Saint George Chiopolitis

Saint George Chiopolitis, George Tsopanis from Pityos

Saint Georgε Chiopolitis was born in 1785 in Pityos. He was the son of Paraskevas and Aggerou and his family name was Giorgos Tsopanis. When he was nine months old his mother passed away. Soon after his father remarried and Georgios was raised by his stepmother.

At the age of nine, his father sent him to a wood carver named Vissetzis, to teach him the art of woodcarving. The craftsman took him along to Psara Island where they undertook the construction of the temple of the church of Saint Nikolas. While in Psara, George met some other young boys and sneaked off the island without notifying his tutor.

Muslim in Kavala

The boys ended up in the city of Kavala where, being hungry, they tried to steal watermelons from a garden, but were spotted and chased by the owner. Most of them escaped by jumping the farmyard of the estate, but little George was not able to so he was caught and handed over to the Kadi, that is the Sharia judge. The fear of being punished and the judge’s pressure, forced him to convert to Islam. He was circumcised and named Ahmed. So, he started working for Ottoman employers.

Visits and return to Chios.

In the meantime, his family lost track of him, until one day a ship arrived in Chios carrying watermelons and George, now an apprentice sailor, was seen by a relative disembarking. The relative who heard that they were referring to him as Ahmed. So, he approached Georgios and asked him about it, but the young man did not respond. He ran and got on board.

After some time, George visited Chios and his father’s house, but he did not manage to meet anyone, because no one was home when he arrived.  Later, in a last attempt to meet his family, he returned dressed in clothes that indicated his origin and that he is an Orthodox Christian, and finally met his father. He was regretful for converting to Islam and declared his faith in Jesus Christ. His father received him in tears and led him to the pastor of the parish in order for him to confess and receive spiritual guidance.

Saint George in Kydonies (Ayvalik) of Asia Minor

George stayed at the paternal house in Chios, but his father did not stop fearing that he might be punished if his return to Christianity would be rumoured. So, they travelled to Kydonies in Asia Minor (today’s Ayvalik) and George was placed in the service of an orthodox Christian farmer. When the man learned his story, to protect him, he sent him to work far from the city.

Ten years passed, George was working and living in accordance with the rules of the Christian faith, and he felt safe. Despite the time that had passed his father was still worried about the consequences his son’s decision might have. For this reason, he prompted him to leave with a Russian ship, but George refused. (It was the time after the treaty of Küçük-Kaynarca of 1774, when the Russians had received navigation privileges from the Ottomans, regarding the travels from the Black Sea to the Aegean and the Mediterranean, and several Chians began to excel as sailors in their merchant fleet).

Arrest and imprisonment of George

George, however, moved to the city of Kydonies and stayed in the house of an old Christian woman who as time passed took her as his mother and told her everything that had happened to him. Two years later, at the age of twenty-two, he was engaged to a local girl.  His fiancée’s parents asked the old woman her opinion about the young man and among all the good things she said, she recklessly revealed everything to them. Eventually all family members now knew his story. As a result, one day when George had a quarrel with his fiancée’s brother over some money issues, the brother reported him to the authorities. When George’s friends heard this, they urged him to hide and save himself, but he refused.

He was soon arrested and brought before the judge. When the judge asked his name, he replied that his name was George and that he wanted to die under that name. After making various promises, pressuring and threatening him to deny his faith, the judge warned him that if he chose to die he should know that he would have a very cruel death. George replied: “Kill me. I accept my death with joy.” He was then taken to prison where he remained from November 8 to 25, 1807. He bravely endured torture and he remained dedicated to his faith, until he was sentenced to death by decapitation.

Torture and death

In the meantime, the Christians were praying for George – he was very dear – to get strength to endure until the end. This consoled him and gave him strength. George thanked God and asked a priest to visit him in the prison. To make this possible, the Christians of the city staged a fight in which a priest was also involved. They aimed that the priest would be arrested and temporarily would be kept in jail, together with George. Indeed, George met the priest in the cell, confessed his sins to him and received Holy Communion.

On his way to the execution, George asked for forgiveness from all the Christians he met on his way and to pray for his soul. One of them, who served the Turkish agha, offered George to exchange positions and to die instead of him for Christ. George refused this time, too, saying: “I denied Christ and I am dying for His name”.

While his captors continued to ask him to repent, George declared his faith and shouted that he wanted to die a Christian. On hearing this, the executioner shot him in the back and a lot of blood poured out from the wound. He ordered him to bow his head and struck his neck with the sword. George did not die immediately, but after a series of harsh blows. He continued to pray until the last moment. He was only twenty-two years old.

After the martyr’s end the people who had gathered around moved towards his warm body with great sorrow.

Fotis Kontoglou, the writer from Ayvalik, describes characteristically:

“Then the whole crowd poured out frantically at the warm body. And another cleaned up the blood, another embraced the holy relic or the stone where he was killed, another tore a piece of his garment, another glorified God. The Turks beat them with sticks and kicked them but in vain. The agha ordered them to beat them, and the Turks shouted and fell upon the Christians with bare swords. The poor Christians scattered shouting “Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy” and one lost his lantern, another his cane, another his shoes, another his cap…”.

The faithful Christians buried him on the deserted islet of Nissopoula, near Ayvalik. Years later, his remains were transferred to a church built in his honour above the place of his martyrdom, in Kydonies, and placed to the right of the Holy Altar, as a martyr’s relic. A great celebration was held in his honour, until the Asia Minor disaster of 1922. He was and remains the patron saint of Kydonians around the world. In modern times he is especially honoured in Chios, Lesvos, Santorini, and Syros.

His house, the temples and icons in honor of the Saint In Pityos

In one of the alleys of Pityos, the visitor will come across the humble house of Agios Georgios Chiopolitis and a small shrine is built nearby. A larger shrine in his honour is located in the middle square of the village.

At the southern entrance of Pityos there is a large church in honour of the Saint, inaugurated on August 11, 2001.

Outside of Chios

A Holy Church of Agios Georgios Chiopolitis has also been erected in Dionysos, Attica, and in Aktio, Preveza.

Holy relics of the Saint are kept in Panayuda of Lesvos and in the Holy Monastery of the Prophet Elias of Santorini.

An icon of the Saint created in 1847, is kept in the holy cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior in Ermoupoli, Syros, where the Saint is honoured as the patron saint of bakers.

One of the most famous frescoes depicting the Saint can be found in the holy church of St. Nikolas, Kato Patisia (Acharnon Street) in Athens and is the creation of Fotis Kondoglou.

The silver covering of the Saint’s chariot is in the Benaki Museum in Athens.

Bibliography

  • Kondoglou Fotis, The Martyr of Saint George the Chiopolitis, Kivotos publications, Αthens, 1953
  • Sotiriou G. P., The New Martyr Saint George Chiopolitis – patron saint of Kydonies, Mytilene 1955
  • Chalkia-Stefanou Popi, The Saints of Chios, Eptalofos 2nd edition, Athens 2008.
  • https://imchiou.gr/index.php/agiografika-keimena/agiologika/9818-
  • https://www.newsnowgr.com/article/1211542/i-petra-pou-martyrise-o-agios-georgios-o-xiopolitis—ap-ta-matomena-xomata-tis-m-asias-sti-geitoniki-mytilini.html?fbclid=IwAR1z9d_BicSJHwSg30A_KAKJoJzCmWN2caJdAITcXBnM1Zn2JkIVlll4F3o