Martyr John of Vlachia, Romania

The Holy New Martyr John of Vlachia was, born in 1644 in Oltenia. He received a good upbringing from his parents, who raised him in the fear of God, the love of country, and in their ancestral faith. At that time the Ţara Românească (the former name for Vlahia) was ruled by princes called Voevods, who were subject to the Sultan. The Voevod of Vlahia, Mihnea Voda, revolted against the Turks because he was unable to pay the exorbitant tribute which they demanded. He entered the Turkish territory, burning, killing, or jailing many Turks. Sultan Mehmet IV sent an army of Turks and Tatars against him, and he was forced to retreat. In retaliation, the Turks and Tatars ravaged Vlachia, killing many Christians, or throwing them into prison. Saint John, who came from a noble and wealthy family, was one of those who was jailed.

After crossing the Danube River, a Turkish army captain noticed how handsome he was, and so he bought him for his own evil purposes. When he tried to seduce him, John resisted, so he was tied to a tree until the Hagarene could find an opportunity to fulfill his desires. John was afraid that he might be raped, so when he had the chance, he killed the Turk. When the other soldiers learned what had happened, they bound the young man and took him to Constantinople and turned him over to the man's widow. She brought him to the Vizier, who questioned him, and John admitted what he had done. The Vizier gave him to the widow to do whatever she wished with him. At first, she made him one of her slaves. Then, seeing how handsome he was, she offered to spare his life if he would marry her and become a Moslem. Saint John made the Sign of the Cross and prayed that Christ would always preserve him steadfast in the Orthodox Faith. The woman continued her efforts for two and a half years. Finally, he told her that he would prefer to die for Christ rather than become a Moslem and marry her. The woman then turned him over to the prefect, who put him in jail. The Turks subjected him to frightful torments for several days. Meanwhile, the vile woman never ceased her attempts to flatter John, or to seduce him, or persuade him to reject Christ. The young man remained firm in both faith and virtue. Strengthened by the Lord Jesus Christ, he turned his back on the woman and on her religion.

Seeing that their efforts were in vain, the Turks asked the Vizier to condemn the martyr to death. This was done, and so the prefect was ordered to carry out the sentence. The executioners brought him to Parmak Kapi (“Gate of the Pillar”) near the covered bazaar, and hanged him there on May 12, 1662. He had not yet reached the age of eighteen. His holy relics were either thrown into the waters of the Bosphorus, or buried by Christians in an unknown place. Thus, the New Martyr John received an unfading crown from God.

Saint John was first glorified by the Greek Orthodox Church, which listed him among the New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke. Beginning in 1801, his veneration also began to spread in what is now Romania. In 1950, the Holy Synod of Romania decided that Saint John ought to be honored in the country of his birth. Saint John of Vlahia was glorified by the Romanian Orthodox Church in October of 1950, and his name was added to their Church Calendar. His Feast Day is observed on May 12, the day of his martyrdom.