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Great Martyr St. Mina

The Church of St. Mina Grand Martyr Monastery near Sofia
Photo: Darina Grigorova
The Great Martyr St. Mina was Egyptian by birth and served in the Roman army under emperors Diocletian and Maximilian (284-305). Similar to their predecessors, they were fierce persecutors of the Christians and issued decrees prescribing the torture and killing of all Christians who failed to venerate idols. When he became aware of that St. Mina, himself a Christian, laid down his arms and retired to the mountain wilderness to serve God. Once, during a major pagan holiday, he went down to the city and urged the crowd to abandon idols and to have faith in the Lord and Savior of mankind. The saint was subjected to inhuman torture, and his staunch faith forced his tormentors to invent even greater suffering for him. They finally took him out of town, beheaded him, then build a huge fire and threw his body into the flames. When the fire died out Christians came to the place, gathered the saint’s relics, took them to Alexandria and buried them according to the Christian rites. Some time later a church was built in that place to commemorate the martyr. As time went by the place became the venue of numerous wonders.

The Orthodox Church commemorates St. Mina on 11 November. He is venerated as a saint who is strongly supportive of believers who say sincere prayers. The only Bulgarian monastery named after St. Mina is found not far from the City of Sofia. It is believed that the old monastery had as many as 40 chapels. During the crusades the monastery was reduced to rubble. According to a legend an old woman who had hundreds of visions, pointed to the locals the exact place where the monastery had stood.

The celebration of St. Mina Day starts on its eve, 10 November. A solemn nocturnal service is held and the monastery remains open for the whole night while people from across Bulgaria come to visit, and form a line in front of the saint’s icon to pray. Young Father Peter from St. Mina Monastery says more:

“Everyone turns to the saint with their pains or problems. Very often childless couples pray for a child. And you can also see many people coming for liturgies to express their thanks to God and to the saint’s support.”

It is assumed that the wonder-working icon in the monastery was brought here by its author in the 1950s. The icon was painted by Russian artist Mikhail Maletski who at that time worked for the restoration of the Museum of Military History in Sofia. He told a story how a warrior with a spear and shield appeared in his dream and asked the artist to paint him. Locals say that wonders started happening after the icon was placed in the monastery. It is believed to bring cure from serious illnesses, and to help in trouble.

“Many people come by, especially over the weekends”, a woman working in the church says. “Many young people come here, pray to the wonder-working icon and then come back to thank the saint.”

English version Daniela Konstantinova

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