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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 *Theodoros (abbot of Sykeon, ob. 613, S01619), by Eleusios-Georgios of Sykeon, mentions several shrines and festivals of saints at Sykeon and other places in Anatolia, the Holy Land, and Constantinople. Written at Sykeon (central Asia Minor), in the 640s.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts

Documentary texts

Georgios of Sykeon, Life of Theodoros, abbot of Sykeon and bishop of Anastasiopolis (CPG 7973 = BHG 1748)

A catalogue of references to shrines and churches of saints in the text:

7.2, 8.16 Shrine (μαρτύριον) of the martyr
*Georgios (S00259).
23. Theodoros, as priest, settles there (εὐκτήριον). It is located on a rocky site on the mountain.

8. Oratory (εὐκτήριος οἶκος) of *John the Baptist (S00020) outside the village of Sykeon.

10. Church (ναός) of
*Gemellos (S01998) near Theodoros’ home. Probably the main church of the village of Sykeon. 25. Theodoros buries his aunt there. 142. He meets the patrician Bonosus there (the church is by the highway).

13. Oratory (εὐκτήριον) of
*Christophoros (S00616) east of the village.
25. Theodoros’ grandmother establishes a nunnery there.
46. 10-12. Theodoros visits the nunnery.
167. 43-48. Theodoros celebrates the liturgy of Maundy Thursday for the nuns.

35. Church (ναός) of
*Michael the Archangel (S00181).

First Expansion of the monastery
40. The visitors are so many that the church of Georgios cannot accommodate them. To the right (i.e. south?) of it, Theodoros builds a new church (40.14, 162.12 οἶκος; 103.7 ναός) of Michael the Archangel, flanked by a smaller oratory (40.16 μικρὸν εὐκτήριον) of John the Baptist and one (104.5, 162.77 μοναστήριον, 162.1 εὐκτήριον) of *Mary (S00033). The new complex is appropriate for both winter and summer use. The church of Michael is constantly open to visitors who are allowed to stay and sleep there (103.7). Services are celebrated by the monks for their benefit (40).

Second Expansion
55. A new large church (ναός) of Georgios with three apses is built, flanked by oratories (εὐκτήριον) of *Platon (the martyr of Ancyra?, S00650) on the left (north) and *Antiochos (S01997) on the right (south). It also has an upper gallery (κατηχούμενον) with an oratory dedicated to *Sergios and Bakchos (S00023, S00079). During his episcopate, Theodoros consecrates the new church (ναός) of Georgios (59). The oratory of Platon is reserved to Theodoros’ private devotions and reclusion periods (60). His iron cage is kept there (102).

The new church complex is described as follows:

55.9-15. Ἰδὼν τοίνυν οὗτος ὁ μακάριος πολλοὺς ὄχλους συναθροιζομένους καὶ τὸ τοῦ ἁγίου Γεωργίου εύκτήριον μικρὸν ὑπάρχον, δοὺς τὰ ὑπολειφθέντα αὐτῷ γενικὰ χρήματα ἀνῳκοδόμησεν ἄξιον ναὸν τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Γεωργίου τρίκογχον, ἔχοντα ἐκ δεξιῶν εὐκτήριον τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Πλάτωνος, ἐξ εὐωνύμων δὲ τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Ἀντιόχου. Ἐπάνωθεν δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ κατηχουμένῳ τῶν ἁγίων μαρτύρων Σεργίου καὶ Βάκχου [...]

So this blessed man saw that great crowds were gathering and the oratory of Saint George was small, and he spent the rest of his family fortune and built a dignified temple of the holy martyr Georgios, with three apses. It had an oratory of the holy martyr Platon on the right, and one of the holy martyr Antiochos on the left. Above it, in the gallery, there was one of the holy martyrs Sergios and Bakchos …

The text also mentions the following two oratories, which may belong to the broader monastic settlement of Sykeon:

167. 76-77. Oratory (εὐκτήριον) of
Georgios in the mountain.
167. 89-90. Monastery (μοναστήριον) of the martyr *
Kerykos (S00007).

