Peter the Aleut

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St. Peter the Aleut
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The holy martyr Peter the Aleut (or Cungagnaq in his native tongue) was probably a native of Kodiak Island (Alaska). He is said to have received the Christian name of Peter when he was baptized into the Orthodox faith by the monks of St. Herman's—missionaries operating in the north. His feast day is commemorated in the Orthodox Church on September 24 or December 12.


In 1815 a group of Aleut seal and otter hunters, including Peter, were captured by Spanish sailors, who took them to San Francisco for interrogation. With threats of torture, the Roman Catholic priests in California attempted to force the Aleuts to deny their Orthodox faith and to convert to Roman Catholicism.

When the Aleuts refused, the priest had a toe severed from each of Peter's feet. Peter still refused to renounce his faith and the Spanish priest ordered a group of California Indians to cut off each finger of Peter's hands, one joint at a time, finally removing both his hands. They eventually disemboweled him, crowning his life with martyrdom. They were about to torture the next Aleut when orders were received to release them under escort to their monastery in Monterey.

Upon receiving the report of Peter's death from Simeon Yanovsky, St. Herman back on Kodiak Island was moved to cry out, "Holy new-martyr Peter, pray to God for us!" Peter the Aleut was formally recognized as a saint, as the "Martyr of San Francisco", in 1980. We have the account of St. Peter's martyrdom from Simeon Yanovsky as related him by St. Peter's cellmate who escaped torture. Simeon Yanovsky ended his life as the schemamonk Sergius in the St. Tikhon of Kaluga Monastery, and is the author of The Life of St. Herman of Alaska.


Troparion (Fourth Tone) [1]

Today Alaska rejoices and America celebrates,
For the new world has been sanctified by martyrdom.
Kodiak echoes with songs of thanksgiving,
Iliamna and Kenai observe the festival of faith.
The Apostle and martyr Juvenaly is glorified,
And Peter the Aleut is exalted by his voluntary sacrifice,
In their devotion and love for the Lord,
They willingly endured persecution and death for the Truth,
Now in the Kingdom of Heaven they intercede for our souls!

Kontakion (Fourth Tone)

Today Valaam joins Alaska
In celebrating this joyous feast,
As her spiritual son Juvenaly
Embraces the new martyr Peter with love.
Together they suffered for the Lord in America
And united the old world with the new by their voluntary sacrifice.
Now forever they stand before the King of glory and intercede for our souls.

Troparion (First Tone) [2]

O Peter, upon the rock of thy faith hath Christ built His Church,
and in the streams of thy blood hath He hallowed our land.
In thee thy people hath been sanctified, O Aleut;
from the farthest islands of the west hath He raised thee, a light unto all.
Glory to Him that hath glorified thee.
Glory to Him that hath crowned thee.
Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee.

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