St. Herakleidios the Priest-martyr of Cyprus

A figure of the early Church, baptized and ordained in Cyprus by the Apostles.

I’ve had occasion to visit the Sacred Monastery of Herakleidios a couple of times. I came across this account of his life recently and thought I would translate it to share with an English-speaking audience.

THE HOLY PRIEST-MARTYR HERAKLEIDIOS (17 September)

SAINT HERAKLEIDIOS, whose sacred memory the Church celebrates on 17 September, hailed from the village of Lampadou (or Lampadistos). According to one account, this village was located near the village Galata of Solea, though the views on this are divided.

The Apostles Paul, Barnabas, and Mark arrived in Lampadou (or Lampadistos) when they came to the island for the first time, where they encountered Hierokles, the father of St. Herakledios. Hierokles was a priest of the idols, but he helped the Apostles to advance on their route to the “snowy mountain” (Troodos), giving them his son—whose name originally was Herakleon—as a guide. On the way, Herakleon was catechized by the Apostles Paul, Barnabas, and Mark, and was baptized in the river Setarchos, of Marathasa, and they changed his name to “Herakleidios”.

The Apostles Barnabas and Mark passed by Lampadou once more during their second visit to the island (they sailed down to Kormakite, and from there went to various parts of the Morphou region, then were directed to Solea) and they ordained him as the first bishop of Tamassos.

St. Herakleidios set up the local Church of Tamassos, taking up residence in a nearby cave, and there worshiped God with the faithful members of the newly established church. At the same time, he tended to the spreading of Christianity throughout the entire island, with the guidance of the Apostles.

Following the martyrdom of the Apostle Barnabas, Mark the Evangelist informed the Apostle Paul, who was then in Ephesus. In order to strengthen the missionary work on the island, the latter sent his coworkers, Epaphras and Tychikos, to the one who was at that time the only bishop of Cyprus—St. Herakleidios—with instructions to establish specific men as bishops in different parts of Cyprus. St. Herakleidios, who was already Bishop of Tamassos, journeyed to Soli in order to find a certain Auxibios, who had already been ordained and made bishop by the Apostle Mark. Indeed, the two saints met there, and Herakleidios exhorted Auxibios in relevant matters, suggesting to him how and where he ought to construct a church, and how to conduct the ecclesiastical rites. Subsequently, and based on the Apostle Paul’s instructions, the Apostle Tychikos became the first bishop of Neapolos (in Lemesos), and Epaphras became the first bishop of Paphos.

St. Herakleidios, with zeal and the fear of God, thrived in his work in the Lord’s vineyard. With his superhuman efforts, the small flock that had first formed around him grew day by day, so that in just a short time the city of Tamassos became a resplendent center of Christianity. Along with his virtue and burning zeal, his gift of wonder-working—with which he had ben endowed by the Lord—also contributed to this increase. And so, since he had performed great miracles and multiplied the talent given him, he departed for the Lord, leaving St. Mnasonas as his successor.

According to another account, however, St. Herakleidios underwent a martyr’s death, being tortured horribly by idolators in the public square of Tamassos, being finished off by the sword. In the Synaxaristes [a compilation of the lives of saints] of St. Nikodemos, it is noted that the saint was martyred by fire. Another reference to the martyrdom of St. Herakleidios is recorded around the mid- to late-tenth century (the Synaxarion of the Church of Constantinople). However, according to a much older source (of the fifth or sixth century) that survives in the manuscript codex Paris 769+979 [I cannot locate this reference] of the thirteenth century (it is the Life of Sts. Herakleidios and Mnasonas, as written by their disciple, Rodona), St. Herakleidios “fell asleep in peace”.

Around the year 400, the Sacred Monastery of St. Herakleidios was built over the underground cave that contains the saint’s tomb (this is likely the cave dwelling referred to in the above account by Rodona). This monastery originally functioned as a community for men, but after being abandoned for a number of years, it was renovated and reopened in 1963 as a women’s community. The skull and portions of the relics of the saint are preserved at the monastery. Each Sunday and feast day, a multitude of faithful Christians come to the monastery’s church from different parts of the island to attend the Divine Liturgy and other sacred services, to devoutly venerate the saint’s skull, and to be strengthened spiritually.

May his grace ever cover and protect our martyric island, and all of us.

Dismissal Hymn
Third Mode. «Θείας πίστεως».
(Metered adaptation.)
You were found to be a great archpastor *
and a preacher and also a teacher *
in Tamassos, where you established the Church of Christ, *
and you brought down the deception of the idols, *
while preaching Truth to all the pagans and the gentile clans. *
Holy hierarch, Saint Herakleidios, *
make fervent appeals to Christ our God *
to grant us his great mercy and to save our souls.

Translated by Fr. Andreas Houpos. [SOURCE]