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In the Spotlight: The St. Demetrios Cross

Gallery Byzantium’s St. Demetrios Cross is an original design of a Greek Cross which hearkens back towards historic military medallions and badges.

Also known as the “crux immissa quadrata,” this Greek Cross design is easily recognizable for its four arms, each of equal length.  Oftentimes, the arms of this cross will flare out towards the end (as seen on our St. Demetrios Cross or Nicene Cross, for example).

According to Symbols Project, “[w]hile the Latin cross is identified with the crucifixion, the Greek cross is usually considered as a sign of God.”

At the end of each arm are three balls, the symbol of St. Nicholas.  As St. Nicholas is the patron saint of soldiers and the armed forces, it’s appropriate that this symbol would appear on the arms of our St. Demetrios Cross.  These three balls are also the symbol of the Holy Trinity.

The Life of St. Demetrios

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Much like St. Nicholas, St. Demetrios was born into a wealthy and distinguished family.  He was admired for his nobility as well as for his “[…] virtue, wisdom and goodness of heart surpassing that of his elders.”  One example of St. Demetrios’ virtue and goodness is a the story of how he eschewed his wealth, instead distributing it to the poor.  He was said to have told his servant, Lupus, to “Distribute my earthly riches among them, for we shall seek heavenly riches for ourselves.”

St. Demetrios was appointed by Galerius Maximian, Caesar of the Eastern Empire, to the position of commander of the Roman forces in Thessaly.  As commander, St. Demetrios was to defend the city and also eradicate Christianity.  “The emperor’s policy regarding Christians was expressed simply, “Put to death anyone who calls on the name of Christ.”  The emperor did not suspect that by appointing Demetrius he had provided a way for him to lead many people to Christ.”

Confident in his faith, St. Demetrios instead opted to teach the Christian Faith to others.  He did not care for the glory of military success, preferring the word of God.  St. Demetrios was able to convert many pagans to the faith.  “His words convinced them because they saw in the righteousness, peace and brotherly love that marked his life an illustration of the truth of which he spoke.”

When Maximian learned of St. Demetrios’ disobedience, he had the saint imprisoned in the basement of the local baths.  While imprisoned, he was visited by the young Nestor who was to combat the giant Lyaeus, a pagan brought in my Maximian to wrestle Christians (and thus prove the strength of paganism over Christianity).

St. Demetrios blessed the boy who, against all odds, defeated Lyaeus.  This angered Maximian who ordered that Nestor be beheaded.  “He had heard Nestor calling upon the God of Demetrios and, supposing the Saint had used some kind of witchcraft, Maximian ordered his soldiers to go and thrust Demetrios through with their lances, without trial, in the depths of his prison cell.”

St. Demetrios was secretly buried by Christians next to Nestor in the baths where the saint had been imprisoned.  “During the seventh century a miraculous flow of fragrant myrrh was found emanating from his tomb, giving rise to the appellation Mirovlitis, the Myrrh Gusher to his name.” 

After the death of St. Demetrios, his servant, Lupus, took the saint’s imperial ring and dipped it in his blood.  St. Lupus used this ring (“[…] and other holy things sanctified by the blood of Saint Demetrius[.]”) to heal the sick and infirm.  When Maximian heard of this, he ordered that St. Lupus be killed.

St. Demetrios’ feast day is celebrated on October 26th.

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