Matrona of Chios
Our venerable Mother Matrona of Chios (also known as Chiopolitissa) was born during the 15th century in the village of Volissos on the island of Chios, Greece. This is the same village in which St. Markella was martyred. The Church celebrates her memory on October 20, and the finding of her head on July 15.
Saint Matrona's parents were highly respected and well-to-do Christians, compared to the other villagers. Mary, as she was called before she became a nun, was the youngest of seven children. When the time came for her parents to arrange her marriage, she refused because she wanted to remain a virgin. She wanted to become a bride of Christ. To avoid this marriage, she left Volissos and went to an area overlooking the village, called Katavasis. Here she began her spiritual struggle by fasting and prayer.
Her parents searched everywhere to find her. After locating her, they convinced her to return home. Mary complied with her parents' wishes, except for one—she refused to wed. Her parents, seeing that she still desired to lead a monastic life, gave her their consent to pursue her ambition.
When Mary's parents died, she distributed the farmland she inherited among her sisters and the orphans of the community. She left Volissos, never to see her village again, and returned to Katavasis, where she stayed for three years as she re-examined her spiritual beliefs. Her food was basic and was brought to her by one of her sisters.
God, however, wanted her to guide others in the way of righteousness and show them how to obtain their salvation; therefore, she left Katavasis and went to the capital of the island. Here there were many women's monasteries which followed the rules of monastic society. It was in one of these monasteries that Mary was to spend the remainder of her life, undergoing spiritual struggles, leading others towards salvation and performing miracles.
Upon visiting the different monasteries, Mary found a secluded one which she preferred. It consisted of three nuns: a mother and her two daughters. The nuns, realizing her sincerity, immediately welcomed her into their home. At this point Mary's name was changed to Matrona. (When a nun reaches a high point in her monastic life and becomes a Stavrophore, a new name is bestowed upon her, symbolizing a second baptism and a new way of life).
Matrona surpassed the other nuns in her devotion, spirituality, and understanding. Her sincerity convinced other girls to come to this monastery and lead the same type of life. The church itself was small, and so the abbess agreed with Matrona's plan to enlarge it and to build cells for the nuns. Any remaining farmland and personal belongings Matrona sold, and the monastery built a public bath with the money received from this sale so that the poor and wayfarers could bathe. These baths were very common during this time. After this, the renovation of the church began.
When the church was completed (with the help of St. Artemios, to whom it was dedicated), the abbess of the monastery died. The nuns then elected Matrona as the new abbess.
After the Genoese conquered the island of Chios, many foreigners inhabited the island. They plundered the island, including the monasteries. Among these was the monastery of St. Matrona. When one of these foreigners attempted to attack the nuns of the monastery, the saint prayed for divine help. From the heavens bolts of lightning fell to the ground, killing the assailant. The foreigners, seeing the destruction, fled from the island in fear.
After these events, Matrona dreamt of her own death. Subsequent to this, she suffered from an illness for seven days. In the seven days she advised the other nuns as a mother would advise her children. She received Holy Communion and died on October 20, 1462. She was buried in the monastery's church, in which she had spent the greater part of her life. To honor this great saint, God allowed her holy body to perform miracles after death. Many people with all types of afflictions came to the church and were cured.
In the village of Katavasis, there was a church built to honor the place where St. Matrona had first started her spiritual struggles. Later, a larger church was built and the smaller one was used as a cemetery chapel.
The Holy Monastery of St. Matrona was built by the noble Roidis in 1470 near the village of Mesa Didima. He originally intended to build a summer villa; however, Matrona appeared to him in a dream and instructed him to build the monastery instead. His sisters were the first two nuns to enter the monastery. The abbot of the monastery during the Turkish Occupation was the Holy Nikiforos of Chios. Nikiforos wrote the 24 Hymns of Agia Matrona. Today, four nuns dwell in the monastery. The monastery celebrates the saint's feast day on October 20 each year.