Sunday, June 9, 2013

Agioi Deka Church, Crete

The Agioi Deka church in the village of Agioi Deka commemorates ten Christian martyrs who lost their lives in 250 A.D. while Christians were persecuted under Roman emperor Trajanus Decius. The church in the town is the site where they were executed, formerly the Roman amphitheater of Gortyna (the Roman capital of Crete). It was not open when we visited.

Agioi Deka Church, with the sun in just the right spot!

A bit of the town, just because the architecture is so cool!

Down the road is a small chapel dedicated to St. Ephraim. The chapel is little more than a small room and was open.

St. Ephraim Chapel

A red-roofed church further down the road is also dedicated to the ten martyrs. This church has a crypt accessible from outside showing where the martyrs might be buried.

Church with the tombs

Burial place of the martyrs?

A small niche altar

Icons by the tombs (click to enlarge)

The church itself is not very large but has fantastic icons inside.

Another icon of the ten martyrs (click to enlarge)

St. Karalamnos (?) and St. Titus

Icon of the execution

Who were the Ten Martyrs of Crete?

Christianity had been present in Crete since apostolic times, when Paul sent Titus to evangelize the island. At the time Gortyna was the capital and the community of believers grew strong. In 249 A.D., the Roman emperor Decius demanded that all his subjects worship him as a god. Many people just went through the motions, even in mostly Christians towns like Gortyna. Ten men would not sacrifice to the emperor, saying that the only truly divine person was Jesus Christ. The men were arrested and imprisoned for a month. During that time they were tortured in hopes that they would give in. They did not and the governor of Crete ordered their execution. They were killed and buried in the town. Under the reign of Constantine, permission was granted to exhume and move the bodies of the martyrs. Their final resting place is unclear, though further archeology may reveal their tombs.

Interestingly the protest was planned. Five of the men came from Gortyna: Theodoulos, Satornilos, Euporos, Gelasios, and Eunikianos. The others came from other cities around the island. Pompios came from Lebena, Agathapos from Panormos, Basiliedes from Kydonia (Chania), Zotikos from Knossos and Euarestos from Irakleon.

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