13 August – Florence Nightingale


Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910)
There are hospitals in Turkey named after Florence Nightingale.  She is known in Turkey because of her contribution to nursing reform and the establishment of sanitary hospitals which began when she had a leading role in setting up the hospital where soldiers wounded during the Crimean war were nursed.  Her hospital was established by the British Army in Selimiye Barracks[1](Selimiye Kışlası), Haydarpaşı, Istanbul.  In the aftermath of this experience Florence Nightingale  contributed much to the training of nurses, the establishment of sanitary hospitals and barracks. 
The Anglican Church commemorates the life of Florence Nightingale on 13 August, the day she died in 1910.  She was born in Florence, Italy on 12 May 1820 and named after the city of her birth.  Her parents were on a three year tour of Europe when she and her sister were born.  Florence’s father inherited his fortune from an uncle who had owned a lead mine and country estates.  Florence’s paternal grandfather had been a Sheffield Banker.  Because of his rich inheritance Florence’s father didn’t need to work so he was able to introduce his family to fashionable places in Europe, they also owned two mansions in England – Lea Hurst, Derbyshire and Embley Park in Hampshire.  During ‘the season’ they also stayed in London.   The Nightingales were part of a large extended family that they often met with for parties and social events. 
In the 19th century a wealthy family like Florence Nightingale would help with education and medical care or nursing of the sick or dying in their area.  During her life-time Florence Nightingale was involved in teaching in local schools near her parent’s home.  She would also go with her mother to take food to those who were sick or dying. 
One story is told about her tending to a sheepdog called Cap.  This probably happened when she was about 6 years old near Embley, the family home.  The then vicar, Jarvis Trigge Giffard, of the local Anglican Church, St Margaret’s, East Wellow attests to the story.  Cap, a shepherd’s collie, was discovered by Florence on the downs near Embley. The account says that:
‘Stones thrown by schoolboys had broken his leg, and the shepherd had intended to put him out of his misery by hanging him. However, with the guidance of the local vicar, Florence administered to the wounded animal, placing hot cloths as fomentations to reduce the swelling, thereby saving his leg and ensuring that Cap would continue as a working farm dog.’[2]
From this and other incidents during Florence Nightingale’s early life it became clear to her that she found great pleasure and satisfaction in caring for others who were sick and needy.  As she grew older she became increasingly dissatisfied with her life of family parties, visits to London and travel abroad.  In the 19th Century a woman of Nightingale’s social background was not expected to be educated or have a profession.  Women of her class were expected to be accomplished in music, drawing and caring for a household but definitely not engage in nursing or hospital management.
Florence Nightingale’s family were Unitarians, but they would often worship at a local Anglican Church if there wasn’t a Unitarian Chapel nearby.  Florence’s paternal grandmother was a devout Anglican who although married to a Unitarian continued to worship according to the Anglican tradition.  This grandmother was devout and would say her prayers upon rising in the morning and again after lunch.  Florence recalled many years later how:
‘We children,… knew that grandmother went up to say her prayers & we could hear her voice in the passage, speaking to God with such passion and earnestness – as if he were in the room, which he certainly was.’[3]
It seems that nominally Florence Nightingale would remain an Anglican although she ceased to attend church regularly as early as her thirties. 
Her first sense of vocation, of God calling her to serve was on 7 February 1837 when she was only 16 years old.  She recounts how ‘God spoke to me and called me to His service.’[4]This sense of calling would sustain her for many years.  Her sense of vocation and calling continued to develop.  Particularly at a retreat in Rome and while visiting Egypt her sense of vocation grew and developed.     During the retreat in Rome and at other visits to the Convent[5]she spoke with the Madra Santa Colombe who led the convent:
“Listening sympathetically to what Florence told her of her life at home, she had responded: ‘It is no good separating yourself from people to try and do the will of God. That is not the way to gain his blessing. What does it matter even if we are with people who make us desperate? So long as we are doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter at all.’”[6]
At the end of the ten day retreat Florence Nightingale recorded in her journal the following dialogue with the Madre:
‘MADRE: Did not God speak to you during this retreat? Did he not ask you anything? FLORENCE: He asked me to surrender my will.
MADRE: And to whom?
FLORENCE: To all that is upon the earth.
