Comments to: David Woods
Last Updated: April 2001

The 60 Martyrs of Gaza (BHL 3053b)

This is the story of St. Florian and his allies which has been discovered in most ancient and trustworthy writings.

1. For the praise of Almighty God ! As has been discovered in ancient codices, these 60 glorious martyrs suffered and died for the name of Christ with great steadfastness, as follows. For when they were most valiant soldiers, they steadfastly confessed Christ among the Saracens, swearing that they defended the Christian faith everywhere and that they were not at all afraid to die for their faith. After they had defended by means of their advice and arms many Christian towns and cities besieged by the wicked Saracens, the Saracens pursued them with clear hatred, so that they swore that if anyone captured them, he would receive great honours and wealth, and that they would order them either to deny the faith of Christ or to die a most cruel death. When these soldiers of Christ had learned all this, they were not scared, but became braver, fortifying themselves in the strength of Christ by means of the powerful sign of the cross. All 60 soldiers of Christ went armed with a brave heart to the faithful and Christ-loving city which was called Gaza, since it was being besieged by the most wicked Saracens, in order to defend all the Christian faithful who were present there. This happened during the reign of Our Lord, in the 27th year of the emperor Heraclius who had been crowned by God. When the Saracens learned this, that these soldiers of Christ were definitely present in the aforementioned city, they gathered a much braver army so that they would not be able to agree a treaty and leave; and since the martyrs of Christ fought day and night, they continuously slew many of these Saracens. Nevertheless, the city itself, which had been besieged for a long time, was forced by need, since they did not have anything to eat, to agree a treaty with the Saracens, although unwillingly, lest the city should be destroyed and the citizens slain. Accordingly, when the city, together with all the soldiers of Christ, had been captured, the Saracens sent all the soldiers of Christ to prison in irons; they continuously entrusted themselves to God, praying that they would be brave in faith and in the love of Christ and that God would deign to send His grace to them from heaven.

2. An angel appeared to them in a great light, and comforted them and warned them not to be swayed from their love of or faith in Christ by the threats or tortures of Ambrus because Christ had prepared unfading crowns for them on account of these struggles. Then, comforted, they asked the angel to tell blessed Florian what their situation was, because he was their leader, in order that they might be able to see him before they died, in the hope that they would be able more bravely to withstand tortures for the name of Christ on account of his saving encouragement. When the angel had done all this, blessed Florian said to the angel, "Can I also be made a soldier of Christ at all ? Since I am prepared to do and suffer everything on His behalf." The angel said to him, "The greater struggle is due to be led by you, so to speak, in order that you may afterwards receive the reward of your triumph and a more glorious crown; these go before you, but you will follow them." The angel left, and blessed Florian, who was then situated in Jerusalem, kneeled and prayed to Christ with tears to grant wisdom and such great grace to him that those soldiers would courageously confess Christ as the only-begotten Son of God and redeemer of the human race and, withstanding the tortures of the Saracens for the name of Christ, would gain eternal blessedness in the end by their dying. When he had finished his prayer, 60 young martyrs appeared to him, most resplendent in their golden crowns and adorned with precious stones; one of them, who was in front of the others, cried out in a most sweet voice, "Most blessed Florian, you deserve to be our leader and we have been crowned with these crowns by Our Lord Jesus Christ on account of your merits." When he had heard and seen this, the holy man immediately understood what God wished to fulfil through him. And, immediately fired with a love of God, he then decided to do whatever he could for the honour of Christ.

3. On the following day Ambrus ordered the soldiers of Christ to be brought to him; and he promised them both honours and great wealth if they would deny Christ and not worship His cross any longer. However, they refused to do this, and paying no attention to either the wealth or the honours, they praised Christ more and more and confessed that he was the True God. Ambrus then ordered them to be thrust, in irons, into a harsher prison for 30 days in order to see if they would cease from their resolution; when these days had passed, since they were still most firm in their faith in Christ, he ordered them to be taken to the city of Eutropolis and to be thrown into a most foul prison for two months. There was darkness, filth, creatures most foul and horrible things in this prison. They thought that, being unable to endure these things, they would die there in a short time; nevertheless, they prayed to God that they might merit seeing blessed Florian before they died. Blessed Florian immediately appeared to them as a most valiant and most splendid soldier, and said to them, "Do not be afraid; I am the Florian whom you so greatly desired to see; Our Lord Jesus Christ has sent me to you in order to show you what you will be like after this struggle if you endure all the tortures patiently and willingly for Him, and with what crowns you will be crowned in heaven where you will reign forever together with Our King Jesus Christ." And then the 60 youths similar to those whom blessed Florian had seen previously, immediately appeared to them there, and they, having been strenghthened in Christ, said, "We are prepared to suffer all things and to die even for Christ."

