New Martyr Nicholas of Metsovo

Nicholas Basdanis was born at Metsovo, Epeiros to poor, but devout Orthodox parents. As a young man he went to Trikkala in Thessaly, where he worked as the assistant of a Moslem baker. While there, some Turks tried to convert him to their religion. Yielding to their persistent efforts, he embraced Islam. Later, realizing the gravity of his sin, he returned to Metsovo, and to the Orthodox Church.

Nicholas earned some extra money by taking wood to Trikkala and selling it. This went on for some time, but one day He was recognized by a Moslem barber, who was a friend of the baker. The barber wondered why Nicholas was no longer dressed as a Turk. Stricken with fear, Nicholas gave him the load of wood, promising to bring him more wood every year, if he would keep his secret. The barber agreed, and things continued that way for a long time.

Nicholas was troubled by his conscience, however, and believed that the only way to atone for his denial of Christ was to become a martyr. He spoke of this to his Spiritual Father at the monastery of Meteora, who advised him not to be too hasty in carrying out his intention, lest he should be unable to endure the inevitable torture, and deny Christ once again. Seeing that Nicholas was determined to pursue this course, the priest strengthened him spiritually for the contest.

When Nicholas felt he was ready, he returned to Trikkala to see the barber. The man asked him about the wood he had promised to bring, and Nicholas told him that he had none. Furthermore, he would not be receiving any wood in future. The barber became angry and denounced Nicholas to the authorities, saying that he had rejected Islam. The barber summoned other Turks to take Nicholas to the kadi for interrogation.

In answer to the kadi's questions, Nicholas admitted freely that he had converted to Islam, but then he repented and returned to his Christian Faith. Fearlessly, he told the Moslems that he was born a Christian, and that he intended to die as a Christian, no matter how much they might torture him.

The kadi tried the usual flattery and promises of riches in order to persuade him to return to their religion. When this failed, the kadi threatened him with horrible torments and death if he did not relent. Nicholas refused, and so he was beaten and thrown into prison, where he received nothing to eat or drink for some time.

Twice more, Saint Nicholas was brought before the kadi with the same results. Seeing that he could not be persuaded, the kadi sentenced him to death. A large fire was lit in the marketplace, and the holy martyr was thrown into it on May 16, 1617. Thus, by enduring this fire, Saint Nicholas escaped the fire of Gehenna.

Later, a pious Christian went to that place, hoping to obtain relics. Since the Saint's body was being guarded, the man had to pay a large sum of money to obtain the skull. He took it home and hid it inside a wall so the Moslems would not find it.

In time, an Orthodox Christian named Melandros bought the house. On the night of May 17, 1618, he noticed a bright light shining from the wall of one of the rooms. In the morning, he opened the wall and found the skull of the New Martyr Nicholas. He brought this treasure to Barlaam Monastery at Meteora, where his brother was a monk, and donated the holy relic to the monastery in remembrance of himself, and of his family.

The Holy New Martyr Nicholas, who is also known as Saint Nicholas the Vlach, is commemorated on May 17 in Greek usage.