Cosmas of Aetolia (~1714 - 24/08/1779)
He was born in Aetolia, either at the town of Mega Dendron or Taxiarchis around 1714, although some scholars believe he was born between 1700 and 1707. He studied at Parnassida and Nafpaktia and had many well-known teachers of parochial education. In 1749, he went to Athonias School of Agion Oros, where he conducted higher studies in theology and philosophy. He was also a monk for two years at Philotheou monastery. In 1759, he left the monastery and started touring all over Northern and Western Greece to halt the islamization of subjugated Greeks. He urged the Christians to found schools, believing education was also a prerequisite for the promotion of Orthodoxy. Within 16 years, he founded over 250 schools.
After the Greek revolution of 1770 in Peloponnese, which was supported by Catherine II, Emperor of Russia, the Ottomans considered him a threat and a Russian spy. According to other analysts, the negative sentiment against him was created by Jews in Epirus, because they had financial losses, after he convinced the locals to conduct their farmer’s market on Saturdays instead of Sundays. He was arrested and executed on 24 August 1779, near a small town of modern Albania, although he was not trialed and no official charges were ever made.
Cosmas of Aetolia was officially canonized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople on 20 April 1961, and his memory is celebrated on 24 August, the day he was executed. Apart from Greece, he is also celebrated in other countries, including Cyprus, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Armenia, USA, Ukraine, Romania, Montenegro and FYROM.
In 1813 Ali Pasha, ruler of Ottoman Epirus and enemy of the Sultan, had a church built near the site where Cosmas of Aetolia was executed, placing his remains inside. The remains were later moved to the Archaeological Museum of Fier and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens. Cosmas of Aetolia has a special place in the hearts of Orthodox Albanians because of his preachings.
A number of texts are attributed to Cosmas of Aetolia, among which the most important are the “Teachings” and the “Prophecies”. Scholars believe that these texts were probably recorded shortly after each of his teachings, the most probable scenario being that they were dictated teachings to his students. Moreover, they are categorized based on the dates these teachings were dictated and the dates they were recorded. So, they were dictated between 1772 and 1779, and they were recorded from 1780 up to 1830. Each text seems to be a patchwork of many of his preachings. The Teachings and the Prophecies were published and reprinted numerous times and have been very popular religious readings.