Villages in Galatia and around Sykeon
Trapezas (10 miles from Sykeon)
14. Shrine (εὐκτήριος οἶκος) of
John the Baptist. Inhabited by the hermit Glykerios.

27.20-22. Theodoros’ cage is set up at the church (ναός) of
John the Baptist.

36. Church (καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία) of
*Eirenikos (S01999).

141. Monastery of the
Michael the Archangel (μοναστήριον τοῦ Ἀρχαγγέλου).

Ouetape near Kinna
66. Monastery (μοναστήριον) of
*Stephanos (the first martyr?, S00030).

113. Monastery of
*Theodoros (martyr of Amasea and Euchaita?, S00480) of Briania (113.1-2: μοναστήριον τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Θεοδώρου τοῦ ἀπὸ Βριανίας).
64. Monastery of Dryina, including an oratory (64.27: εὐκτήριον) of *Paul the Apostle.

13. Vigil (παννυχίς) for the martyr *Heuretos/Heuretes (S02000) at Iouliopolis (no direct reference to a shrine, but likely)
79. 25-27. Oratory (εὐκτήριον) of the
Archangel (presumably Michael, S00181) at Akrena, in the territory of Iouliopolis/Heliopolis.

71. Feast of the church (ναός) of Mary (S00033) at the village of Mousge, between Germia and Eudoxias.
100. Church (ναός) of
Michael the Archangel and monastery (μοναστήριον) of Mary at Germia.

Heraclea Pontica
44. Church of Mary (οἶκος τῆς παναγίας Θεοτόκου) at Heraclea Pontica.

130. Monastery (130.15 μονή) of Georgios (S00259) of Pegai, near Dorylaion.

Sozopolis of Pisidia
106, 108. Church (ναός) of Mary (S00033) in Sozopolis.

101. Church of the Angels (S00723) (101.40 ναὸς Μυριαγγέλων) outside the walls.

107. Oratory of the Mary (S00033) (107.22 εὐκτήριον) outside the walls, within the house of the illustris Anastasius

49. Monastery (μονή) of
Theodoros (S00480) near the river Psilis.
151. 1 Monastery of the
Mary (S00033) of the Katharoi (μονὴ τῆς παναγίας Θεοτόκου τῶν Καθαρῶν) near Pylae.

Nicomedia and territory
156. Shrine (156.65, 156.72 εὐκτήριον) of *Anthimos (martyr of Nicomedia, S00124) at Optatianae, outside the east walls of Nicomedia.
156. Shrine of the
*Apostles (S00084) (156.22 Ἀποστολεῖον) in Nicomedia.
156. Monastery (156.84 μονή) of
Christophoros (S00616) at the village of Persea.
156. Shrine (?) of
Mary ($S00016) at the fountain (156.39, Θεοτόκος τῆς Πηγῆς) in Nicomedia.
157. Monastery (157.1 μονή) of
*Autonomos (martyr of Nicomedia, $S00016) at Astakos (also in 49.24).
157. Shrine (157.16 μαρτύριον) of
Theodoros (martyr of Amasea and Euchaita?, S00480) at Eribolum.
157. Oratory (157.24 εὐκτήριος οἶκος) of
Georgios (S00259) at the emporium of Herakleion at Latomion.
157. Oratory (157.34 εύκτήριον) of
Mary (S00033) the Virgin at Myrokopin.
158. Church of
Mary (158.27 σεπτὸς οἶκος τῆς παναγίας Θεοτόκου, S00033) at Diolkides.
158. Oratory of
*Herakleios ($S02002) (158.53 εὐκτήριον τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Ἡρακλείου) at the emporion of Elaia.
160. Oratory (160.19 εὐκτήριος οἶκος) of
*Dionysios ($S02001) at the road station of Dekaton.

Holy Land
24. Theodoros is tonsured at the monastery of the Virgin Mary (S00033) in Choziba (24. 17-18. μοναστήριον τῆς δεσποίνης ἡμῶν τῆς Θεοτόκου τὸ προσαγορευόμενον τοῦ Χουζιβᾶ).

47, 63. Lavra (λαύρα) of
*Sabas ($S00910) in Palestine.

