The Translation and Fate of the Relics of St. Lazarus of the Four Days, the Bishop of Kiteia

The Transfer of the relics of Righteous Lazarus of the Four Days, Bishop of Kiteia on Cyprus, took place in the ninth century. The Righteous Saint Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, lived in the village of Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. During His earthly life the Lord Jesus Christ often visited the house of Lazarus, whom He much loved and called His friend (John 11:3,11), and when Lazarus had died and lain four days already in the grave, the Lord raised him from the dead (John 11:1-44). Many of the Jews, when they heard about this, came to Bethany. Being persuaded of the reality of this most remarkable wonder, they became followers of Christ. Because of this the High Priests wanted to kill Lazarus. 

According to Scripture and the tradition of the Cypriot church, Lazarus had to leave Judea to seek refuge in another country. This location was Kiteia in Cyprus.

When Apostle Paul and Apostle Barnabas travelled to Cyprus, they ordained Lazarus as the first Bishop of Kiteia. This is why all episcopal thrones in Larnaca have the icon of St. Lazarus instead of Christ, which is the standard custom of the church.

Another famous tradition related to Lazarus is the discovery of Mount Athos in 52 AD by the Theotokos. Lazarus was very close to the Virgin Mary and he was very grieved that he could not return to Jerusalem to visit her (he was still in fear of the Jews). The Theotokos learned of his sorrow and sent him a letter to comfort him. She asked that he might send a ship to her that she might visit him in Cyprus. With great joy, Lazarus sent a ship to the Holy Land to bring the Virgin Mary and John, the beloved disciple to Cyprus for a visit. However on their journey, a great storm blew them off course and carried them to the shores of Ephesus and then the ship to the shores of Athos, Greece. Unaware that divine providence had brought her to this area, the Virgin Mary completely taken by the beauty of the area, prayed to her son that this could be her garden devoted to prayer to "fight the good fight of faith". Having converted, blessed and established a new Christian community from the local idolaters they set sail for Cyprus and met with Lazarus.

Further establishing the apostolic nature of Lazarus' appointment, was the tradition that the bishop's omophorion and epimanikia were presented to Lazarus by the Virgin Mary, who had woven it herself.

Little more is known about Lazarus after Our Lord's Resurrection and Ascension, except that during his thirty years after his resuscitation, he never smiled or joked except on one occasion, recorded in the Synaxarion. One day, he saw someone stealing a clay pot and he smiled saying, "the clay steals the clay".

The first tomb of Lazarus in Bethany remains as a site for pilgrims to this very day.

The second tomb on the island of Cyprus, was found in Kition sometime in 890 AD, with his relics inside, and bearing the inscription: "Lazarus, the Friend of Christ."

After St. Lazarus' tomb was found in Larnaca in 890 AD, Emperor Leo VI of Byzantium had Lazarus' remains transferred to Constantinople in 898. The transfer was apostrophized by Arethas, Bishop of Caesarea (Caesarea Palestinae), and is commemorated by the Orthodox Church each year on October 17.

In recompense to Larnaca, Emperor Leo had the Church of St. Lazarus erected over Lazarus' tomb, which still exists today. The marble sarcophagus can be seen inside the church under the Holy of Holies.

After the sacking of Constantinople by the Franks during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the Crusaders carried the saint's relics to Marseilles, France as part of the booty of war. From there, "later on, they disappeared and up to the present day they have not been traced."

In the 16th century, a Russian monk from the Monastery of Pskov visited St. Lazarus’s tomb in Larnaca and took with him a small piece of the relics. Perhaps that piece led to the erection of the St. Lazarus chapel at the Pskov Monastery (Spaso-Eleazar Monastery, Pskov), where it is kept today.

On November 23, 1972, human remains in a marble sarcophagus were discovered under the altar, during renovation works in the church of Church of St. Lazarus at Larnaka, and were identified as part of the saint's relics.

In June 2012 the Church of Cyprus gave a part of the holy relics of St. Lazarus to a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church, led by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, after a four-day visit to Cyprus. The relics were translated to Moscow on June 11, 2012, and were given to Archbishop Arseniy of Istra, who took them to the Zachatievsky monastery (Conception Convent), where they were put up for veneration.

Local Traditions

Though not as widespread as they used to be, "Lazarine Carols" are still sung in certain parts of Greece as a cherished tradition. On the day before Lazarus Saturday, children would go out into the fields to gather flowers to decorate their baskets and go out singing carols. In some cases they will also have prepared special outfits. In return for singing the Lazarine Carols, the children would receive gifts in the form of eggs, money or other foods.

Sources: http://www.stjohndc.org/en/list-of-relics/lazarus-four-days-tomb-bishop-kition-cyprus-righteous;