Thursday, October 25, 2012

Saint Dimitrie/Demetrius the New (or Basarabov), patron saint of Bucharest

Old icon of St. Dimitrie the New

Among the saints venerated in a special way in Romania, St Dimitrie the New of Basarabi (or, more correct, Basarabov), also known as „of Bucharest” has a special honour. He is the protector saint of Bucharest and all Wallachia.

Three stories about St. Dimitrie the New

About the life of St. Dimitrie the New there are not so many data. The Romanian „Lives of Saints” mention that he was born in Basarabov, a village in Bulgaria, not far away of the city of Russe, on the Valley of Lom River. Probably his parents were simple Wallachian (Romanian) peasants, as it mentions also the Russian Orthodox Encyclopedia (Pravoslavnaja Encyklopedia) He lived in the 13th century, during the second Bulgarian Empire (1187-1396). The tradition mentions that he was very faithful since his childhood, fasting and praying strongly. According to a story, during his youth, as he went to graze the sheep of his family, he accidentally stepped on a nest of some birds and killed the baby birds. He considered that as a high murder, so he decided not to put a shoe or sock for three years – even on heat or frosty times - on his left foot, the one which killed the birds.
As youth he entered a monastery near his village, and later he retired to a lonely life somewhere in the forests nearby. Finally he found as shelter a cave near the Lom River, where he lived the rest of his life. He foreknew the date of his death and he placed himself between two pillars of rock in that cave. So he gave peacefully his soul in God’s hands.
Romanian Fresco
St. Dimitrie remained unknown and after a flood happened, the waters of Lom covered his body with deposits of stones and mud. After many years, a new flood of the river climbed up to the cave and the big current took the holy relics. They remained somewhere near the water and there  were rumors that sometimes different people have seen in the night some flames – a phenomenon perceived in the Eastern Europe as a sign for a hidden treasure. Anyway the saint has shown himself to an epileptic young girl in her sleep, telling her about the place he was, and if he would be found, he will cure her. The young girl told to her parents about the dream and shortly a lot of people hearing about the dream went at the place indicated. Digging they have found the holy relics uncorrupted. The girl was suddenly healthy and the sacred body of St. Dimitrie was put in a coffin in the church of Basarabov. Here happened some other miracles, as the story tells.
Romanian new icon, usual at his feast

Another variant for St. Dimitrie’s biography was written by Paisius from Hilandar, a Bulgarian athonite monk (1722–1773) in his „Slav-Bulgarian History” (Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya, finished in 1762 in Zografu Monastery). The 9th chapter of this book is dedicated to the Bulgarian saints, and the 29th section is dedicated to Saint Dimitrie. According to this, he was a simple layman, who possessed several sheep and a small vineyard on the shore of the river, living in a hut between some rocks arranged by himself. He conducted in private life, and he died there, being buried.  Paisius suggest that Saint died in 1685 and his relics were discovered later by some persons who transferred them in Basarabovo, near Svistov, in the Diocese of Tarnovo. Paisius says also that St. Dimitrie made many miracles among the people.
Romanian icon

There is also a third legend, registered by the Russian Orthodox Encyclopedia. According to it, Saint Dimitrie was married but had no children. After his wife's death, he entered the monastery nearby and was tonsured a monk. Here he labored with great diligence, loving the vigils, fasting and prayer. Anticipating the hour of his death, he left the convent and went on the bank of the river, he laid down between two rocks, as in a tomb, and went the Lord. The story continues with the data from the first variant. The new thing brought in this variant is that St. Dimitrie was once married.
Bulgarian icon

The Romanian Synaxarion, which reproduces the first story, reports a first attempt of taking the relics from Basarabov. One of the Wallachian Voivodes (without mentioning his name) tried that. He ordered to some noblemen to go there and carry the relics in a cart. Being already in the border town Ruse, the oxes yoked to the cart didn’t want to go further. After a while, the ones being there decided to let the holy relics in God’s hands. They yoked two young and untrained bulls and to let them by themselves. The bulls brought the holy relics in the middle of the village Basarabov and stopped there, this situation being interpreted as the will of God and of the saint, not to leave the homeland.
The relics remained in the village’s church until 1774. In this year, the Russian general Petr Saltykov, after a war with the Turks, decided to take the holy relics, in order not to be desecrated by these. He intended to bring them to the kievan monastery Lavra Pecerska, but on the way, in Bucharest, the merchant Hagi Dimitrie, a macedo-Romanian (Vlach from Macedonia) convinced them to let the Saint in Wallachia, as a consolation brought to the people who suffered after the war. The general let himself convinced and took with him a hand of the saint, which is now in Lavra Pecerska. The rest of the holy relics rested since then in the metropolitan cathedral (since July 13, 1774) during the Russian occupation (1769-1774), being received by the metropolitan Gregory II of Wallachia (1760/1787). The chronicles interpreted like a miracle of St. Dimitrie the fact that the war and the plague happened then ended suddenly. Since 1792 metropolitan Filaret II (1792-1793) proclaimed St. Dimitrie Basarabov as the patron saint of Bucharest.
Older depiction of the saint

