Cosmas of Aetolia

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Saint Cosmas of Aetolia
Kosmas Aitolos.jpg
Icon of Saint Cosmas.
Equal to the Apostles and Teacher of the Greek Nation
Born c. 1714
Aetolia
Died August 24, 1779
Kolkondas, Pashalik of Berat in the Ottoman Empire, now in Fier District of modern Albania
Honored in
Eastern Orthodox Church
Canonized 20 April 1961
Major shrine Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens
Feast August 24

Cosmas of Aetolia (sometimes Kosmas of Aetolia or Cosmas/Kosmas the Aetolian or Patrokosmas "Father Cosmas") (Greek: Κοσμάς Αιτωλός, Kosmas Etolos) (born at some time between 1700 and 1714 – died 1779) was a monk in the Greek Orthodox Church and an important figure in the Greek Enlightenment.

Saint Cosmas, the "Equal to the Apostles," was officially proclaimed a Saint by the Orthodox Church of Constantinople on 20 April 1961. His feastday is celebrated on August 24, the date of his martyrdom.

Life[edit]

He was born in the Greek village Mega Dendron near the town of Thermo in the region of Aetolia.[1] He studied Greek and theology before becoming a monk after a trip to Mount Athos where he also attended the local Theological Academy.

After two years he left Athos. He studied rhetoric in Constantinople for a time.[1] In 1760 he was authorized by Patriarch Serapheim II (who had marked anti-Ottoman tendencies) to begin missionary tours in the villages of Thrace - later extended to what would form the areas of both West Greece and Northern Greece. The Patriarch had been reportedly worried at the increasing rate of Christians converting to Islam in these areas.

Over sixteen years, Cosmas established many church schools in villages and towns.[2] He called upon Christians to establish schools and learn Biblical Koine Greek, that they might understand the Scriptures better and generally educate themselves.

After the Orlov Revolt of 1770 in the Peloponnese (which was provoked by the Orlov brothers with the support of Catherine II of the Russian Empire), Cosmas started to preach in what is now Southern Albania,[1] then under the rule of Ahmet Kurt Pasha, governor of the Pashalik of Berat.

His preachings had aroused the opposition of the rich and powerful and others who felt their position threatened, such as the kotsampasides (Greek "village elders" whose power and influence was bound up with the Ottoman power).[3]

Cosmas was also viewed with suspicion by officials of the Venetian Republic, then in its final stages of decline, which ruled parts of the territory where he was active. For example, in 1779 he is said to have visited the Venetian-ruled town of Preveza and founded there a Greek school, which would be the only school of the city during the 18th century - an act which the Venetian authorities might have considered as undermining their rule.[4] The Venetians' suspicions are attested in spy reports about Cosmas preserved in the Venetian archives.

In contrast, Cosmas had considerable support from other Christians and even from some Turks.

In his sermons Cosmas often refers negatively to the Jews. Nevertheless, in one of his preachings he stated specifically that:«Those who wrong Christians, Jews or Turks would be paid back for the injustice they committed».

One effect of his preaching was to transfer the holding of the weekly bazaar (fair) from Sunday to Saturday, which brought economic losses to Jews - barred by their religion from engaging in business on Sabbath. Some researchers believe that for that reason, Jews in Epirus were involved in his conviction by the Ottoman authorities.

Accused of being a Russian agent, he was seized by Ottoman authorities. On August 24, 1779 he was executed at Kolkondas, Fier District, near the mouth of the Seman river (in present day Albania). There were no formal charges brought against him, nor was he put on trial before being executed - leading to various theories, persisting up to the present, about who might have wanted him dead.

Legacy[edit]

In 1813 Ali Pasha, the de-facto independent Muslim Albanian ruler of Ottoman Epirus or Tosk Albanians and Macedonia, and an enemy of the Sultan - managed to have a church built near the site of Cosmas' execution, in which the remains of Cosmas were placed.[5] Ali Pasha went as far as having a date of celebration set in Cosmas' honor. Some other Muslims disliked Ali Pasha's "giving too much honor to a gkiaouri", to which the Pasha reportedly replied: «Bring me a Muslim like him, I would kiss his legs.». From different French and English writers of his time he was known as a friend and a sustain for Father Cosmas.

Later, in 1984 the remains were transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Fier. Other relics of the saint are kept in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, where some irredentist Northern Epirotes pray for the annexation of Northern Epirus to Greece.[5] Although a hellenizer, Saint Cosmas of Aetolia is still highly regarded by Orthodox Albanians for the message that he gave.[5]

There are numerous popular religious texts attributed to St. Cosmas. Best known are the five "Didaches" and the "Prophecies". There survive, however, no original manuscript of these texts written personally by St. Cosmas, and none can be dated with certainty. His writings are known only from second or third-hand transcriptions.[6] It is believed that these texts are based on Cosmas' preachings but are written and copied mostly after his death.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Saint Cosmas of Aetolia, Equal to the Apostles", Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
  2. ^ "Repose of the New-Hieromartyr Cosmas of Aitolia, Equal of the Apostles", Orthodox Church in America
  3. ^ Tassos A. Mikropoulos, "The Muslim Presence in Epirus and Western Greece", [1]
  4. ^ Sakellariou M.V.:"Epirus, 4,000 years of Greek history and civilisation", Ekdotikē Athēnōn, 1997, ISBN 978-960-213-371-2, p. 306
  5. ^ a b c Elsie, Robert (2000). A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology, and folk culture. New York University Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-8147-2214-5. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  6. ^ Eustathiou G. (2010) Father Kosmas Aitolos and the homiletical approach of his teaching, p. 12-16. Aristotle University of Thessalonike, School of Theology, reviewed by Prof. D. Koukoura. In Greek language with English abstract.

External links[edit]