Saints Barnabas and Sophronius, founders of the Soumelas Monastery – Saints indirectly associated with the Monastery

4 November 2011

Sts Barnabas and Sophronius were the founders of the Monastery of Our Lady of Soumelas, and their lives are linked with the existence of the Vatopaidi Monastery before the 10th century.

According to tradition, these two saints, who were relatives (uncle and nephew) were born and grew up in Athens in the 4th century. Barnabas’s name in the world was Basil, and that of his nephew Soterichus. Devout monks, they received in a vision seen by Barnabas a command from the Theotokos to go from Athens to Trebizond to build a monastery there. Under the protection of the icon of Our Lady Atheniotissa, which was believed to have been painted by St Luke, they came through many dangers and vicissitudes to the unhospitable side of Mt Melas, where in the year 386 they built the famous Monastery of Our Lady of Soumelas, now making it the home of the icon of the Atheniotissa.

On their way to Trebizond they came to the Holy Mountain, and more specifically to the Monastery of Vatopaidi, where the Abbot received them with reverence and they enjoyed the hospitality of the Monastery for a week. Though the Abbot wished to detain them, so that the Brotherhood could benefit by their presence, he was compelled in a miraculous manner to let them leave, so that they could fulfil the purpose which the Theotokos had set them.

In the monastery which they had built the two saints lived a life of holiness, and tradition tells that they both died on the same day. Their feast day is on 18 August16.