MADRE: He calls you to a very high degree of perfection. Take care. If you will resist you will be very guilty.’[7]
Florence and the Bracebridges returned home in 1850.  Some months after their return Florence began to feel that she had never been away and she felt the old aimlessness assert itself.  She wrote to her father:  “‘Everything here is in statu quo atmosphere like a warm bath …,’”[8]
During a visit to Egypt in 1850 she had a moment of spiritual and intellectual epiphany which Bostbridge describes thus:
‘The lesson she derived from this was clear. God makes laws which mankind breaks, and man’s evil, equated with his error, is a necessary agent of the teaching through which God will bring each and every one of us to perfection.’[9]
 These spiritual experiences during her life, coupled with meeting others interested in changing hospitals, schools and sanitation helped to prepare her for her future role in the nursing world in Britain and the world.  In July 1851, while the Bracebridges  were at a nearby spa, taking a cure, Florence Nightingale went for two weeks to Kaiserswerth where she observed their hospital, school and the way that nursing care was offered in a protestant context.  
Her first real opportunity to work in the Nursing world was in 1853 when she was appointed the Superintendent of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen, in Harley Street, London.  This gave her the opportunity to put into practice what she had observed in hospitals in Europe and develop her skills as an administrator that would be so important during her time at the Military Hospital in Selimiye Barracks, Istanbul.  In order to take up the position in London, she not only had to be appointed by the management committee of the hospital but also have her father’s expressed permission.  He agreed for her to take up the appointment and committed to paying her an annual allowance of £500.   There was much family discussion and opposition to this move but eventually her family agreed to her taking the job as Superintendent. 
The Crimean war broke out in March 1854.  In October of 1854 Sydney Herbert, the Secretary of State for War asked Florence Nightingale to lead a nursing mission to Selimiye Barracks[10].    Very swiftly nurses were appointed and arrangement made for thirty-eight nurses, Florence Nightingale and the Bracebridges to accompany the group to the Military Barracks on the Asian side of the Bosphorus opposite to what was then known as the City of Constantinople.   In the eighteenth century the barracks were in an area known as Scutari.  The modern name is Selimiye or Haydarpaşa. 
The barracks is still in use as a military establishment and stands proud overlooking the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea.  There is still a Museum there in memory of Florence Nightingale’s role in nursing the British Soldiers who fought in the Crimean War. 
When the women arrived at the hospital they set about cleaning and making shirts.  The promised supplies had not arrived and proper food was not available.  Eventually Florence Nightingale and her nurses brought order to the situation and were allowed by the army doctors to go into the wards and nurse the men.   It was vital that Florence Nightingale won over the medical staff in order that they could work together effectively.  It was during her time as nursing superintendent at the Scutari hospital that Florence Nightingale became known as the lady with the lamp because of her use of a lamp when she visited the wards to check on the men at the dead of night.  Florence Nightingale returned to Britain in August 1856, she was revered by the British public as the Lady with the lamp who had cared for the sick and wounded soldiers and greatly improved the mortality rate. 
On returning to London she used her experience and influence to bring about changes in hospitals and sanitation in military barracks.  She was well respected and had an amazingly wide influence.  Her determination to fulfil God’s calling on her life to serve was fulfilled not only in the results in better patient care for the sick and wounded from the Crimean War but in the years that followed when she studied reports, made recommendations and campaigned for change.  She went on to write her Notes for Nurses and to set up a school for nurses. 
God has created us all in his image and has a vocation that only we can fulfil.  Let us take heart from the way Florence Nightingale struggled to understand her vocation and then fulfil her calling in the face of strong opposition to her parents and older sister.  Her family did eventually support her in the call to go and provide good nursing care to the soldiers in the Crimean War and they were very proud of her success in fulfilling the government’s commission of October 1854.  The world is a richer place because of women like Florence Nightingale who wrestle with God and follow his leading in their lives.    
Prayer inscribed by Florence Nightingale in her copy of St Thomas A Kempis’ book:
‘What will happen to her, O God, I do not know;
all I know is that nothing will happen that You have not ruled,
foreseen and ordained from all eternity …
I make my sacrifice one with that of Jesus Christ my saviour.’[11]

