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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 pilgrimage visits by its hero to the Anatolian shrines of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) at Heraclea of Pontus and Sozopolis of Pisidia, *Michael (the Archangel, S00181) at Germia, and *Autonomos (martyr of Nicomedia, S00016) in Bithynia. Some of these visits are described as vows. Written at Sykeon (central Asia Minor), in the 640s.

Evidence ID

E05352

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts

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

Heraclea

44.
The landowner (ktetor) Theodoros from Heraclea of Pontus invites Theodoros to deliver him and his house from evil spirits.

44. 4-7 (...) παρεκάλει αὐτὸν παραγενέσθαι ἐν τῇ πόλει αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τῷ καὶ εὔξασθαι εἰς τὸν παρ’ αὐτοῖς σεβάσμιον οἶκον τῆς παναγίας Θεοτόκου καὶ λυτρώσασθαι τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ (...) 11-16. Ὁ δὲ μακάριος ἔχων πόθον τοῦ εὔξασθαι εἰς τὸν ἐκεῖσε σεβάσμιον οἶκον τῆς παναγίας Θεοτόκου συνῆλθεν αὐτῷ, καὶ παραγενόμενος ἐν τῇ πόλει Ἡρακλείᾳ καῖ τὸν πόθον τῆς εὐχῆς αὐτοῦ ἐπλήρωσεν ἐν τῷ σεβασμίῳ τῆς παναγίας Θεοτόκου ναῷ, καὶ τὸν οἶκον τοῦ εἰρημένου ἐνδόξου ἀνδρὸς Θεοδώρου ἠλευθέρωσε (...)

'(…) he implored him to visit his city, in order that he might both pray at their venerable church of the all holy Mother of God and deliver his house. (…) Now the blessed man had a great desire to venerate at the local venerable church of the all-holy Mother of God and went with him. So he arrived in Herakleia and fulfilled his desire to pray at the venerable church of the all-holy Mother of God, and delivered the house of the said illustrious man Theodoros.'

Sozopolis

See E05332 for a more detailed coverage of this visit

106. 1-9. Ἄλλῃ δὲ ὀμματοποινικῇ συμφορᾷ καθ’ ἕκαστον χρόνον συνεχόμενος ἐπὶ ἕνα καὶ ἥμισυ μῆνα ἡμερῶν κατὰ τὸν τοῦ θέρους καιρόν, εὐχαρίστει μὲν καὶ ἐπὶ τούτῳ τῷ πάθει ὑπερβαλλόντως, ἀλλ’ εἰς τὴν τῶν ὄχλων ὑποδοχὴν οὐκ ἐπήρκει. Ταύτης οὖν ἕνεκα τῆς συμφορᾶς, θεόθεν κινηθεὶς ἐξῆλθε πορεύεσθαι ἐπὶ τὸν ναὸν τῆς δεσποίνης ἡμῶν τῆς Θεοτόκου, τὸν ὄντα ἐν Σωζοπόλει. Ἦν γὰρ ἔκπαλαι πόθον ἔχων θεατὴς γενέσθαι τῆς θεϊκῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς ἐκεῖσε· ἔπρεπε γὰρ αὐτὸν ἀληθῶς καὶ ὑπὸ τῆς ἐκεῖσε θεϊκῆς μαρτυρίας μαρτυρηθῆναι, καί τινας ἀπὸ κινδύνων ῥύσασθαι.

‘He used to be afflicted by a painful infection of the eyes every year for one and a half month during the summer season. He was very grateful even for this suffering, but it made him unfit to receive the multitudes. On account of this adversity, then, and driven by God, he set off to visit the church of our Lady the Mother of God, which is in Sozopolis. He had indeed for long desired to view the divine gift which manifests itself at that place. It was indeed truly fitting that he should receive a testimony also by the divine manifestation of that place, and rescue some people from dangers.’

Monastery of Autonomos

During his stay at Nicomedia after his third visit to Constantinople in 610/611, Theodoros is invited to visit the monastery of Autonomos at Prainetos near Nicomedia.

157. 4-7 (...) Ἦν γὰρ ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει προπαρακαλέσας αὐτὸν ὁ θεοφιλέστατος αὐτῶν ἡγούμενος Παῦλος περὶ τούτου καὶ ὡς διὰ τὸ προσκυνῆσαι καὶ τὸν παρ’ αὐτοῖς κατακείμενον ἅγιον μάρτυρα συνέθετο αὐτοῖς πάντως παραγενέσθαι. (...) 67-71. Ὁ δὲ ὅσιος εἰσελθὼν καὶ εὐξάμενος ἐν τῷ εὐκτηρίῳ οἴκῳ τοῦ ἁγίου μάρτυρος Αὐτονόμου κατῆλθεν καὶ εἰς τὴν κατάθεσιν ἔνθα κατάκειται ὁ ἔνδοξος μάρτυς τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ περιεπτύξατο τὸ ἅγιον αὐτοῦ λείψανον ποιήσας καὶ τὴν θείαν λειτουργίαν σὺν πᾶσιν αὐτοῖς.

