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July 10, 2024

The Veneration of Saint Kyriaki in Pontus

Fresco from the end of the 13th century. Saint Kyriaki depicted as a Byzantine princess (located in the Church of Saint George in Angona, Ormidia, Cyprus).

Saint Kyriaki was born and lived in Nicomedia of Asia Minor, a Greek city just 100 km outside of Constantinople. She was the fruit of the prayers of her until then childless parents Dorotheos and Eusevia. Because she was born on a Sunday (Kyriaki in Greek), which is the Lord's Day, and her pious parents took it as a sign from God, therefore they baptized her with the name Kyriaki, dedicating her to the Lord.

The name Kyriaki – Kereki in Pontic – was common in Pontus and Asia Minor. The Holy Virgin Martyr, of Asia Minor origin, was very beloved throughout Pontus, to the point that in several places the month of her feast, July, was also called Ai-Keriakitis. And when they wanted to declare that there were extreme hot conditions, they used to say "T' Ae-Kerekis t' apsimon" ("the fire of Saint Kyriaki"), obviously from the heat that prevails at the beginning of July but also from the martyrdom by fire suffered by the great Saint, though the grace of God left her unscathed.

When the Pontians saw a gifted child, nimble and lively, they called him "T' Ae-Kerekis t' apsimon" ("the fire of Saint Kyriaki").

It was common for the Pontians, in the flow of their speech, to emphasize something they were saying, and vow with the words: "ma t' apsimon".

The Metropolitan Church of Saint Gregory of Nyssa in Trebizond of Pontos. Photograph of the Kakoulis Brothers, 1890s.

The Metropolitan Church of Saint Gregory of Nyssa in Trebizond, which was unfortunately demolished by the Turks immediately after the events of the Genocide because they did not want anything left to remind them of the Greekness of Pontus and their criminal raid against the Greek element, had five chapels. These chapels were dedicated to Saint Andrew the First-Called - who visited Pontus as part of his apostolic activity -, the Taxiarches, Saint Paraskevi (the other great Saint who celebrates in July), Saint Anastasia, and finally Saint Kyriaki.

The fact that three out of five chapels of the Metropolitan Church were dedicated to female saints, has its own significance. In addition, the banner of the Metropolitan Church of Trebizond with Saint Gregory in its center, which is now stored in the Benaki Museum, has the icon of Saint Kyriaki embroidered on it as well as Saint Paraskevi and the Apostle Andrew.

The Church of Saint Kyriaki in the settlement of Ishananton. Drawing by elementary school teacher K. Angelidis.

In Santa (Turkish Dumanli), which is south of Trebizond in northeast Turkey, there were seven main districts, one of which was Ishananton (Turkish IĊŸhanli). It is here that there was a church dedicated to Saint Kyriaki which was built next to the school, both of which were about the same width and length. The church was 13 meters wide, 25 meters long and 7 meters high, and the school with two floors was 10 meters high. The women's section of the church did not have the spaciousness it should have, but the women crowded there because their modesty did not allow them to go down to the main church and occupy the stalls on the left side of the church which were for the men. This church was one of seven churches in Santa with a belltower, with bells which came from Russia, and these would ring simultaneously calling the people to church.
Seal of the mayor's office of the settlement of Ishananton in Santa from 1897, depicting Saint Kyriaki.
The Church of Saint Kyriaki – all that remains – in the village of Ishananton in Santa.

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