4. Accordingly, when the two months had passed, most wicked Ambrus, inspired by the Devil, ordered these holy soldiers to be led bound to the holy city of Jerusalem, and he wrote to the emir in these words, that he was to examine these soldiers, and that if they denied Christ, he was to free them; but that if they refused to do this, he was first to behead, in the most cruel fashion, the eldest of them, Climacus by name, and nine others, in the presence of the rest. However, since they all confessed Christ firmly and said that they did not fear all his tortures, and since they had Christ as their helper, they were immediately killed. The rest of the soldiers were locked in a most harsh prison until Ambrus gave another command concerning them. After 30 days Ambrus wrote to the emir that he was to send them in irons to him. When they were present, he said to them, "How stiff-necked you are in your refusal to submit to me ! However, if you carry out my command, you will be great lords in my kingdom; but if you refuse to submit to it, you will suffer most cruelly." Then they all cried out together, "Definitely, no-one will be able to separate us from our love of and faith in Christ, neither our wives, our sons, nor the contempt of this world; but we are servants of Christ, sons of God, and are ready to live and die for love of Him because He died and rose for us." When they had said these things and Ambrus had heard them with fury, they were led outside the city and most cruelly killed by means of various tortures. And there immediately appeared in the sky as many doves as those that had died. And preceding them, a single angel ascended heavenwards with them. Blessed Florian caused their bodies to be buried in the city of Eutropolis where a church was built in honour of the most holy Trinity.

5. Ambrus, hearing that blessed Florian was their leader and patriarch, as it were, and that they had stood firm in their faith in Christ as a result of his encouragement, and that he had also caused their bodies to be given an honourable burial, summoned him and asked whether he was willing to deny Christ and worship his gods. Blessed Florian said to him, "I am amazed that you think that you are wise and do not know how much I love Christ My Lord and do not perceive the foolishness and deceit of your idols." When Ambrus heard this and took it badly, he ordered him to be shot with javelins and arrows and killed. Blessed Florian, with his hands lifted to heaven, prayed to Christ with tears, and his prayer was so effective that the servants were unable to see him, although he was in the middle of them, and were unable to touch him with a single blow; but they raged one against the other, each believing the other to be Florian, and in this way 200 were killed among them. Seeing all this, Ambrus attributed it not to divine justice but to magical skill; on the contrary, he ordered him to be brought to the temple of the gods in order to see their power and strength. Blessed Florian then said to him, when he had finished his devout prayer to Christ, "O Ambrus, do you not hear the great shaking of the earth and the voices of those shouting ?" As he listened to this, Ambrus heard the great ruin of the temple and terrible voices crying in the air and, when he had sent messengers, he afterwards learned that the whole temple had collapsed and that the idols had been reduced to dust. Since Ambrus did not know what to do after this, he ordered him to be bound most tightly and to be thrown into the most horrible prison; when he had been set there, a great light immediately appeared to him, and a most sweet smell as if many flowers of various types and colours had been scattered there. When those who had brought him there saw this, they fell at his feet, and, asking for forgiveness, sought to be baptized by him. When Ambrus heard this, he ordered them to be beheaded.

6. Blessed Florian strengthened them, and in this way all those blessed in Christ were killed. On the following day, Ambrus ordered blessed Florian to be beheaded after he had been led, naked and cruelly bound, throughout the whole city on a single cart, where some would mock him and others beat him with sticks and knotty clubs and offer his body to their dogs. On the same night, an angel appeared to him, and revealed to him the decision of his death and suffering, strengthening him to endure everything bravely and willingly for the name of Christ, because glory without compare had been prepared for him by God on account of his suffering and shame. And in this way he revealed to him how all the other soldiers had been glorified in heaven, and even those 20 servants whom he himself had baptized were revealed to him in their great brilliance. When this vision had finished and he was totally strengthened in Christ, he wished for the hour of his passion to come. When he had arrived at the place of his passion, blessed Florian kneeled, and, raising his hands and eyes to heaven, he praised Christ that he had made him worthy of such a death for love of Him. He saw Christ with a very great army of his saints, and heard a voice saying, "Come, Florian, come, because today you will gather the most abundant fruit of your flowers and receive the glorious crown of the eternal kingdom as the reward of your passion." For the praise of Almighty God ! Amen.

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Copyright © 2001, David Woods. This file may be copied for the purpose of private research only.