Martyrdom of St. Elizabeth Romanov and Nun Barbara (1918)
Commemorated on July 5
Grand Duchess Elizabeth was a grand-daughter of Queen
Victoria of England and the older sister of the Empress Alexandra (July 4).
After marrying Grand Duke Sergei she converted to the Orthodox faith, though
this was not required by her position. After her husband was assasinated in
1905, she took monastic vows and withdrew from the world, founding the Convent
of Saints Mary and Martha. There she served as superior, devoting her time to
prayer, fasting, and caring for the sick and the poor.
During the Russian Revolution, she was seized by the God-hating Bolsheviks and taken to the Urals, where she and several with her were martyred by being thrown alive down an abandoned mine-shaft. When the fall did not kill them, soldiers threw grenades down the shaft to complete their work. Saint Elizabeth was singing the Cherubic Hymn when she died.
The Nun Barbara, her cell-attendant, voluntarily followed St Elizabeth into exile and received martyrdom with her. Their relics were recovered and taken at great risk to China, then to Jerusalem, where they were deposited in the Convent of St Mary Magdalene. When their reliquaries were opened in 1981, their bodies were found to be partly incorrupt, and gave off a sweet fragrance.
Footnote: After the assasination of her husband in Moscow, Grand Duchess Elizabeth had a cross erected at the site of his death, bearing the inscription "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." After the revolution, the cross remained standing through the devotion of the people of Moscow to St Elizabeth, until it was personally torn down by Lenin.