Shortly after the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross and after His Ascension to Heaven, a centurion named Cornelius, who had previously lived in Thracian Italy, settled in Caesarea of Palestine. Although he was a pagan, he was distinguished by deep piety and good deeds, as evidenced by the holy evangelist Luke (Acts 10:1). The Lord did not despise his virtuous life and led him to the knowledge of the truth through enlightenment by the light of the faith of Christ.
One day Cornelius was praying in his house. An angel of God appeared to him and informed him that his prayers had been heard and accepted by God, and ordered people to be sent to Joppa for Simon, called Peter. Cornelius immediately obeyed the command. When the messengers went to Joppa, the apostle Peter began to pray, during which he had a vision: a vessel in the form of a large canvas filled with animals and birds was lowered three times. From the sky he heard a voice ordering him to eat everything he saw. The apostle's refusal was answered: "What God has cleansed, you do not consider unclean" (Acts 10:15).
With this vision, the Lord commanded the Apostle Peter to go to preach the Word of God to the Gentiles. When the Apostle Peter, accompanied by the messengers, came to the house of Cornelius, he was received with great joy and honor by the owner, his relatives and friends. Cornelius bowed at the feet of the Apostle Peter and asked him to teach the way of salvation. The apostle began a sermon about the earthly life of Jesus Christ, about the miracles and signs performed by the Savior, about His sufferings, the teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven, death on the Cross, Resurrection and Ascension to Heaven. Under the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, Cornelius believed in Christ and was baptized together with his relatives. He was the first of the pagans to be baptized.
He left the world and went to preach the gospel together with the apostle Peter, who made him a bishop. When the Apostle Peter and his assistants, Saints Timothy and Cornelius, "were in the city of Ephesus, he became aware of a particularly strong idolatry in the city of Skepsia. The lot was cast who should go there, which fell on Saint Cornelius.
There lived in the city a prince named Dimitri, who studied ancient Greek philosophy, hated Christianity and revered pagan gods, especially Apollo and Dius (Zeus). When he learned of the arrival of Saint Cornelius in the city, he immediately called him to himself and asked about the reason for his coming. Saint Cornelius replied that he had come to free him from the darkness of ignorance and lead him to the knowledge of the Light of Truth. The prince, not understanding the meaning of the spoken words, became angry and ordered to answer every question. When Saint Cornelius explained that he was serving the Lord and that the reason for his coming was to proclaim the Truth, the prince became enraged and demanded that Cornelius sacrifice to idols. The saint asked to show the gods. When he was led into the pagan temple, Cornelius turned to the east and, kneeling, said a prayer to the Lord. An earthquake began, and the temple of Zeus and the idols in it collapsed. All the people who saw what happened were horrified. The prince became even more embittered and began to consult with his entourage about how to ruin Cornelius.
The saint was tied up and hung in a dungeon for the night. At that time, one of his slaves told the prince the sad news that his wife and child had died under the rubble of the destroyed temple. But a little later one of the priests, named Varvat, said that he heard the voices of his wife and son from under the ruins and that they were praising the Christian God. The priest asked to release the prisoner, because thanks to the miracle performed by Saint Cornelius, the prince's wife and son remained alive. The joyful prince, accompanied by his entourage, hurried to the dungeon, confessed to Saint Cornelius that he believed in Christ and asked him to rescue his wife and son from the ruins of the temple. Saint Cornelius went to the destroyed idol temple, and by prayer the victims were released. After that, Prince Dimitri, all his relatives and confidants received holy Baptism. Saint Cornelius lived for a long time in this city, converted all the pagan inhabitants to Christ and appointed Presbyter Eunomius to serve the Lord. Saint Cornelius died at a very old age and was buried not far from the pagan temple destroyed by him.