Dateline: October 11, 1280
Yesterday, 22 monks and 4 laymen of the Orthodox faith were martyred by Latin crusaders. The martyrs were burned alive after refusal to accept union with another faith as ordered by Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Paleologos. Wanting to secure his throne, the emperor gave allowance for Crusaders together with his mercenaries Tatars and Turks to go and “convert” the Orthodox men.
The monks, located on Mt. Athos, stood in firm opposition to the union. The Athonite monks sent a letter to Michael pointing out that practices of the other faith could not be accepted by Orthodox, and they asked the emperor to change his mind. “We clearly see,” the letter said, “that you are becoming a heretic, but we implore you to forsake all this and abide in the teachings that were handed down to you. Reject the unholy and novel teachings of a false knowledge, speculations, and additions to the Faith.”
One of the monks was warned that “enemies of Christ” were coming. The brother went and told the abbot Thomas who told the brothers to flee into the woods if they were weak in spirit. To the strong he said to stay and confess the Holy Orthodox faith. Abbot Thomas, together with 21 monks and 4 pilgrims, decided to stay in the monastery and suffered martyrdom.
The attackers tried to convince the monks to accept non-Orthodox teachings. Instead, the faithful rebuked these heresies. The attackers were angered and burned the tower with the holy Martyrs in it. One of the monks fell off the burning tower and he survived. From his bed, he told what happened to the brothers who came from their hiding places to the monastery. In the fire, the Holy Martyrs prayed for God to save the Holy Mount Athos and every true Christian on earth from heresies. When they ended their prayer, they heard a voice from heaven “Rejoice for great is your reward in heaven!”.
The names of the Martyrs for Christ are: Igumen Thomas, and the monks Barsanuphius, Cyril, Michael, Simon, Hilarion, James, Job, Cyprian, Sava, Jacob, Martinian, Cosmas, Sergius, Menas, Joasaph, Joannicius, Paul, Anthony, Euthymius, Dometian, Parthenius, and four laymen.
2017: Interesting Follow-up
The tower building where the holy martyrs were burned was partially kept until 1874. However the tower was already too old and it was in ruins – it had to be destroyed. To preserve the memory of the martyrdom of 26 martyrs, the brothers of the Zograf monastery (a Bulgarian Orthodox monastery) decided to build a monument in its place.
A 360-degree panorama of the Zograph Monastery Yard near the Martyrs’ Monument can be viewed at
The monastery and its seal are depicted on the obverse of the Bulgarian 2 levs banknote, issued in 1999 and 2005.
On March 21, 2011, the Bulgarian National Bank issued a commemorative silver coin with nominal value of 10 levs featuring the monastery
Anna Glass is a member of Joy of All Who Sorrow. She challenges all readers to send in a story for this blog to firstname.lastname@example.org. Write about: your story, a favorite saint, how you became Orthodox, a priest you appreciate, a sermon that changed your life, or anything else on your mind.