St. Youannis (Wanas) was martyred when he was barely 12 years old. He was the only child born to a pious Christian couple, who brought him up in the Christian faith. Despite his young age, he was ordained a deacon by the bishop of the city because of his love for Christ and his spiritual maturity.
He stayed in church pretty much all the time and although he was young, he fought the spiritual war faithfully. During the days when there was liturgy, he ate from the holy bread (Orban), and during the days that had no liturgy, he asked the neighboring women to make him some bread (called Hanoun) to sustain him. He walked around the church and did everything that was necessary without ever being lazy or bored. His face shone, and it attracted the attention of everyone who saw him.
When the devil waged war on the church through persecution, the saint desired to shed his blood for Christ’s sake. In a dream, God showed him that he will receive the crown of martyrdom. St. Wanas went and told the bishop about his dream and asked the bishop to bury his body in Om Qoraat cemetery in Luxor where his ancestors were buried.
The Roman commander came to the saint’s town with his soldiers and looked for the believers. They heard about the deacon Wanas, and set out looking for him. They found him after he had encouraged the believers, and he did not flee from the commander or his soldiers when they found him. The commander was very angry with St. Wanas because of his courage, and the soldiers began to try a series of torture methods with the saint. They were creative in torturing him, having no mercy on his young age. During all this torturing, St. Wanas glorified God and called out for God to help him.
Finally, he was martyred on the 16th day of Hatour (third Coptic month), at the beginning of the fourth century. After the soldiers separated his head from his body, they threw his head far from his body. God guided some believers to his body, which they recognized because of his distinct outfit which he always wore (a white gown with a distinct cross on it), and they joyfully took the body to the bishop, who asked them to go search for the saint’s head.
They went back and searched for the head until they found it under a palm tree and brought it back to the bishop, who respectfully put perfumes on the body, wrapped it in a shroud, and buried it in the cemetery St. Wanas asked to be buried in. The townspeople passed down by mouth the location of the saint’s body in the cemetery.
When the late Metropolitan Marcos (previous metropolitan of Luxor, Esna, and Armant) was alive, the location of the cemetery was in the middle of the city, buildings were starting to appear in the cemetery, and the idea of removing the cemetery arose. The metropolitan wanted to find the body of St. Wanas and move it to a worthy place. He started fasting and praying liturgies, asking God to lead him to the place where the body was buried.
After fasting for three days without eating or drinking anything, the Lord sent an angel and showed him in a vision the location of St. Wanas’ tomb inside the cemetery. The next morning, Metropolitan Marcos went to the cemetery and saw the place that the angel showed him in the vision. He then took the body of the saint amidst the deacons’ singing of hymns and praises, and placed it in its current location.
His icon shows him in a deacon’s outfit, holding a cross and a Gospel like a deacon circling around the altar. This is how people who he appeared to have seen him. Behind him in the picture are Luxor’s Obelisks, a sign of St. Wanas’ patriotism and connection to the city of Luxor.