‘(…) 4-7. Their abbot, Paulos, most dear to God, had implored him for this at Constantinople, and he had promised to visit them by all means, also in order to venerate the holy martyr who rests there. (…) 67-71. Now the holy man entered and prayed at the shrine of the holy martyr Autonomos. He also went down to the tomb (
katathesis) where the holy martyr of Christ rests and embraced his holy relic, having celebrated the liturgy with all of them.’

Germia

The people of Germia call for Theodoros’ help with a pandemic of demonic possessions in their town.


161. 21-29: ... ἀξιοῦντες αὐτὸν παραγενέσθαι πρὸς αύτοὺς ὡς ἐν προφάσει προτροπῆς, τοῦ καὶ αὐτὸν εὔξασαθαι εἰς τὸν παρ’αὐτοῖς ὄντα σεβάσμιον ναὸν τοῦ ἁγίου Ἀρχαγγέλου καὶ αὐτοὺς τῆς εὐλογίας αὐτοῦ ἀξιωθῆναι. Ἦν δὲ ὁ μακάριος οὗτος ταξάμενος εὐχὴν ἐκεῖσε τελέσαι, δι’ ἥνπερ καὶ ἠνέσχετο συνελθεῖν τοῖς ἀποσταλεῖσιν πρὸς τὸ ἀποδοῦναι καὶ τὸ τῆς εὐχῆς χρέος.)

‘(…) they requested that he might visit them by way of an exhortation, in order that he might pray at the venerable church of the holy Archangel which is at their city, and that they might receive his blessing. This blessed man had indeed vowed to pray there, on account of which he accepted to follow the envoys and to fulfil his debt of prayer.’

A few weeks before his death, Theodoros announces to his monks that he is about to go to the Archangels.

167. 28-34. Ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ ἀληθῶς καὶ μεθοδευτικῶς ἡμὶν είπόντος, ἐδοξάσαμεν ὅτι ἐφ’ ὅσον εἶπεν εἰς τοὺς ἀρχαγγέλους ἀπιέναι, πάντως εἰς τὴν πόλιν τῶν Γερμίων βούλεται ἀπελθεῖν· ἠγάπα γὰρ τὴν πόλιν ἐκείνην ὡς πόθον ἔχουσαν πολὺν πρὸς αὐτόν, τὸ δὲ πλεῖον διὰ τὸν σεπτὸν οἶκον τοῦ ἁγίου Ἀρχαγγέλου· οὕτως γὰρ πᾶσα ἡ πατρὶς προσαγορεύει τὴν πόλιν ἐκείνην «Τοὺς Ἀρχαγγέλους».

‘He told us these things in a both truthful and cryptic way, and we believed that, since he said that he was going to the Archangels, he was planning to visit the city of Germia. For he was fond of that town, since it was greatly devoted to him, and even more so on account of the venerable church of the holy Archangel. For the whole province calls that town “the Archangels”.'

Text: Festugière 1970.
Translation: Efthymios Rizos.

Liturgical Activities

Eucharist associated with cult

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)
Cult building - monastic
Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Places Named after Saint

Towns, villages, districts and fortresses

Non Liturgical Activity

Visiting graves and shrines
Pilgrimage
Vow
Prayer/supplication/invocation

Miracles

Healing diseases and disabilities

Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - abbots
Officials

Source

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).


Discussion

These passages refer to a number of pilgrimage journeys undertaken by Theodoros to major shrines of Anatolia. These include two shrines of the Virgin, at Heraclea of Pontus and Sozopolis of Pisidia, the famous shrine of the Archangel Michael at Germia, and the monastery and shrine of Autonomos at Prainetos, near Nicomedia. In most of these cases, the holy man visits the shrines at the invitation of others, but is said to have desired or vowed to visit them himself. In one case, to Sozopolis, he goes on his own initiative, in order to be healed from an ailment of his eyes, which he apparently achieves.


Bibliography

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

Translation:
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.

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).

Mango, C., “The Pilgrimage Centre of St. Michael at Germia,”
Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 36 (1986), 117-132.

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

16/04/2021

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00016Autonomos, martyr of NicomediaΑύτόνομοςCertain
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΘεοτόκοςCertain
S00181Michael, the ArchangelἈρχάγγελοςCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Efthymios Rizos, Cult of Saints, E05352 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E05352