By Stavros Melidonis, Lawyer,
Vice President of the Union of Smyrna
The one you witnessed in Voutza of Smyrna
The tragic anniversary of the 100th anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe brings to the fore the death of thousands of martyrs, with Chrysostomos of Smyrna prominently featured, who with his martyrdom became a Saint of our Orthodox Church fulfilling the verse of the Apocalypse of John to the Angel of the Church of Smyrna “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.”
Next to Chrysostomos of Smyrna and the choir of Asia Minor Saints stands the figure of the hiero-martyr Archimandrite Iakovos Archandzikakis, who surrendered his soul to the Lord enduring a horrible martyrdom by the Turkish Chetes in Vouza of Smyrna on 27/08/1922 (BC) .
Archimandrite Iakovos Archandzikakis was born in the village of Ziros, Sitia, in 1872. At the urging of his uncle, the Saint Hieromonk Cornelios Giakoumakis, he came to Jerusalem in order to study at the famous Theological School of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.
During his stay in Jerusalem he was ordained a deacon. After graduating from the Theological School of the Holy Cross in 1892, he continued his theological studies at the Theological School of Chalki receiving his degree in 1897.
During the period he was in Constantinople, he developed intense activity as a regular member of the Ecclesiastical Music Association of Constantinople, as a Librarian of the Library of the Metochion of the Holy Sepulcher and as a Preacher of the Holy Sepulcher Metochion. His contribution to the writing of Volume IV of the “Jerusalem Library” series of the great Byzantine Professor and Curator of the Museum and Library of the Evangelical School of Smyrna Ath. Papadopoulou – Kerameos is noteworthy. In 1901 he enrolled in the Faculty of Philology of the University of Geneva from where he graduated in 1903.
He immediately submits his degree and enrolls in the School of Christian Catholic Theology of the University of Bern and in 1904 he is awarded a Doctorate with the subject of his doctoral thesis “Study on the main Christian events (holidays) in the Ancient Eastern Church”, which was published in French by the publications Weber.
After his appointment as a Doctor, he returns to Jerusalem and takes over the direction of the Priestly School of the Holy Cross. In fact, through his own actions, in 1911, the Greek state recognized the School as equal to the corresponding six-form high schools of the Greek state.
From the end of 1906 he took over the Direction of the historical magazine of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem “Nea Sion”, in which he wrote articles.
In 1907 he was ordained an elder and received the office of Archimandrite. At the same time, apart from his pastoral activity, he presents a rich and multi-thematic writing work through which his multifaceted personality is revealed. His published works include: a) “The ethics of the Greek philosophers and Christian ethics”, published in 1912 in Jerusalem, b) “Christianity and Materialism”, two lectures given in Geneva and published in French, c) “Priestly and Protestant Church”, published in 1906 in Jerusalem in French, d) “The Theosystaton of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy and the Fallacy of the Protesters”, published in 1906 in Jerusalem in French, e) “Orthodox Christian Catechism”, published for the upper classes of the Schools of the Holy Sepulcher in 1910, and f) twenty-three (23) theological studies and treatises, which were published from 1907 to 1914 in the magazine “Nea Sion”.
The impact of his work and his personality as a good shepherd, scholar and spiritual teacher was such that it exceeded the jurisdictional limits of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
It is characteristic that he had a continuous correspondence with the hiero-ethnomartyr Chrysostomos of Smyrna from the years when Chrysostomos was metropolitan of Drama.
In addition, in an edition of the Asia Minor calendar of 1911, the biography of Iakovos is mentioned among other personalities.
The issue of the pro-Arab policy of the Patriarch of Jerusalem Damianos brought Yakovos to a distance with the Patriarch and led Yakovos to his forced departure from Jerusalem and his refuge in Asia Minor in 1915.
Then he was hired in the ministry of the Holy Metropolis of Ephesus and in 1917 after the recommendation of the Bishop of Xanthoupolis Ambrosios, (and later the hiero-ethnomartyr Metropolitan of Moshonisi), Assistant Bishop of Chrysostom Smyrna, he took over as the priestly head of the Cathedral of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Upper District Boutza i Voutza .