[1]Often referred to as Scutari. 
[3]Ibid p.32.
[4] Ibid p.54
[5] During her visit to Rome with Mr and Mrs Bracebridge in 1847/8.  The Bracebridges would also accompany Florence to Istanbul when she worked at the hospital in Selimiye Barracks.
[6] Bostridge op cit p.120
[7] Ibid p.121
[8] Ibid p.122
[9] Ibid p.137
[10]These barracks are often referred to as ‘Scutari’ in modern Turkish they are referred to as the Selimiye Kışlası – which might be translated as the Sultan Selim III Barracks,
[11]  These were the words of Madame Elisabeth, sister of Louis XVI, as she awaited execution as a prisoner in the Temple during the French Revolution.  Using these words Florence submitted herself to the will of God.  Idib p.210


Copyright © 2018 Rev Ros Wilkinson

28 July – St Irene of Chrysovalantou Monastery, Constantinople


St Irene became the Abbess of the women’s Chrysovalantou[1] Monastery, Constantinople (modern day Istanbul).  Irene was born in Cappadocia, Central Anatolia, she came to Constantinople at the invitation of scouts, who were looking for potential suitors for Emperor Michael III[2].  After his father, Emperor Michael ll died, his mother, Empress Theodora reigned as regent.  Empress Theodora was an iconodule and restored the use of icons in the church[3].  We will look further at Theodora’s life on 11 February when her life is celebrated. 
St Irene was born into a wealthy, aristocratic Cappadocian family.  Irene’s sister was already married to Vardis[4], the Empresses brother.  On her journey to Constantinople Irene had visited a Holy man called Ioannikios the Great who lived on Mt Olympus in Asia Minor[5].   Ioannikios the Great did not receive every visitor but he received St Irene because he knew from God that she was a spiritual woman and about her quest in going to Constantinople.  When they met he said to her: “Welcome servant of God, Irene. Go to the capitol and rejoice for the Convent of Chrysovalantou needs you to shepherd her virgins.”[6]  
Irene was undoubtedly surprised that Ioannikios knew her name and that he suggested that she should enter a convent.  He had agreed to meet her because he believed she was a woman of God’s choosing who was spiritually mature for her age.  After their meeting she continued to Constantinople where she learnt that Emperor Michael had married someone else.  In Constantinople she was welcomed by her relatives already living there and received many offers of marriage.  After finding out more about the Convent Chrysovalantou she entered the convent as a novice.  As she took this step she gave away all her clothes and wealth, freed her servants and became a novice nun. 
In the Convent she was faithful in prayer and in doing whatever work was required of her – she was always ready to do the humblest of service.  While still a novice the Abbess, who recognized St Irene’s spiritual development, allowed her to pray during the night hours.  During these times of night prayer she would stand with her arms outstretched to heaven.  After she became Abbess she would sometimes go and pray in the convent garden and was observed there in the night levitating and the Cyprus trees bowing down to her. 
When the Abbess died St Irene was nominated as her successor by Patriarch Methodios.  She felt unequal to the task.  Patriarch Methodios believed in nominating St Irene to be Abbess he had been directed by the Holy Spirit.  The other nuns were in agreement with him as was the former Abbess who had spoken of Irene taking her role while on her death bed.   Patriarch Methodios ordained Irene as deaconess and appointed her Abbess.   
Irene was throughout her life a diligent woman of prayer.  She was able, through the power of God that was bestowed on her to pray for healing and for freedom from demonic activity in individuals lives, she also had a gift of being able to understand what was troubling the hearts and minds of those she met. 
There is a Life of St Irene which was possibly written in the last two decades of the tenth century.  The Swedish Byzantine scholar Jan Olof Rosenquist[7]has translated the text and deals with some of the inconsistencies of the text. 
John Sanidopoulos[8], in his blog suggested that the Convent may have been on the fifth hill of Constantinople.  He suggests that the Monastery of Chrysovalantou was “located on its fifth hill known then as Chrysovalantou from which the Monastery took its name (though according to St Irene’s biography the official name of this monastery was dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel).  Today the fifth of the seven hills of Constantinople is occupied by Sultan Selim Mosque and the Church of the Theotokos Pammakaristos…Though the remains of the monastery have not been found, the only topographical allusion to it that we have is its close proximity to the cistern of Aspar, according to St Irene’s biography, which was on the fifth hill north of the Church of the Holy Apostles (which was on the fourth hill).”
St Irene knew from God when she would die, she gathered the nuns around her and passed away on 28 July 912 at the age of 103 years.   
For further information see:

[1] It is not clear where this monastery/convent would have been in Constantinople.  It, like the church of the Apostles and other great Byzantine Churches may well have fallen into disrepair and the monastery’s place in the city is known no longer although there is a Monastery Chrysovalantou in New York, US and another in Greece. 
[2]Michael III reigned from 842 to 867. 
[3] The use of icons was restored on 11 March 843 – 11 March is still celebrated within the Greek Orthodox Church as the Feast of Orthodoxy. 
[4]Bardas according to John Julius Norwich Byzantium: The Apogee, Penguin Books, 1991, P54
[5] There is a Mt Olympus near Antalya, on the Mediterranean Coast and one near Bursa East of Constantinople.  That is the more likely Mt Olympus. 
[6] http://www.stirene.org/life-of-st-irene—beta943omicronsigmaf-tauetasigmaf-alphagamma943alphasigmaf.html

