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
Bornc. 1714
Died24 August 1779
Kolkondas, Pashalik of Berat in the Ottoman Empire, now in Fier District, modern Albania
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
Canonized20 April 1961
Major shrineMetropolitan Cathedral of Athens
Feast24 August

Cosmas of Aetolia, sometimes Kosmas of Aetolia or Cosmas/Kosmas the Aetolian or Patrokosmas "Father Cosmas" (Greek: Κοσμάς Αιτωλός, Kosmas Etolos; born between 1700 and 1714 – died 1779), was a monk in the Greek Orthodox Church. He is recognized as one of the originators of the twentieth-century religious movements in Greece.[1] He is also noted for his prophesies.[2]

Saint Cosmas, the "Equal to the Apostles," was officially proclaimed a Saint by the Orthodox Church of Constantinople on 20 April 1961 under the tenure of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.[3] His feast day is celebrated on 24 August, the date of his martyrdom.


Cosmas was born in the Greek village of Mega Dendron near the town of Thermo in the region of Aetolia.[4] 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 Cosmas left Athos. He studied rhetoric in Constantinople for a time.[4] 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 reportedly been 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.[5] He called upon Christians to establish schools and learn Biblical Koine Greek, so 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,[4] 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 Ottoman power).[6]

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.[7] 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".[citation needed]

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 24 August 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.


In 1813 Ali Pasha, the de facto independent Muslim Albanian ruler of Ottoman Epirus, southern Albanian and Macedonia, and an enemy of the Sultan, had a church built near the site of Cosmas' execution, in which the remains of Cosmas were placed.[8] 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 giaouri", to which the Pasha reportedly replied: "Bring me a Muslim like him, I would kiss his feet.". From different French and English writers of his time he was known as a friend and a sustain[clarification needed] for Father Cosmas.

In 1984 the remains were transferred from the St. Cosmas' Monastery in Kolkondas, where he was killed, to the Archaeological Museum of Fier. Other relics of the saint are kept in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens. Saint Kosmas' pilgrimage is also revered in some Greek nationalist circles.[9][8] The latter are associated with the Northern Epirus issue and support the annexation of this region to Greece.[10][8][9] Although a hellenizer, Saint Cosmas of Aetolia is still highly regarded by Orthodox Albanians for the message that he gave.[8]

There are numerous popular religious texts attributed to St. Cosmas. Best known are the five "Didaches" and the "Prophecies". An account stated that he prophesied the unification of Greece and Epirus.[2] There survives, 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.[11] It is believed that these texts are based on Cosmas' preachings but were written and copied mostly after his death.


  1. ^ Ladouceur, Paul (2019-02-21). Modern Orthodox Theology: Behold, I Make All Things New. London: T&T Clark. p. 130. ISBN 9780567664815.
  2. ^ a b Nitsiakos, Vasilēs G. (2008). Balkan Border Crossings: First Annual of the Konitsa Summer School. New Brunswick: Transactions Publishers. p. 405. ISBN 9783825809188.
  3. ^ Chryssavgis, John (2016). Bartholomew: Apostle and Visionary. Thomas Nelson. p. 234. ISBN 9780718086893.
  4. ^ a b c "Saint Cosmas of Aetolia, Equal to the Apostles", Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
  5. ^ "Repose of the New-Hieromartyr Cosmas of Aitolia, Equal of the Apostles", Orthodox Church in America
  6. ^ Tassos A. Mikropoulos, "The Muslim Presence in Epirus and Western Greece", [1]
  7. ^ Sakellariou M.V.:"Epirus, 4,000 years of Greek history and civilisation", Ekdotikē Athēnōn, 1997, ISBN 978-960-213-371-2, p. 306
  8. ^ a b c d 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. "Other relics of Saint Cosmas are kept in a special shrine at the main Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens, where some Northern Epirotes come to pray for the annexation of southern Albania by Greece. Though a purveyor of Hellenic culture, Cosmas Aitolos is still highly regarded among Orthodox Albanians in Albania and in the United States for the profound spiritual message and encouragement he gave."
  9. ^ a b Elsie, Robert (2000). "The Christian Saints of Albania". Balkanistica. 13 (36): 48. "Other relics of Saint Cosmas are kept in a special shrine at the main Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens, where some Northern Epirotes come to pray for the annexation of southern Albania by Greece. Though a purveyor of Hellenic culture, Cosmas Aitolos is still highly regarded among Orthodox Albanians in Albania and in the United States for the profound spiritual message and encouragement he gave."
  10. ^ Giakoumis, K. (2013). "An Enquiry Into the Construction, Deconstruction, Transubstantiation and Reconstruction of Christian Pilgrimages in Modern-Day Albania". Ηπειρωτικό Ημερολόγιο. 32 (32): 187. Retrieved 16 September 2017. ... was particularly revered by a Greek nationalist milieu.
  11. ^ 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.

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