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Saint Nikon the Holy Martyr & his 199 Companion Martyrs (23 March)

Saint Nicon was from Neapolis (Naples) in Italy. His father was an idolater and his mother a Christian. At first he was a soldier, but later he went to the East, where he was baptized and in time became a bishop. After some years, he returned to the West and came to Sicily, where he and many of his disciples were put to death by beheading because they would not worship the idols.

Nicon was born in Naples of a pagan father and Christian mother. He was a Roman officer in Naples and was unbaptized, even though his mother tutored him in the Christian Faith, hiding this from his father. Once, when Nicon was sent into battle with his troops, his mother counseled him to make the sign of the Cross and to call upon Christ for help if any misfortune should befall him. And, indeed, when during the battle Nicon’s troops were completely surrounded and extremely close to final destruction, Nicon made the sign of the Cross and in his heart cried out to Christ.

Immediately he was filled with extraordinary strength and pursued his enemies. Some he slew, and others he forced to flee. Returning to his home, Nicon continuously cried out in amazement: “Great is the Christian God.” After he had made his mother happy with the news of his victory with the help of the Cross of Christ, he secretly sailed to Asia.

There he was baptized by Theodosius, Bishop of Cyzicus. Following his baptism, he secluded himself in a monastery, where he devoted himself to study and asceticism. Before his death Theodosius had a vision in which he was told to ordain Nicon as his successor. Immediately the aged Theodosius summoned Nicon and ordained him a deacon, then a priest, and finally a bishop. Shortly thereafter, according to God’s providence, Nicon came to Naples where he discovered that his mother was still living. Following his mother’s death, Nicon withdrew to Sicily with nine disciples, his former military companions.

There he dedicated himself to preaching the Gospel. At that time, however, there was a terrible persecution of Christians. Prince Quintianus captured Nicon with his companions and inflicted great pain and suffering upon them. Nicon’s 199 disciples and companions were beheaded. The tormentor tied Nicon to the tails of horses, hurled him from a steep wall into a gorge, beat him, and skinned him. Nicon, however, survived all of these tortures. Finally, he was beheaded and took up his habitation with the Lord.

His body was left in the fields to be devoured by the birds. A certain herdsman, possessed by a violent evil spirit, tripped and fell over the body of Christ’s martyr, and was immediately healed. He proclaimed the news about Nicon’s body, and Christians came forth and honorably buried it. St. Nicon suffered during the reign of the Emperor Decius.

Apolytikion of Martyr Nicon & the 199

Fourth Tone

O God of our Fathers, ever dealing with us according to Thy gentleness: take not Thy mercy from us, but by their entreaties guide our life in peace.