135. 11 Monastery (μονή) of Stephanos (S00030), or 'of the Romans', at the Petrion.

Text: Festugière 1970.
Summary and Translation: Efthymios Rizos.

Cult Places

Cult building - unspecified
Cult building - independent (church)
Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)
Cult building - monastic
Cult building - secondary installation (fountain, pilgrims’ hostel)
Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave
Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)
Descriptions of cult places

Non Liturgical Activity

Visiting graves and shrines
Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - abbots
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
Other lay individuals/ people


The text is preserved in three manuscripts of the 10th and 11th centuries (Biblioteca Marciana 359; Patmos Monastery Library 254; Athens National Library 1014).

The extant text is no earlier than the death of Heraclius in 641, since the author records the fulfilment of Theodoros’ prophecy about the emperor’s thirty-year reign (166. 30-36). The author, however, also tells us that he started composing the text shortly before Theodoros’ death in 613, when he was still a teenager (165). Indeed, in his first appearance in the narrative (2. 21-27), the author requests his audience’s prayers on account of his young age. The twenty chapters which refer to the childhood of Theodoros (3-22) form a separate section with its own epilogue (22) where the author states that he wrote this part as a form of special teaching for the young. This might suggest that the whole childhood section, or at least its epilogue, were composed, when the author was at an advanced age. This is also suggested by the fact that the author introduces himself and talks about his sources in both the epilogue of the childhood section (22), and the final epilogue (170).


The activity and prodigies of the hero of the Life of Theodoros of Sykeon take place against the backdrop of various shrines of saints, mentioned throughout the text. This record provides a concise guide as to where these are mentioned and which terms are used for them. There appears to be a hierarchy of terms, not necessarily rigidly defined, but useful for understanding the place and role of these sanctuaries in the Anatolian countryside.

It appears that the shrines which serve as major congregational churches in cities, villages or monasteries are called ναός or καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία. Such are the church of Gemellos, probably the main church of Sykeon (10, 25), and the churches of John the Baptist at the village of Ergobroteos (27), Eirenikos at Mazamia (36) and the Virgin Mary at Mousge (71). The shrine of Georgios which forms the core of Theodoros’ monastic retreat at Sykeon is initially named as a μαρτύριον (7.2, 8.16) or εὐκτήριον (23), but as a ναός after its enlargement and rebuilding as a proper church (59). Εὐκτήρια and μαρτύρια seem to denote lesser shrines in the countryside. Proper cenobitic monasteries are called μονή (e.g. the monastery of the Petrion in Constantinople, or that of *Autonomos near Nicomedia) or μοναστήριον (64). Theodoros’ monastic foundation at Sykeon is always called μοναστήριον.

However, μοναστήριον also appears to have a more flexible meaning. The chapel of the Virgin Mary, which formed part of the church of Michael the Archangel at the monastery of Sykeon is interchangeably called μοναστήριον (104.5, 162.77) and εὐκτήριον (162.1). It is unclear whether the μοναστήριον of Kerykos, mentioned in 167, was a fully fledged monastic house.

The text allows a schematic understanding of the shrines of Sykeon. It was a village traversed by the imperial highway, on which there probably stood the village church of Gemellos and the inn of Theodoros’ family. One of the owners of this inn, Theodoros’ aunt, was buried at this church. The village was surrounded by a number of shrines dotting the countryside, such as that of Georgios on a rocky upland site, overlooking the village, Christophoros to the east of the village, and the chapels of John the Baptist and Kerykos at undefined locations.

The main monastic establishment of Theodoros was organised on the probably steep and sloping site around the shrine of Georgios, and received two expansions. During the first, Theodoros built a large church of Michael the Archangel, which included oratories of John the Baptist and Mary the Virgin (also mentioned in 104 and 162). One may imagine it as a basilica with side annexes. This section of the monastery was apparently on a lower level than the church of Georgios, and closer to the village. Lay visitors had free access and were offered hospitality here. There was a separate prayer hall (103.6 προσευκτήριον) where pilgrims and visitors were allowed to sleep. Visitors were normally not admitted to the private upper part of the monastery, which, centring on the church of Georgios, is reserved to the monastic community and the holy man (70).

