Philothei

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Philothei
St.Philothei.jpg
Born 1522 Athens, Ottoman Greece
Died 1589
Venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy
Feast February 19
Patronage Athens, Women and Charitable works

Saint Philothei née Revoula Benizelos, (also known as Philotheia or Philothea) (Greek: Άγια Φιλοθέη) (1522 - 1589) was a Greek martyr and saint from Ottoman-era Greece.

Life[edit]

She was born in Athens in 1522 to an illustrious and wealthy family. Her parents were Angelo and Syrigi Benizelos. They had no children, but after fervent prayer her mother gave birth to a daughter whom they named Revoula. Against her will, she was married at the age of 14, to the noble Andrea Chila, who mistreated her. When he died in 1539, she was only 17, beautiful and wealthy and her parents insisted that she got remarried. Instead, she remained at home, spending much of her time in prayer. The family wealth gave her the opportunity for charitable work, and while still a young woman she had gained the respect and love of the community.

When her parents died in 1549, Philothei found herself the owner of extensive holdings. She took up the monastic life and around 1551 established a women's monastery under the patronage of St. Andrew. She took the name Philothei.[1] There the young nuns taught handiwork, weaving, housekeeping and cooking. In this way, she prepared the young women who came to her for the domestic life.

Philothei is primarily remembered for her abundant philanthropy. The convent had a great deal of charity establishments both in Athens and on the islands of the Aegean sea. Philothei founded a second, more secluded monastery at Patesia. She also built hospices, homes for the elderly, and schools for girls and boys of Athens. One of her more controversial activities was to buy the freedom of Greeks taken as slaves by the Tzambitis Ottomans, especially women taken to the harems. She offered shelter to young women, some pregnant, hunted by both Greeks and Turks helped them escape secretly to Tzia, to Andros, to Aegina, or to Salamina, where they protected.[2] In a 22 February 1583 letter to the Venetian Gerousia, Philothei asks for monetary support so as to manage to pay off her debts from ransom money, duties, bribes, and taxes to the occupying Turks. Her monasteries were frequently plundered, and the farming and agricultural program, which were a basic source of sustaining her work, devastated.[2]

Four women enslaved by the Ottoman Turks in harems also ran to her for refuge. The women were traced, and Philothei was beaten and brought before the magistrate who put her in prison. Friends intervened and paid the ditrict governor for her release. As her fame grew, so dd the animosity. On 3 October 1588, four Turks hired for the purpose, broke in to the maonastery at Patesia during the evening vigil service, beat her severely. She remained bedridden and died of her injuries on 19 February 1589.[2]

Veneration[edit]

Philothei is considered a martyr by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Just a few years after her death, she was canonized a Saint, in the days of the Ecumenical Patriarch Matthew the Second (1595-1600). Her memory is venerated on February 19. Along with Saints Hierotheus and Dionysius the Areopagite, Saint Philothei is considered a patron of the city of Athens. Her relics are interred in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens. The Filothei district of Athens is named after her.

Saint Philothei has a Troparion written about her:

Troparion to St. Philothei (Tone 5) The Faithful of Athens and all the world honor Philothei the martyred nun and rejoice in her holy relics. For she has exchanged this passing life for the life that knows no end through her struggle and martyrdom; and she begs the Savior to have mercy on us all.[3]

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