The Greek Life of *Alexios the Man of God (ascetic of Edessa and Rome, S01211) reproduces an earlier Syriac edifying story about a disguised ascetic holy man, but places his death in Rome (not Edessa), and claims that he was buried at the church of *Bonifacius (martyr, buried on the Aventine hill, S00523). It mentions a speaking image of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) in Edessa. Probably written in Rome, in the 7th century or later.
Literary - Hagiographical - Lives
Life of Alexios, the Man of God (BGH 51)
1. At the time of Honorius and Arcadius, a pious man named Euphemianos was working at the emperor’s palace in Rome. He was married to a pious woman named Alais, but they did not have children, therefore Euphemianos was very generous to all orphans. They were sad not to have children and they prayed God to give them one.
2-3. At last, God granted them a son. Growing up, he studied grammar, rhetoric and ecclesiastical letters. His parents found him a wife and he married her in the church of *Bonifatios in Rome. However, he left his wife in God’s care soon after the wedding, abandoned all his riches, and went to Edessa in Mesopotamia. Having donated all his possessions to the poor, he lived like a beggar in front of the church of *Mary Theotokos. Since he fled secretly from Rome, his father sent his servants to the most remote places of the empire to find him, but they could not.
4-5. His mother was desperate, and she refused to leave the house without knowing what had happened to her son. One day in Edessa, an image of Mary Theotokos spoke to the church’s guardian, commanding him to let Euphemianos’ son come inside, for he was worthy of the kingdom of God. After this prodigy, people started to venerate Alexios as a holy man, and he fled to Laodicea, in order to avoid these honours. Although he intended to go to Tarsus, a storm took the ship to the harbour of Rome. Here, he decided to disguise himself as a simple beggar and go to his father’s house.
6. His father ordered that he be offered shelter and food, reproaching his servants for not taking care of him sooner. He nominated him as his heir. The saint kept living a holy life, while the servants abused him. After many years, having understood that his life was coming to an end, he decided to write down all his memories so that everyone might know his story.
7. God spoke to the people during the liturgy, in the presence of the emperors and archbishop Markianos. He exhorted the people of Rome to find a holy man to pray for them, and to look for him in the house of Euphemianos. The emperors themselves came to Euphemianos’ house to look for this holy man.
8-10. The minister told Euphemianos about the saint, who was enduring the servants’ malice and constantly fasting and praying. When Euphemianos, the emperor and the crowd arrived, the saint was already dead. They found his biography. When Euphemianos realised that the man was his son, he, his wife, and Alexios’ former wife cried out to God.
11. The body of the saint was brought to the middle of the city, where it was honoured by the crowd. The sight of the body cured every sickness. The dumb could speak, the blind could see, lepers were cleansed, and demons were cast out. On 18 June, Alexios was buried in a golden coffin decorated with precious stones and emeralds in the church of Bonifatios. A sweet smell emanated from the coffin.
Text: Esteves Pereira 1900.
Summary: Giovanni Hermanin de Reichenfeld.
Cult building - independent (church)Use of Images
Public display of an imageNon Liturgical Activity
Composing and translating saint-related textsMiracles
Miracle during lifetimeRelics
Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Miraculous behaviour of relics/images
Bodily relic - entire bodyProtagonists in Cult and Narratives
Ecclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
Relatives of the saint
The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)
SourceFor the manuscript tradition of the text, see:
DiscussionThe text is probably a product of Byzantine Rome (late 6th-8th c.). It appears that a monastery of eastern monks had settled at the basilica of Bonifacius on the Aventine Hill (now Santi Bonifacio e Alessio), and had established there a cult of a holy man called Alexios, whom they associated with an earlier edifying story known in Syriac, the original form of which makes no reference to active cult and no reference to Rome (E02324). The same legend was associated with the shrine and cult of *Ioannes Kalybites (S02745) in Constantinople (E07145).
Bonifacius, to whom the church on the Aventine was dedicated, is a very shadowy figure. According to two texts that are both probably of the later seventh century, the Itinerarium Malmesburiense and a list of churches appended the De Locis Sanctis, the body of Bonifacius rested in his church (see E07897 and E07001).
Esteves Pereira, F.M., "Légende Grecque de l’Homme de Dieu, Saint Alexis," Analecta Bollandiana 19, 1900, 243-253.
Crostini, B. "Mapping Miracles in Byzantine Hagiography: The Development of the Legend of Saint Alexios," in: K. Cooper and J. Gregory (eds.), Signs, Wonders, Miracles: Representation of Divine Power in the Life of the Church (Woodbridge, 2005), 77-87.
Drijvers, H.J.W., "Die Legenden des heiligen Alexius und der Typus des Gottesmannes im syrischen Christentum," in: M. Schmidt (ed.), Typus, Symbol, Allegorie bei den östlichen Vätern und ihre Parallelen im Mittelalter (Regensburg, 1982), 187-212.
Efthymiadis, S., and Déroche., V., "Greek Hagiography in Late Antiquity (Fourth-Seven Centuries)," in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography. Vol. 1: Periods and Places (Farnham, 2011), 35-94.
Stebbeins, E.C., "Les origines de la legende de saint Alexis," Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire 51 (1973), 497-507.
Giovanni Hermanin de Reichenfeld, Efthymios Rizos
|ID||Name||Name in Source||Identity||S00033||Mary, Mother of Christ||Θεοτόκος||Certain||S01211||Man of God/Alexios, ascetic of Edessa||Ἀλέξιος||Certain||S02494||Bonifatios, martyr of Tarsus||Βονιφάτιος||Uncertain||S02862||Bonifacius, martyr, buried on the Aventine hill||Bonifatios||Certain|
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