went numb. Tsolakis hand remained motionless. He could not lift the sack. The priest was asked to do a Trisagion - a prayer for the departed. The night before he was due to conduct the service, he was wondering what name he should use. During the night Saint Raphael appeared to the Priest. He told him who he was, and that he was born on the island of Ithaka.
Since then St Raphael has appeared many times to different people. He suffered martyrdom on 9th April 1463.
St Raphael was born Georgios Laskaridis. His father was called Dionysios and his mother Maria. They were a devout family. St Raphael served in the army. He then became a monk and clergyman taking the name of Raphael.
He served as parish priest in the parish of St Demetrios of Loumbardiaris in Athens. He then became Archimandrite and Bishop at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
It was when he traveled to France that he met St Nicholas at Morlaix. Nicholas was from a wealthy family. He was a young student from Thessalonika studying at a French university. Nicholas was moved by the teaching of st Raphael and they became firm friends.
They lived in the monastery for nine years. In 1462 Mohammed the conqueror captured Lesvos after a seventeen day siege. It fell on 17th September 1462. The Turks did not disturb the Monastery immediately. After 6 months, in April 1463, during Holy Week, a movement occurred in Thermi, causing some agitation. The Christians went up to Karyes to hide. The teacher Theodoros and the Commumity Chief Vasillios together with his family went up to the Monastery. St Raphael conducted the Divine Liturgy for the last time on Holy Thursday. On Good Friday the Turks came to the Monastery seized Abbot Raphael, Deacon Nicholas, the family of the Community Chief and the Teacher Theodoros. Everyone else had fled to the mountains. The Turks started torturing them to find out the hideout of the others.
Irene, the twelve year old daughter of the Community Chief had her hand cut off in front of her parents, who were tied to a tree. She was then put in a big earthen pot and burned to death. Her father, mother, and the teacher Theodoros were all murdered. St Raphael was horribly tortured in front of Saint Nicholas. St Nicholas died of heart failure, on seeing his mentor murdered.
The Monastery was then torched and the Turks fled. The next night some devout Christians buried the Holy Martyrs secretly.
When St Raphael started to appear to people he revealed everything - where the bones of the Martyrs were buried, the pot where little Irene was burned, the grave of the Teacher Theodoros, and the graves of Irene and her father.
At The site of the Ancient Church, icons were found, Holy Water, Sheets from handwritten Gospels and a round icon of Jesus. St Raphael also revealed the spot where his jaw was.
The grave of Mother Olympia, who suffered Martyrdom in 1235 when pirates destroyed Panagias Old Monastery and killed the nuns, was also found. Three large nails were found in her skull. More nails were found on her body.
In 1963 at the place of the Holy Martyrdom a Convent for Ladies was established.
St Raphael has performed and still performs many miracles to this day.