Several miracles occurred

Among the miracles, there are some stories about people trying to take fragments of the holy relics. First of one happened since the saint was still in Bulgaria. During a pilgrimage, a deacon of the metropolitan Nikifor of Tarnovo tried to take a small piece by biting them, but he remained paralyzed there and couldn’t move until he confessed his deed. The same happened with two women from Cernavoda, Aspra and Catherine who managed to build a church in honor of the Dormition of the Virgin in their town. They wanted a small piece of the relics in their church, but even if they managed somehow to „steal” a small piece, the oxes yoked at her cart did not want to go until they have put back the piece and confessed their sin.
Monastery in Basarabovo
In the same period the bishop Ioanikij of Preslav was very sick and carried by his people on a stretcher to the holy relics. After the audition of the Holy Liturgy in the church, he managed to wake alone and walk by himself and praised the Lord.
Monastery in Basarabovo

The cave of the saint at Basarabovo
Cave chapel at Basarabovo

In Bucharest, Saint Dimitrie is celebrated for other miracles. In 1815 there was another epidemic of plague and the Prince Ioan Gheorghe Caragea (1812-1818) ordained a procession with the holy relics on the streets. The plague stopped suddenly. The same happened during the big drought in 1827 and during the cholera in 1831. Another chronic disease was an angina occurred because of the swamps near the capital, started on May 1st 1870. General Dimitrie Papazoglu who wrote a history of Bucharest noted that on this occasion the procession with the holy relics started from the cathedral, led by hieromonk Ieronim and went all the town up to the „Foişor” church. After a day and a night, as much as the relics remained in this church, the mosquito clouds dissapeared and the sick people were healthy again. There is also a lithography which depicts this event, painted by G. Venrich, dedicated to the hieromonk Ieronim.
The gravure of G. Venrich
The pilgrimages as the coffin of St. Dimitrie occurred every year on October 27, the celebrating date, which was just the second day after the celebration of the most known Demetrios of Thessaloniki. During the communist times the pilgrimages were forbidden.  But even in this difficult period there were people to came and venerate the saint. 
Cathedral in Bucharest, where the relics
of St. Dimitrie are until today
A more recent miracle was recorded by Iustin Bulimar, a hieromonk who still serves at the Cathedral. He said in an interview that: „In 1989, after a service of the Holy Unction, I observed a believer that I saw many times participating in this Holy Sacrament and to the other services of the Church, who used to remain always the last in worshipping [of st. Dimitrie]. And in one day, doing as usual, he climbed to the coffin of the relics - but why was he always the last to worship? - Because he was walking with crutches - he let away his crutches, as usual, in order to can take them after prayer [my notation: the place is very narrow and anyone can walk there just leaning on therailings]. After falling to its knees, as he could make in his own way there, the miracle happened: he rose, bowed, and went down the stairs. He didn’t realize at the moment that he actually forgot his crutches and only after going down from the Patriarchat Hill [the cathedral is located on a hill] he realized the miracle happened. He turned back crying and thanking to God and to St. Dimitrie in tears”.
The latter patriarch Teoctist of Romania declared that it may be the help of the saint who didn’t allow to the communists to destroy the cathedral, as they planned, in the ’80s.
Veneration of the saint,
Bucharest, 27.10.2010

The veneration of the saint

Even venerated since centuries and proclaimed as the patron saint of Bucharest in 1792, St. Dimitrie was officially canonized only after a synodal decision in 1955, during the Patriarch Justinian Marina. As a gesture of brotherly love, on October 27, 2005, Patriarch Teoctist of Romania gave at the request of Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria an icon containing a particle of the saint’s relics, which is to be found today in the monastery of St. Dimitrie in Basarabov, located at 8-9 km from Ruse, a town on the Danube.
Older shrine of St. Dimitrie in Bucharest
Newer Shrine of the saint in Bucharest

The relics of St. Dimitrie

The relics of St. Dimitrie

Troparion  (hymn) of Saint Dimitrie the New

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Father Dimitrie, for you took up the cross and followed Christ.  By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away; but to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal.  Therefore your spirit, O Holy Mother Mary,  rejoices with the angels!”

No comments:

Post a Comment