Hyrcania; Kh. Mird; el Mird - CASTELLION


In the 54th year of great Sabas’ life, two year after the consecration of the church ‘built by God’ and the visit of John, bishop (of Jerusalem) to the Laura, on the 21st day of the month of January, in the 15th indiction <AD 492>, our father Sabas went to the hill of Castellion, <‘the small fortress’>, which is at a distance of about 20 stadia from the Laura to the north-east. This hill was fearful and desolate because of the multitude of demons that haunted its, for which reason no shepherd of the desert dared to go near the place. Then the venerable Elders, trusting in the Highest for his refuge sprinkled oil from the most sacred Cross upon the place and stayed there during the days of Lent, and by his unceasing prayers and hymns to God, the place was cleared. Indeed (the holy man) suffered many afflictions at the demons’ hands on that hill, but, though as a mere man he was frightened and would have retreated, He who once appeared to great Abba Antonius, appeared to him too and encouraged him to have faith in the power of the Cross. So, having put his trust in faith and patience, (the holy man) prevailed over the audacity of the demons. For he persevered in unyielding prayer and fast, until one night, toward the end of Lents, while he was keeping vigil and entreating God to purge that place from the unholy spirits that haunted its, suddenly the demons began to make a din and to rouse visions, now of snakes and wild beasts, now in the likeness of ravens, trying to scare him off with these apparitions. But, as they had no power over Sabas, who persisted in his prayers, (the demons) departed from that place, crying aloud with human voice and saying: “O what violence (we suffer) at your hands, Sabas! You are not content with that ravine you colonised but you want invade our place too. Lo! we leave our home, for we cannot resist you, who have God for a champion!” Saying these and similar words, the demons left that mountain in a body, precisely at midnight, in the likeness of a flock of ravens, with great clamour and a confused turmoil. And there were shepherds in the desert around that hill, who were passing the night in the open, watching their flocks. When they saw the turmoil of the ravens and heard their clamour, (those shepherds) were much frightened, and said to each other: “Assuredly there must be some holy men at the Castellion, and they have driven away the demons that live there. Come on, let us go to the hill and see what happened, and if there are holy men there, we shall make obeisance to them”. At dawn (the shepherds) went up to the hill of Castellion and, having found the holy Elder all alone, they told him what they had seen and heard during the night. The holy man said to them: “Go in peace, my children, and ‘have no fear of them’ <I Petr. 3:14>”, and with these words of encouragement he sent them away in peace. When the days of fasting came to an end, (Sabas) went back to his Laura and after having celebrated the festival of Easter, he took some fathers, went to the Castellion and began to clear the place and build cells with the-material that was found there. During the clearing they discovered a large living room under the debris, made with wonderful stones. They dug it out and set it in order, then Sabas made it into a church and from that moment he set his mind on making the place into a coenobium - and this was done by and by.

While Sabas was toiling with the brothers at Castellion, he lacked all the necessities of life. In the month of August, the plight of the godly Elder was revealed to Abba Marcianus of blessed memory who was head of a coenobium near holy Bethlehem. One night he saw a shining angelic form, that said to him: “Lo, Marcianus! you sit at your ease, fully provided with the necessities of bodily life, and the servant of God Sabas toils at the Castellion with some brothers for the sake of God, hungry and lacking all necessary sustenance. Come, be pleased to send them supplies without delay, in order that they might not be discouraged”. Great Marcianus immediately rose and gave orders to saddle the breast of burden of the monastery and sent them over to the Castellion, loaded with various provisions, with an escort of monks. When the godly Elder received the brothers with the supplies, he suitably recited David’s and Daniel’s words of Thanksgiving for God’s providence, and he was filled with yet greater zeal, to build the coenobium.

Marcianus of blessed memory lived four months after the above-mentioned revelation, then he passed away to the life without old age or sorrow on the 23rd of the month of November, in the first indiction. And this is the exact time of the foundation of the Castellion and of godly Marcianus death. Meanwhile, our great father Sabas, fully assured that God fostered hits project, accomplished the building of the coenobium with great alacrity and zeal; then he established an adequate community to live there and appointed as administrator of the place one Paul, a former anchorite, with his disciple, Theodore. After Paul’s death Theodore took the administration into his own hands, taking as helpers his brother Sergius and his uncle Paul, both Melitenians. They served worthily as hegumens of the Castellion, each in his turn, then they were appointed bishops of Amathus and Aila. This is the story of the Castellion.

(transl. Leah Di Segni)

Foundation of the monastery of Castellion, AD 492.
Key quotation(s): 
I Petr. 3:14