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The Monastery of Agios Raphael in Lesvos: The monastery of Agios Raphael is situated near the village of Thermi, about 15 km from Mytilene town. It is an important place of pilgrimage on the island. Miracles and supernatural phenomena surround the fascinating story of this monastery, close to which monk Raphael was believed to have suffered by the Turks in the 15th century in order to deny his Christian faith and become a Muslim.
In fact, at the beginning of the 20th century, many of the residents of Thermi began to see the specter of a monk carrying a censer on a hill above the village who would suddenly disappear in a dazzle of light.
The visions of the monk enveloped in a splendor of dazzling light also began to appear in a small chapel where the residents of Thermi used to celebrate Easter Tuesday. The village people began recalling the traditional legends and stories about a monastery that existed there and of numerous martyrs who were thought to have been buried in that site.
Several decades later, on July 3, 1959, workers engaged in the building of a small church uncovered a grave during their digging. The grave contained a human skeleton which was said to emit a sweet fragrance. When workers found other relics, such as a Byzantine-era ceramic tile with a cross engraved on it and some ecclesiastical marbles, they reported it to the village priest, realizing the religious significance of the findings. These findings were verified by an archaeologist who forbade any works within 100 meters radius of the grave.
The 15th-century Christian martyr Raphael soon made numerous appearances, at first before young and old men, and then among women and children, sometimes as a simple monk, and other times in the sacerdotal vestments of a high dignitary of the church. The monk Raphael was born Georgios Laskaridis to devout parents who gave him a good education. After serving as an Army officer, he joined the Holy Order and became a monk. He gradually rose in the ecclesiastical hierarchy to become Archimandrite and Bishop at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
During a visit to France at the behest of the Patriarch, Raphael met the student Nikolas who soon became his life-long disciple and whose life henceforth was to be inextricably linked to that of Raphael. The monk and his acolyte arrived in Thermi, Chios, in 1454. They founded a spiritual brotherhood of which Raphael became the Abbot. Their small monastery was established on the ruins of the 13th century Holy Monastery of Panagia, which had been destroyed by the pirates.
The Turks, having conquered the island of Lesvos in 1462, descended on Thermi during the Holy Week of April 1463. They seized Monk Raphael, Deacon Nikolas, the family of the village elder and the village teacher. The Turks were merciless and treated their prisoners in a very cruel manner. Raphael, in particular, was savagely tortured, stabbed with bayonets and had his jaw cut off while being hung by his feet on a walnut tree. Nikolas, while being repeatedly stabbed with bayonets, died of heart failure from seeing the suffering of his beloved Abbot. The Turks left only after burning down the monastery to the ground.
The excavations found the graves of all the martyrs and the holy relics exactly in the same place. The present Monastery of Agios Raphael was built in 1963 on the ruins of the previous monasteries. It is an important place of pilgrimage, where thousands come seeking for spiritual solace and miraculous cures. Its shape is big and the skull of Agios Raphael is also kept there.
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