Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Case of Near Premature Burial of a Greek Bishop in 1896

The following story, from the newspaper London Echo (March 3, 1896), concerns the near premature burial of Metropolitan Nikephoros Glykas of Methymni, who was born in Imvros in 1819, and finally reposed a few weeks after these events in 1896. 

"A letter from Constantinople, in the Politische Korrespondenz, gives a remarkable case of an apparent death which would have ended in a premature burial but for the high ecclesiastical position of the person concerned. On the 3rd of this month, Nicephorus Glycas, the Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan of Lesbos, an old man in his eightieth year, after several days of confinement to his bed, was reported by the physician to be dead. The supposed dead bishop, in accordance with the rules of the Orthodox Church, was immediately clothed in his episcopal vestments, and placed upon the Metropolitan's throne in the great church of Methymni, where the body was exposed to the devout faithful during the day, and watched by relays of priests day and night. Crowds streamed into the church to take a last look at their venerable chief pastor. On the second night of "the exposition of the corpse," the Metropolitan suddenly started up from his seat and stared round him with amazement and horror at all the panoply of death amidst which he had been seated. The priests were not less horrified when the 'dead' bishop demanded what they were doing with him. The old man had simply fallen into a death-like lethargy, which the incompetent doctors had hastily concluded to be death. He is now as hale and hearty as can well be expected from an octogenarian. But here it is that the moral comes in. If Nicephorus Glycas had been a layman he would most certainly have been buried alive. Fortunately for him, the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church does not allow a bishop to be buried earlier than the third day after his death; whereas a layman, according to the ancient Eastern custom, is generally buried about twelve hours after death has been certified. The excitement which has been aroused by the prelate's startling resurrection may tend to set men thinking more seriously about the frequent probability of the cruel horror of the interment of living persons."

The above-mentioned facts have been authenticated for the author by Dr. Franz Hartmann, of Hallein, Austria.

Source: Quoted in William Tebb, Premature Burial and How It May Be Prevented, 1905.

Read also: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΟΥ Θ. ΣΤΑΥΡΙΔΟΥ "Ὁ Μητροπολίτης Μηθύμνης Νικηφόρος Γλυκᾶς ὁ Ἴμβριος", ΘΕΟΛΟΓΙΑΣ, Τόμος ΟΣΤ' (2005), Τεύχος 2.