Saint Phanourios is the hero of our biography. But no one knows where he came from, what his parentage is, what time or during which reign he struggled. We only know the following: When the Hagarenes ruled the island of Rhodes (because of our sins), they wanted to rebuild the city walls, because of previous battles that had left them in ruins. From these ruins the Hagarenes gathered up stones for the construction.
At the site where they were digging, a beautiful church was found underground. As they dug down deeper and deeper they found many holy icons that were either destroyed or unrecognizable. But one icon they found was whole and unharmed. It looked like it had just been painted. With these discoveries , the hierarch of the island, Neilos (1355-1369), a holy and learned man, came to study the inscription on the icon, which read: “Saint Phanourios”.
In the icon the saint is portrayed as a young man in military garb, holding a cross with his right hand. A lighted taper is depicted on the top of the cross. The icon is quite large. And all around the perimeter there are twelve scenes from the martyrdom of Saint Phanourios.
Bishop Neilos asked the governor of that place if he would be able to restore the church, but he was denied his request. The hierarch then went to Constantinople, and it was there that he was given permission to carry out the restoration of the church. This church is there until this very day. It is located outside of the city. Many miracles have happened and are still happening, to the delight of pious Orthodox Christians who love and reverence Saint Phanourios.
At one time when the island of Rhodes was ruled by the Latins, those who were Orthodox and wanted to enter holy orders had to go to the island of Kythera for ordination. There happened to be three deacons on one such occasion that left from Crete to go to Kythera, and were going to be ordained to the priesthood. After their ordination on their voyage back to Crete, they were captured by Hagarenes, who kidnapped them and took them to Rhodes to sell them as slaves. Those poor newly ordained priests lamented their misfortune day and night.
Eventually the three priests learned of the wonderworkings of the Great Martyr Saint Phanourios. At once they prostrated themselves, shedding bitter tears before the saint, and besought Saint Phanourios to deliver them from slavery. At this time the three priests did not know the whereabouts of each other, since they were sold to different masters. But by the dispensation of the Lord Jesus Christ, each priest was given permission from his master to offer veneration at the church of Saint Phanourios, and by the grace of God they happened to be at the church at the same time. They venerated the saints holy icon, and wept so profusely, that the floor of the church was completely watered with their tears. Together with supplications they prayed to Saint Phanourios to deliver them from the Hagerenes. When the time came for them to return to their masters, they felt somewhat consoled. During that same night, the saint appeared to each of the Hagarene masters in their sleep and said, “Let the slave of God go and let him offer veneration in my temple lest some evil should befall thee.” Each one of the Hagarene masters thought that some kind of sorcery had been performed. So they loaded down each priest with heavy chains, making their sufferings very burdensome.
That night Saint Phanourios went and removed the chains from the three priests. Encouraging them he said, “By all means it must be that tomorrow I will free you.” Then Saint Phanourios appeared to the Hagarenes and rebuked them severely and said, ” Peradventure that even tomorrow thou shouldest not release the captive priest, thou shalt behold the power of God.” Then the saint departed. All the Hagarenes in each of the three households awoke to find themselves blind and paralyzed, and they were all greatly tormented. Out of their grief they called for the three priests and ask them, “Perhaps thou art able to render a cure?” Each priest answered, “I shall supplicate God, and let His will be done.”
Three nights later Saint Phanourios appeared to each Hagarene once again, since the three priests were not set free. He told each one of them, “Peradventure thou shouldest not dispatch to my house the writ of the priest’s liberty, then thou shouldest expect to possess neither health nor sight. the much-desired light of thine eyes will not be restored until the priest is set free.” Each Hagarene had their relatives deliver a written paper to the saint’s icon stating that the three priests were to be set free. Behold the marvel! Even before these papers were delivered the blind and paralyzed Hagarenes were healed. From their profound happiness, the Hagarenes paid for the voyage of the three priests , so they could go back to their homeland. While the priests were waiting for preparations to be made for their trip home, they made an icon of Saint Phanourios. This icon they brought back with them to Crete, and each year is celebrated the memory of the saint, by whose hallowed intercessions, O Christ God, have mercy on us. Amen.
Saint Phanourios whose name is similar to the Greek word “to make manifest” (faneros) is famous for his discovery of lost persons, animals, or things – even the most hopeless of cases. He is a remarkable swift intercessor for those with the loss of anything. It is a tradition out of gratitude for help from the Saint to offer a sweet bread or cake (phanouropita), for the soul of Saint Phanourios’ mother. Why his mother? There is a tradition concerning his mother that she was a great sinner. And he loved his mother so much that he prayed for her incessantly. He didn’t even forget about her during his martyrdom. So he prayed to the Lord, “For the sake of these my sufferings, Lord, help all those who will pray to Thee for salvation of Phanourios’ sinful mother.” Phanouropita is not baked for the saint himself, but for the soul of his mother. According to some accounts, the Phanouropita is to be given to the poor as alms in the name of Saint Phanourios’ mother. Saint Phanourios is not only invoked for lost persons and articles, but also for helping those in affliction and sickness. Through the intercessions of Thy Saint, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.