Voutjas (and more correctly Boutjas), was the so-called flower village of Smyrna. It was one of the most prestigious suburbs of Smyrna with approximately 7,000 Greek residents, three parishes (Genethliou tou Prodromos, Agios Ioannou Prodromos, Evangelistrias), nine schools with 800 students, shops, restaurants and country villas.
From his new position, Iakovos developed intense activity, demonstrating fervent pastoral and patriotic zeal, which endeared him to his parishioners and to the whole of Vouja. As early as 1917, he had taken over the management of the Boys’ School of Voutza.
After the armistice of Mudros and before the arrival of the Greek army, Voutjas was attacked by Turkish miscreants with murders and looting.
For this reason, Iakovos, in an atmosphere of grief after the funeral of the victims, sent a telegram to the Allied mission asking for the protection of the Christian residents of the village. When the Greek army arrived in Smyrna, it took the lead in the festivities in Voutza.
At the same time, however, it was he, together with the lawyer Antonis Athinogenis, who prevented the retaliation of a portion of his compatriots, who had not forgotten the recent events of murders and disasters and wanted to break out against the Turkish residents of Voutza.
Finally, taking care of the continuous improvement of the conditions of the provided education, he took the initiative for the repair of the schools of Voutza.
All this work of his and his great education had pushed Chrysostomos to propose the election of Jacobus for the widowed position of the Metropolis of Tarsus and Adanos, a proposal that ultimately did not come to fruition.
The intense activity of Jacobus, who had all the characteristics of a good Levite, but also of an ardent patriot, did not go unnoticed by the Turks.
Iakovos took the lead in steeling the Christian and Greek mentality and admonishing the Greek residents of Voutza, especially the youth.
His patriotic reasons and his Christian zeal were the reasons that led to the decision for his death.
On August 27, 1922 (BC) the Turks entered Voutza and almost completely destroyed the village. At the urging of friends to leave Voutza, Iakovos refused saying that his duty is to be next to his flock. So he decided without hesitation or qualms to sacrifice himself.
His death, which is confirmed by Greek and foreign sources, such as that of the Catholic priest Charles Dobson, was a martyrdom.
According to a recorded source of the Metropolitan of Ephesus Chrysostomos, derived from the accounts of rescued residents of Voutza, the martyrdom of Jacob was horrible.
After he was mercilessly beaten by Turkish miscreants inside the Temple of the Birth of the Forerunner, they then drove two nails into his forehead that formed the shape of a crescent moon and then hung him outside the Temple covered in blood.
While he was giving up his soul, he was shouting “My Virgin Mary! My Virgin Mary!”
In this way, James, the tireless worker of Christ, with his immense education and varied pastoral and spiritual work, experienced the tortures of his persecutors and was ranked among the choir of Asia Minor martyrs.
His memory is commemorated on the first Sunday before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross together with Saint Chrysostomos of Smyrna and the clerics and laymen who were deposed with him.
Sound pl. a. The common ground
“In front of me bearing a seal in play, I salute you instead of the Holy Cross, a crescent, Jacob, we honor, Hieromartyr Sterron, in Voutza proudly sporting Smyrna hymns as God, pleading for us the all-merciful.”
“Rejoice, hieroathlete admirers, Zirou of Sitia, holy encampment, rejoice, you sealed in the Voutza of Smyrna, Jacob, your labors of your priesthood.”
Angelaki Michail, “NATIONAL MARTYR – ARCHIMANDRITE IAKOVS GEORGIOU ARCHATZIKAKIS”, Sitia 2020.
Kosmos Smyrni newspaper, 14.09.1919, 29.09.1919, 19.03.1920, 05.07.1922, 08.07.1922
Zachopoulos Kyrillos, “HISTORICAL PAGES ABOUT THE ORTHODOX GREEK COMMUNITY IN KASSABA”, in Athens, Nea Smyrni 1934.
Religious and Ethical Encyclopedia, 3rd Volume, Athens 1963.
Nikos Kararas, “BOUTZAS. THE FLOWER VILLAGE OF SMYRNI. HIS HISTORY – HIS LIFE.”, Ed. Union of Smyrna, 1962.
Christos Solomonidis, “THE CHURCH OF SMYRNA”, Athens, 1960.
“The archive of the ethnomartyr of Smyrna Chrysostomos”, Volume III, MIET, Athens, 2000.
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