Saint Apostle Matthias and his possible place of death in Abkhazia
It is known from the book “The Acts of the Apostles” (1,15-26) that the apostles choose Matthias instead of Judas Iscariot(Gr. Μαθθίας or Ματθίας), he became one of the twelve disciples of Christ. According to the first church historian Eusebius of Caesarea (IV century), Matthias was one of the seventy disciples of Christ. According to the later church historian Nicephorus Callistus Ksanfopulos (XIV century), the Apostle Matthias preached the Gospel in Ethiopia, where he was martyred. Other historical sources and legends indicate Sebastopolis (modern Sukhum) as the place of martyrdom of the Apostle Matthias, there are sources that he was stoned and beheaded in Jerusalem.
Thus, in “The Acts of the Apostles” written by Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyre (. IV c), saying: “The Apostle Matthias has been to the distant Ethiopia, where the harbor Issa and the river Phasis are situated; there he preached to barbarians. He died and was buried near the temple of the sun in Sebastopolis”.
Sophronius (IV century) says: “Matthias was one of the Seventy, elected instead of Judas; he preached the Gospel in the second Ethiopia, where the fortress Apsara and harbor Issa are located, preached to people who were wild. After his death he was buried there “.
The ancient author, saying the “distant” or “second” “Ethiopia” means the Eastern coast of the Black Sea and “Sebastopolis” is a modern capital of Abkhazia Sukhum.
In 1908, a member of the Imperial Moscow Archaeological Society Vladimir Cherniavsky published a note entitled “The destruction of the tomb of the Apostle Matthew” in the newspaper “New time”. In 1912, the article was reprinted in the journal “Employee of the Caucasian mission» (№ 17), published by the Sukhum Diocesan Brotherhood of St. Alexander Nevsky.
V. Cherniavsky wrote in his note that it’s necessary to preserve the ancient temple – basilica inside one of the double castles of the ancient acropolis Sebastopolis (modern Sukhum). According to his words this acropolis and the temple called “Sa-Mato” in Abkhaz (i. e Holy Mata, Matthias), where the Saint Apostle Matthew was killed (Matthias).
“The temple is being broken in order to build a house on its place”, says Cherniavsky. It is necessary to dig deep all around and save the invaluable treasures for science, but for believers, perhaps the relics of the Apostle Matthew (Matthias)”. According to historical sources the remains of the Apostle Matthias, on behalf of Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, were transferred to the German city of Trier (Trevira). During the invasion of the Normans the remains were hidden in a safe place. They were found in 1050. However, they were lost for the second time and again miraculously found on September 1, 1127 in Trier. Thus, the Apostle Matthias is the only of the apostles, whose relics are kept in Germany. The revered tomb of the Apostle Matthias is situated in the monastery of Santa Maria, Trier (Germany).
The Memorial Day of Saint Apostle Matthias is celebrated on August 9 (August 22 on the Gregorian calendar).
Author: Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar), Doctor of Theology