ζωγραφιά feast day

Agios Fokas and the burning monastery

Agios Fokas and the burning monastery

Those readers who speak a some Greek will note that the liturgical calendar honors today the name “Zographia” (Ζωγραφιά, Ζωγραφια). The word by itself means painting, as in creating an image using paint. Icon painting has it own descriptive word Hagiographia (αγιογραφίας). So why honor people who paint? The day is not about people, it’s about an event.

Once upon a time (before 980) some Bulgarian monks built a monastery on Mt. Athos dedicated to Saint George. Instead of being called the Monastery of St.George, the monastery gained the name Zographou (of the painter) because within the monastery an icon of St.George miraculously appeared overnight on a blank piece of icon wood. Hence the dedication to the Divine Painter. The Zographou monastery is still there today.

But honored today is an event from Orthodox and Byzantine history.
The secular story tells us that in 1275 the monastery was sacked and burned by crusaders searching for loot.

The religious take on the event is more nuanced. Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos, in search of allies from the West, made a deal with the Pope in Rome which included accepting parts of the heretic Western creed as Orthodox dogma. Palaiologos attempted to enforce these doctrinal changes. The monks at Zographou resisted accepting this heresy so the Emperor hired mercenary Franks (crusaders) to sack and burn the monastery. 26 monks perished and those 26 martyrs are celebrated 10 October.

Why the icon above includes Agios Fokas is a mystery to me, though today is his name day too.

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