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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world

The Greek Life of *Nikolaos of Sion (abbot and bishop in Lycia, ob. 564, S00559) mentions a festival described as the Rosalia of *Nikolaos (probably the bishop of Myra, S00520) at Myra (Lycia, south-west Asia Minor), celebrated in 564. It is probably accompanied by a general assembly (synodos) of the clergy of the province. Written in the late 6th c., probably at the monastery of Holy Sion in Lycia.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives

Life of Nikolaos, Abbot of Holy Sion and Bishop of Pinara (BHG 1347), 76

Φθάσαντος δὲ τοῦ καιροῦ τῶν Ῥοσσαλίων τοῦ προπάτορος ἡμῶν τοῦ ἁγίου Νικολάου, κατῆλθεν ἐν Μύροις τῇ μητροπόλει εἰς τὴν σύνοδον ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ δοῦλος Νικόλαος. καὶ εὐξάμενος, καὶ ἀπολαύσας τῶν ἁγίων καὶ τῶν τιμίων πατέρων καὶ συλλειτουργῶν τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ἁγίας συνόδου, καὶ ἀσπασάμενος πάντας καὶ τὴν εἰρήνην πᾶσιν ἀποδεδωκώς, ἀνῆλθεν εἰς τὸ εὐαγὲς αὐτοῦ μοναστήριον, καὶ συνελήφθη ἐν ἀρρωστίᾳ.

'When the time of the
Rosalia of our forefather Saint Nikolaos came, the servant of God Nikolaos came down to the feast (synodos) at the metropolis of Myra. He prayed and enjoyed the fellowship of the saints and venerable fathers and fellow celebrants of the holy assembly (synodos) in Christ; and, having embraced and given his peace to everyone, he came back to his charitable monastery, and was seized by illness.'

Text: Ševčenko and Patterson-Ševčenko 1984.
Translation: Efthymios Rizos.

Liturgical Activities

Eucharist associated with cult


Saint’s feast

Activities accompanying Cult

Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


The text is preserved in four manuscripts, on which see:

The editions of the text are based on the Codices Vaticanus Graecus 821 and Sinaiticus Graecus 525.


For the context of this passage, see E04953.

Shortly before his death, Nikolaos of Sion, comes to Myra in order to attend the main festival of the Church of Myra, which is described as the
Rosalia of ‘our forefather (προπάτωρ) Saint Nikolaos’. The shadow of this Nikolaos, about whose identity we are told nothing in the text, is somehow felt through the entire narrative, by the presence of seven figures called by his name. Beyond any reasonable doubt, this saint must be the figure of *Nikolaos, bishop of Myra, whose cult was apparently in full development by the sixth century. Yet this saint appears to have had a rather vague legend. The earliest text of his hagiographical dossier, the Miracle of Nikolaos (E05107), which was in circulation by the 580s, portrays Nikolaos as a bishop of Myra living under Constantine the Great. In the centuries to come, the hagiography of Nikolaos of Myra absorbed much of the legend and miracle accounts of Nikolaos of Sion, whose popularity does not seem to have survived into the Middle Byzantine period. This passage, however, suggests that the cult of Nikolaos was already dominant in Myra and the province by the late 6th century.

Nikolaos is described as our ‘forefather’ (προπάτωρ), not a martyr, but the common father of the church of Lycia. His feast is defined as the Rosalia, a surprising term, given its associations with pre-Christian traditions. However, ‘rose-festivals’ associated with saints are not unheard of in Anatolia. Theodore of Euchaita had a feast which is mentioned in Byzantine sources as ροδισμός. The date of Nikolaos’
rosalia is uncertain. If this was literally a ‘rose festival’ it must have been during the warmer part of the year, and not on 6 December, the established feast of Nicholas of Myra. On the other hand, our text places the death of Nikolaos of Sion on 10 December, which could imply that the saint died shortly after returning from the festivities of 6 December.


Text and translations:
Anrich, G., Hagios Nikolaos, der heilige Nikolaos in der griechischen Kirche, texte und Untersuchungen (Leipzig, Berlin, vol. 1: 1913; vol. 2: 1917).

Blum, H.,
Vita Nicolai Sionitae (Bonn, 1997).

Ruggieri, V.,
La Vita di San Nicola di Sion. Traduzione, note e commentario (Roma: Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 2013). Italian transaltion with commentary.

Ševčenko, I., and Patterson-Ševčenko, N.,
The Life of St. Nicholas of Sion (Brookline, Mass.: Hellenic College Press, 1984), with English translation.

Further reading:
Foss, C., "Cities and villages in Lycia in the Life of Saint Nicholas of Holy Sion," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 36 (1991), 303-339.

Hellenkemper, H., and Hild, F.,
Lykien und Pamphylien (Tabula Imperii Byzantini 8) (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2004).

Record Created By

Efthymios Rizos

Date of Entry


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00520Nicholas, bishop of Myra in Lycia, under ConstantineΝικόλαοςUncertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Efthymios Rizos, Cult of Saints, E04955 -