During the second expansion, which took place in the 580s, the abbot rebuilt the shrine of Georgios, as a large church with three apses (basilica or triconch?). The new shrine was flanked by separate chapels of the martyrs Antiochos and Platon and a chapel of Sergios and Bakchos in its upper gallery. The chapel of Platon was reserved to Theodoros for his private prayers. Towards the end, the text also mentions an oratory (εὐκτήριον) of Georgios in the mountain, which was probably not the same as the main church of the monastery (167.76-77), and a monastery (μοναστήριον) of *Kerykos (167. 89-90), also of unknown whereabouts and status.

The topographic information of the text has been extensively discussed by Kaplan (1993a). Sykeon and its monastic centre have been tentatively identified as the sites of Tahirler and Kiliseler near Beypazarı in central Turkey.


Festugière, A.-J. Vie de Théodore de Sykéon. 2 vols. (Subsidia Hagiographica 48; Brussels, 1970), with French translation and commentary.

Dawes, E., and Baynes, N.H., Three Byzantine Saints: Contemporary Biographies (London, 1948) (partial translation).

Further reading:
Brown, P.R.L., "The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity," Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971), 80-101.

Janin, R.,
Les eglises et les monastères des grands centres Byzantins (Bithynie, Hellespont, Latros, Galèsios, Trébizonde, Athènes, Thessalonique) (Paris, 1975).

Kaplan, M., "Les sanctuaires de Théodore de Sykéôn," in : C. Jolivet-Lévy, M. Kaplan, and J.-P. Sodini (eds.),
Les saints et leur sanctuaire à Byzance. Textes, images et monuments (Byzantina Sorbonensia 11; Paris, 1993), 81-94.

Kaplan, M.
Pouvoirs, église et sainteté. Essais sur la société byzantine (Classiques de la Sorbonne 3; Paris, 2011).

Mitchell, S.,
Anatolia: Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor. Volume Ii: The Rise of the Church (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 122-150.

Rosenquist, O.,
Studien zur Syntax und Bemerkungen zum Text der Vita Theodori Syceotae (Uppsala, 1981).

Record Created By

Efthymios Rizos

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00007Kyrikos/Cyricus and Ioulitta/Julitta, child and his mother, martyrs of TarsusΚήρυκοςUncertain
S00008Paul, the ApostleΠαῦλοςCertain
S00016Autonomos, martyr of NicomediaΑύτόνομοςCertain
S00020John the BaptistἸωάννηςCertain
S00023Sergios, soldier and martyr of RusafaΣέργιοςCertain
S00030Stephen, the First MartyrΣτέφανος Uncertain
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΠαναγία ΘεοτόκοςCertain
S00079Bakchos, soldier and martyr of BarbalissosΒάκχοςCertain
S00084Apostles, unnamed or name lostCertain
S00124Anthimos, bishop and martyr of NicomediaἌνθιμοςCertain
S00181Michael, the ArchangelΜιχαὴλCertain
S00259George, soldier and martyr, and CompanionsΓεώργιος ΚαππάδοξCertain
S00480Theodore, soldier and martyr of Amaseia and EuchaitaΘεόδωροςUncertain
S00616Christophoros, martyr of PamphyliaΧριστοφόροςCertain
S00650Platon, martyr of Ankyra (central Asia Minor)ΠλάτωνUncertain
S00723Angels, unnamed or name lostΜυριάγγελοιCertain
S00910Sabbas the Sanctified, founder of the Mar Saba Monastery in Palestine, ob. 532ΣάβαςCertain
S01997Antiochos and Kyriakos, martyrs in Galatia (Anatolia)ἈντίοχοςCertain
S01998Gemellos, martyr of AncyraΓέμελλοςCertain
S01999Eirenikos, martyr honoured in Mazamia (Anatolia)ΕίρηνικόςCertain
S02000Heuretos/Heuretes, martyr honoured in Iouliopolis (Anatolia)Εὕρετος/ΕὑρέτηςCertain
S02001Dionysios, martyr honoured in BithyniaΔιονύσιοςCertain
S02002Herakleios, martyr honoured in BithyniaἩράκλειοςCertain

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