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Greek Monks Massacre by Ottomans Revealed in Stolen 16th Century Manuscripts

172 Greek monks were slaughtered by the Ottomans
172 Greek monks of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Eikosifoinissa were killed by the Ottomans. Credit: Nikolaos Karampetakis Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

All 172 Greek monks of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Eikosifoinissa at Pangaion were massacred by the Ottomans, reveals the study of recovered 16th century manuscripts.

The manuscripts are part of the whole monastery library that was stolen in 1917 by Bulgarian soldiers during World War I and ended up in the United States. The library included over 430 manuscripts and 470 objects.

In their pages, the rich history of the monastery is revealed, confirming the oral testimonies that existed until today about a series of events that marked the monastery during its long and turbulent history, according to an Athens Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) report.

Among them, there is confirmation of an oral testimony about a 16th century massacre,  when the Ottoman conquerors slaughtered all the monks in the monastery.

Hand-Written Gospel

Previous to the manuscripts, a 9th century Codex 1424 – a rare Greek manuscript of the complete New Testament – was returned to its rightful owners.

In December 2016, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, returned a rare ninth century Greek manuscript of the complete New Testament known as Codex 1424, to its rightful owners: the Holy Metropolis of Drama and its Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Pavlos of Drama.; and the Holy Monastery of Panagia Eikosifoinissa from which the manuscript had been stolen.

The priceless codex was returned by the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. The manuscript includes miniatures and depictions of the Evangelists, is written in two columns with twenty-seven lines per column. The columns together measure 18.1 cm by 14 cm (7.13 inches by 5.5 inches).

The vellum gospel somehow ended up at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., which recently notified the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew that it had been one of the objects stolen during World War I.

Bartholomew, the Metropolis said, allowed the museum, which receives one million visitors a year, to exhibit the manuscript until very recently.

More Manuscripts Returned

In October 2023, the Metropolitan of Laodicea, Theodoritos, as the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Athens, handed over to the Metropolitan of Drama three stolen manuscripts of the holy monastery of Eikosifoinissa dating to the 16th century.

The Archdiocese of America mediated so that the above manuscripts came into legal possession of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from the collection of the Swann Auction Galleries of New York.

The manuscripts were sold to a Chicago collector in 2018, who however returned them when he found their ownership to be legally and ethically questionable.

The manuscripts remained for years in the particular auction house and after it was established that they were stolen from the Monastery of Panagia Eikosifoinissa, it was decided to deliver them to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, so that they could be returned to the rightful owner.

The Great Secret the Manuscripts Hid

In one of these manuscripts marked X 8, a note and text was found related to the massacre of the Greek monks of Eikosifoinissa by the Ottomans in the year 1507.

Drama Metropolitan Dorotheos told AMNA that the oral testimonies spoke about the particular manuscript in which it was recorded that 172 monks were slain by the Ottomans. However, with the discovery of the paper manuscript, “we have all the names of the slaughtered monks, who met a tragic death on August 25, 1507 and who are now commemorated in the monastery services.”

The handwritten note states: “In 1507, a great and terrible tragedy fell upon the holy monastery when they cut down the monks and sacked the monastery as well, in the month of August (25).”

Under the heading “These are the monks”, there is a list of the slaughtered monks and others. In the margin of sheet 31 there is confirmation of the continuity of the list of slain monks and the designation: “The unjustly killed”.

It should be noted that the total number of the massacre victims was 202, of which there were 24 priests, 3 deacons, 145 monks and 30 pilgrims.


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