February 7, 2023

History of the Return of the Relics of Hosios Loukas from Venice to His Monastery in 1986

The sacred relics of the Venerable and God-bearing Luke, known more popularly as Hosios Loukas, which were treasured in the magnificent katholikon of his eponymous Monastery until 1460, due to the occupation of the Boeotian land by the Turks, were transferred by the Hosioloukaite monks of the Monastery to Lefkada. From there, due to the arrival of the Turks in Lefkada, they were transported to Bosnia by the rulers of Bosnia, who bought them from the Turks thinking they were the relics of Luke the Evangelist, since there had been confusion between the two saints bearing the same name.

However, when the Turks occupied Bosnia in 1463, Franciscan monks transferred the relics of the Saint to Venice, to the Church of Saint Job (San Giobbe). The protests of the Benedictine monks, who possessed the relics of Luke the Evangelist in the Basilica of Saint Justin (Santa Giustina) in Padua, resulted, in 1464, in the convening of a Synod of Cardinals deciding that the relics in question are not of Luke the Evangelist, but of a Saint Luke from Steiris (the Bishop of Nicosia in Cyprus, Isaiah, also testified about this) with the result that they were kept in a secondary and insignificant position in the Church of Saint Job and fell into obscurity.

God's providence, however, brought the news to the Church of Boeotia about the existence in Venice of the sacred relics of Hosios Loukas. The then brother of the Monastery and the Bishop of Andida, Christophoros (Rakintzakis), who was friendly with the Italian Enrico Morini, learned from him that while researching the lives of the Saints in Venice, he had information about a Saint Luke from Steiris, whose relics were found in the Church of Saint Job in Venice.

After the joyful news broke and after the necessary actions were taken, a delegation consisting of the then Metropolitan Hieronymos of Thebes and Livadeia (the current Archbishop of Athens and all Greece), the former Metropolitan Nikodemos of Thebes and Livadeia, the then Abbot of the Monastery and then Metropolitan Nikodemos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou, the brother of the Monastery and current Metropolitan George of Thebes and Livadeia, and the brother of the Monastery Father Dositheos Kastoris went to Venice, where they received on December 10, 1986, the grace-filled sacred relics of Hosios Loukas and returned them after 526 years to his Monastery on December 13, 1986, the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (on which day annually the feast of the return of the sacred relics of Hosios Loukas is celebrated).

The return of the sacred relics of Hosios Loukas of Steiris began in the 20th century and culminated in 2001 with the entry of the Saint into the New Roman Martyrology by Pope John Paul II, however the problem of the authenticity of the relic of Hosios Loukas remains since the relic that was returned from the Roman Catholic Church bears a Head, while in the Monastery of Philotheou of Mount Athos there is also a Head attributed to Hosios Loukas.

Today, if you visit the Church of Saint Job in Venice, in the sixteenth-century sacristy, a beautifully furnished room with its original wardrobes and wooden ceiling, there is a small altarpiece with a triptych by Antonio Vivarini (1420-1484). It is a representation of the Annunciation between Saint Anthony of Padua and the Archangel Michael. Below this painting is a wooden sarcophagus. It contained the relics of a Saint believed to be Saint Luke the Evangelist, which came here from Bosnia in 1463 and were deposited by Doge Christopher Moro in this church which was then under construction. The authenticity of the relic was immediately questioned and for this reason it always remained in the sacristy.

As mentioned earlier, the neighboring city of Padua claims the possession of the sacred relics of Saint Luke the Evangelist, specifically in the Basilica of Saint Justin (Basilica di Santa Giustina) and for this reason the Greek Orthodox parish of Padua is dedicated to Luke the Evangelist.

The sarcophagus, in addition to the image of the Evangelist, also bears the Evangelist's symbol of the winged ox. In fact, however, as noted above, the relic belonged to Hosios Loukas, who reposed on February 7, 953, and had been greatly honored for his holy life and for the miracles performed at his tomb in Greece.

On January 14, 1986, the remains were removed from the sarcophagus and transferred to the Patriarchal Palace in Venice, where, on December 10 of the same year, they were handed over by Cardinal Patriarch Marco Cè to the Delegation of the Primates of the Greek Orthodox Church, which came to Venice to receive them and return them, as was just, to the katholikon of his Monastery.

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