[7] The life of St Irene Abbess of Chrysobalanton: A critical edition (Studia Byzantina Upsaliensia) 1 Jan 1986

by Jan Olof Rosenqvist
[8] https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/07/miraculous-icon-of-saint-irene.html


Copyright © 2018 Rev Ros Wilkinson

26 September – St Natalia of Nicomedia (4th Century)


26 September – St Natalia of Nicomedia (4thCentury).
St Natalia[1]was married to St Adrian, the head of the Praetorium.  He was a pagan and one of his duties was to record the names and responses of Christians who were being tortured in Nicomedia.  This was probably in the time of Emperor Galerius Maximian (305-311). 
Twenty-three believers hid in a cave near Nicomedia, they were caught, tortured and urged to offer sacrifices to the gods.   As their names were being recorded Adrian asked them how they expected to be rewarded by their God.  They answered Adrian
What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him”[2]
 Upon hearing their testimony and seeing the way they bore their sufferings he decided to become a Christian and he told the scribe to add his name also.   Upon this Adrian was imprisoned but Natalia, his wife who was also a secret believer was able to visit him and encourage him as he faced death for his new found faith. 
Adrian and the other Christians were sentenced to having their arms and legs placed on an anvil then broken with a heavy hammer.  Somehow St Natalia managed to take one of the hands of her husband and secrete it amongst the folds of her robe. 
The executioners tried to burn the bodies but a storm arose and blew the fire out and struck and killed some of the executioners. 
Natalia was afraid that she would be pressured into re-marrying once Adrian was dead, before her husband’s martyrdom she asked him to pray that this wouldn’t happen.  When after Adrian’s martyrdom an army commander wanted to marry Natalia, she left Nicomedia and went to Argyroupolis, which was near to the city of Byzantium.  Later Adrian appeared to his wife in a dream and warned her of her impending death, thought to have been brought on by her sufferings.  Shortly after St Natalia fell asleep in the Lord. 
In the pre-Constantine era Christians in Asia Minor, suffered persecution under Emperor Diocletian (284-305) and Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus (305-11).  Persecution came to an end after Constantine became the Emperor of both the Eastern and Western Empire.  In 312, just before the battle of Milvian Bridge, he had a vision of the Chi(X) Rho(P), the first two letters of Christ[3]which influenced his decision to allow Christian worship in the Empire.
Nicomedia was a major city in the Eastern Empire, particularly in Diocletian’s time when it became ‘the adorned Eastern capital of the Empire’[4].  During the turbulent years of Diocletian’s reign there were several persecutions and many martyrs from Nicomedia.  Nicomedia is now the Turkish city of Izmit. 
The hymns about Saint Adrian and Natalia emphasize the cooperation of husband and wife and exalt them as a model married couple. In one hymn, the third Sticheron of Vespers, Natalia is contrasted favourably with Eve, as exhorting her husband to godliness rather than tempting him to sin. In the fourth Sticheron of Lauds she is also likened to the wise pilot of a storm-tossed ship (her husband), bringing him safely into the heavenly harbour. 
Troparion (Tone 4) [1]
Your holy martyrs Adrian and Natalia, O Lord,
Through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God.
For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries,
And shattered the powerless boldness of demons.
Through their intercessions, save our souls!
Kontakion – (Tone 4)
Martyr of Christ, Adrian,
You kept the words of your godly and devoted wife Natalia in your heart.
With her you accepted every kind of suffering and obtained the crown of victory![5]
Both Natalia and Adrian are referred to as martyrs but in practice it seems as if only Adrian was killed for his faith. 

[1] One of my daughters is named Natalia which has drawn me to this saint.  Although I would have preferred the Russian spelling – Natalya – used by the wife of a famous 20th century writer.  Picture from:  https://orthodoxwiki.org/Adrian_and_Natalia
[2] 1 Cor 2:9
[3] John Julia Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries (London: Penguin Books, 1990) p. 10
[4] Lectant. De mort. Pers. 17.2-9 quoted in http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=nicomedia
[5] https://orthodoxwiki.org/Adrian_and_Natalia


Copyright © 2018 Rev Ros Wilkinson