In the medieval Orthodox world, military saints were revered as protectors of the army. Of these, five enjoyed particularly vigorous cults. All five were martyrs during pre-Constantinean persecutions. Three of them were martyred for refusing to offer sacrifices to the emperor. The other two, Prokopios and Demetrios, worked for the church in Skythopolis and Thessalonika, respectively.
St. John the Soldier
St. John the Soldier, an Orthodox saint, was a Christian martyr who served in the army of Emperor Julian the Apostate. He was imprisoned and tortured for his faith, but God saved him in the end, and he later devoted his life to defending Christianity. He is depicted with a cape and dark hair, and is believed to have saved people from many evils. His relics were discovered miraculously.
While serving his Turkish master, Saint John was often mocked by the other slaves, who tried to convert him to Moslemism. He was often beaten, but his boldness and love for Christ won his master’s heart. He lived in a stable with animals, and his bed was a manger.
According to the legend, St. Romanos was an Orthodox saint who served in the military and was martyred. His martyrdom is attributed to his zeal for the Lord, as well as the love he showed for his soldiers. In addition to his martyrdom, he also fought in the First Crusade.
Romanos was born in Syria in the fifth century. His parents were good Christians, and he grew up with a love for the Lord. As a boy, he served as an altar boy and singer in the churches of Beirut and Constantinople. He loved saints and prayed often.
After being captured, Romanos was taken captive by his Christian friends. The Christians then took him to a cave called Skete of Kavsokalyvia, where St. Akakios was living. In the skete, Romanos struggled under the supervision of the Elder Akakios. Though he was deprived of food, he thought only about the future martyrdom.
In the early 4th century, St. Theodore was a Christian soldier. He was the son of a Roman soldier, who went to Antioch to fight against the Persians. The father of St. Theodore had many talents and a strong knowledge of Christian truth. He was appointed military commander of the city of Heraclea and combined his military duties with preaching the Gospel. He persuaded many people of the importance of Christianity. As a result, nearly all of the people of Heraclea eventually accepted the Christian faith.
Although the life of St. Theodore is not described in Gregory of Nyssa’s work, he does mention that St. Theodore had the power to intervene in battles. This made him one of the most important military saints of Byzantium. His relics, which have a proven history of miracles, were translated from Euchaita to Constantinople and interred in the Church of Balchernae. He was known to fight the demons and protect the people.
A soldier turned Orthodox Christian, St. Remigius was born in the city of Reims. The young Remigius was blind at birth, but miraculously recovered his sight as he grew older. He lived a very holy life, dedicating himself to both sacred and secular learning. He later retreated to a small house near Laon, where he led a life of solitary contemplation. His retreat was so popular that locals from Rheims would visit it when it was empty. The layman became a consecrated Orthodox saint in 459.
In addition to St. Remigius, there are a number of other Orthodox saints who were once soldiers. Saint Amantius, who founded the monastery in Citta di Castello near Perugia, was also a soldier. He died in Italy at the age of 61.
The Armenian Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of St. Vartan the Warrior on May 15. He was a soldier who gave his life to defend the Orthodox faith against the Sassanian Empire. He was born into a noble family, the Mamikonians. He was a descendant of St. Gregory the Illuminator, and his grandfather, St. Sahag, was a descendant of St. Nerses. As a soldier, he served as a commander-in-chief for the Armenian armies. He was also an Orthodox Christian, a fact that earned him respect and veneration.
The battle of Avarayr is one of the most important events in Armenian history. It was a crucial battle which preserved the Christian faith in Armenia. During this battle, St. Vartan led an army of Armenian soldiers and clergy against the powerful Persian army. They fought bravely to defend the Christian faith, and their sacrifice made them heroes. The battle took place in 451 A.D., in the province of Artaz.