August 31, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 31-08-03


Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of the first Christian martyrs who suffered for Christ on the territory of today's Kosovo and Metohija Province

August 31 (Aug 18 Old Calendar) 2003

(Orthodox icon of St. Basil of Caesarea with Sts. Florus and Laurus, 19th cent.)

Orthodox Church has celebrated today the memory of saints Florus and Laurus, the first known Christian martyrs who suffered for Christ on the territory of today's Kosovo and Metohija Province in the early 2nd century A.D. These two saints are especially venerated by in Lipljan, near Pristina, where there is a Serb Orthodox Church built in their honour.

Florus and Laurus were citizens of the Roman province of Dardania and the famous city of Ulpiana which was located between today's Gracanica and Lipljan, 5 km east from Pristina. Ulpiana was a flourishing Roman city built by Emepror Traianus in 2nd century A.D. The city was first devastated by Goths in the 5th century and was rebuilt during the reign of the East Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Justinianus I. The city was named Justiniana Secunda after its new founder and was flourishing as an important Byzantine administrative center until 6th century and the arrival of Slavs. After consolidation of the Byzantine administration in the province of Illyricum the city, already known also under Slavic name of Lipljan, had already been an important military outpost and the Orthodox diocesan center. In the 13th century this part of Byzantine Empire, which was already largerly inhabited by Slavic population, was finally included within the borders of the Serbian medieval state and remained under Serb administration until the Ottoman occupation of Serbia in the 15th century. Beside today's church of Sts Florus and Laurus in Lipljan there is a Serbian medieval church of the Holy Virgin Mary (13th century) and the remains of the Byzantine time basilica.

The memory of Florus and Laurus has lived throughout centuries not only among Orthodox Serbs but also in Russia where they became known as protectors of horses. Dozens of churches and monasteries in Russia were devoted to these early Christian saints from the Balkans. Florus and Laurus are also considered as protectors of the Serb Orthodox Diocese of Lipljan which was later transferred to Gracanica Monastery.

Bishop Artemije today served the holy liturgy and celebrated the memory of the first-martyrs of Kosovo and Metohija in Gracanica Monastery and made appeal on the faithful to show perseverance which the early Christian martyrs showed facing the persecution of the ungodly pagan authorities.

Troparion to Sts. Florus and Laurus (Tone 5)

You were practiced in the ways of godliness and gladly ran your course of martyrdom, and as illustrious kinsmen you were glorified by Christ. O Floros and Lauros, we praise you as noble athletes, and we cry to you: O Saints, deliver us from all necessities.


(icon Archangel Michael  with Sts. Florus and Laurus, 15th century, Novgorod School)

Florus and Laurus were brothers in the flesh, and in spirit and in vocation. Both were zealous Christians and, by occupation, stonecutters. They lived in Illyria. A pagan prince hired them for the building of a temple to the idols. It happened that during their work, a piece of stone flew and struck the eye of the pagan priest's son who was observing the work of the builders with curiosity. Seeing his son blind and bloody, the pagan priest began to shout at Florus and Laurus and wanted to beat them. Then, the holy brothers said to him that if he would believe in the God in whom they believed, his son would be healed. The pagan priest promised. Florus and Laurus prayed with tears to the one, living, Lord God and traced the sign of the Cross over the child's injured eye. The child was immediately healed and his eye became whole just as it had been. Then the pagan priest Merentius and his son were baptized and, shortly after that, both suffered for Christ by fire. When they completed the temple, Florus and Laurus placed a cross on it, summoned all Christians and consecrated it in the name of the Lord Jesus with an all-night vigil of hymn singing. Hearing of this, the Illyrian deputy burned many of those Christians and threw Florus and Laurus alive in a well and then filled it with dirt. Later, their relics were revealed and translated to Constantinople. These two wonderful brothers suffered and were martyred for Christ and were glorified by Christ in the second century.


To two sons, two saints, a mother gave birth,
Blessed is such a mother that pleases God.
Wonderful Florus and Laurus, cut the stones,
Along with that, by the Cross, the souls of men corrected;
What a chisel is to stone, a Cross is to the soul,
By the Cross chisled out, for the Cross they perished.
The pagan priest, the unseen miracle saw:
The eye knocked out - the eye healed!
A miracle unseen! For him, that was enough
And with the Cross was baptized and a martyr became.
Wonderful Florus and Laurus, temple of the idols built,
But, in their heart, glorify Christ the God.
The brothers, a new pagan temple built,
But, on it a Cross placed and behold - a Christian temple!
Still, with hymns of praise to Christ, they filled it
And with the beauty of candles and incense pure.
Man to man resembles it in the same way,
But one is humble and the other is flamboyant.
Behold, very similar are they, in body and attire,
But very different in mind and spirit.
In one is Christ and holiness pure,
In the other is the diabolical suffering and emptiness.
That may our body God grant it
To be temples of the Living God, the Spirit
Through the powerful prayers of God's chosen ones.
The brothers Florus and Laurus, holy martyrs.

written by St. Nikolaj Velimirovich

From an Orthodox church feast in Kosovo and Metohija
(ERP KIM Info archive)


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