Sophronius of Jerusalem, in his Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John (36), recounts how *Kyros and Ioannes/Cyrus and John (physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt, S00406), through multiple appearances in dreams healed from gout and converted Theodoros, an heretical follower of Julian of Halicarnassus, at their shrine at Menouthis (near Alexandria, Lower Egypt). An icon is described which represented Christ, Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) and John (the Baptist, S00020), surrounded by prophets, apostles and martyrs. Written in Greek in Alexandria, 610/615.
Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles
Sophronius of Jerusalem, The Miracles of Saints Cyrus and John, 36
There was a certain subdeacon (hypodiakonos) Thedoros who was from the city of Thennesos in Egypt. From his youth he suffered greatly from gout (podagra). He was not a believer in the Catholic Church. Medicine had no means to tame this disease, so with time Theodoros’ condition became insupportable and his body deformed in a terrible way, especially his hands and legs. First he visited physicians, but when he saw that their art was helpless in the face of this illness, he turned to the martyrs Cyrus and John. For he was convinced that only they could help him and control the disease by divine power.
When he came to their shrine and supplicated them to obtain healing like other people, the benevolent martyrs (hoi philanthropoi martyres) approached him several times in dreams and commanded him to join the Catholic Church. They promised to heal him and give him useful gifts for the mortal life, if he obeyed their orders about the orthodox faith. They also judged him to be worthy of the clerical order, since he was a follower of the heresy of Julian of Halicarnassus.
The martyrs, however, did not persuade Theodoros. He remained defiant and did not change. The martyrs thus tried to vanquish him by the scourge of disease, but again without any effect. They decided then to make him realise the seriousness of his illness. They both appeared to him in a dream and had him climb with them onto the top of the shrine. They showed him a calm sea and asked him if he was able to count the waves. He said he could count them easily, so they told him to do that. He started counting but shortly, with the waves becoming more and more numerous, he understood that it was impossible. Vanquished thus by the enormous number of waves, he fell on his face and, acknowledging his incapability, he asked the martyrs to forgive him. They responded that nobody except God the Creator is able to count the waves, and likewise the humours of his disease. If Theodoros changed his belief, he would be healed. However, while he remained with his heretical beliefs, they themselves could not advocate on his behalf before God. Yet Theodoros did not change his ideas at all.
The martyrs thus once more appeared to him in a dream, but this time to threaten him. They sat by his bed, accompanied by soldiers and civil servants. Some of them, following the martyrs’ orders, took Theodoros’ hands and put them behind his back, so that his neck was bent towards the ground. They thus acted as if they were public executioners and Theodoros a criminal. Then they presented him in front of both the martyrs. The martyrs asked him if he knew the reason for these menaces. He said that he did, but he did not want to join the Catholic Church.
When he awoke, he was trembling and began to consider what he had seen in the dream. He was still unconvinced but began to hesitate. He fell asleep again and saw the martyrs in the form and the garb of the deacon Ioulianos who at that time was in charge of the shrine. They told him to go and pray by the martyrs’ tomb, and led him towards it. When all of them approached the baptistery (photisterion), the martyrs addressed Theodoros, telling him to enter with them and take communion.
Ὁ δέ, Οὔ, φησίν, οὐκ εἰσέρχομαι· ἑτέρας γὰρ ἐγὼ δόξης καθέστηκα, καὶ οὐ τοῦ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας κηρύγματος· προσδοκῶ δὲ σήμερον τὴν γεννήσασαν, τὰ τῆς μεταλήψεώς μοι δῶρα κομίζουσαν. Ἀλλ’ ἔασόν με τέως, πρὸς τὸν αὐτὸν διάκονον ἔλεγεν, ὅπως ἐν ὅσῳ τὰ τοῦ μνήματος ἠνέῳκται κάνκελλα, εἰσελθὼν τὸ τῆς κανδήλας ἔλαιον δέξωμαι. Πολλοὶ γὰρ τοῦτο τῶν οὐ κοινωνικῶν διαπράττονται, ἐν τῇ τῶν ἁγίων κανδήλᾳ καιόμενον ἔλαιον, ἀντὶ σώματος ἁγίου καὶ αἵματος Χριστοῦ τοῦ πάντων ἡμῶν Θεοῦ καὶ Σωτῆρος δεχόμενοι.
'No - said he - I will not enter, because I am of a different opinion and not of the doctrine of the Church. Today I am expecting my mother who is to bring me [heretical] offerings of communion. But in the meantime – he said to this [supposed] deacon – when the railings of the martyrs’ tomb are open, let me to enter and take some oil from the lamp. Since many of those who are outside of our community do so, taking the oil burning in the lamps of the saints, instead of the holy flesh and blood of Christ, God and Saviour of the all of us.'
When the martyrs heard that Theodoros wanted to take their oil from the lamps, they appeared to him in the form of the deacon Ioulianos and stood at the threshold (bater) before the railing of the tomb, preventing him from entering. They began to persuade him anew, but he did not obey and sadly left their tomb, because he had not managed to take any oil. The martyrs warned him in a dream that if he did not change his mind, he would leave the shrine ill, having obtained nothing from them.
In the morning, when Theodoros woke up and went to the martyrs’ tomb to pray, he saw in front of it a man named Paschasios who was possessed by an evil spirit. The demoniac, when he saw Theodoros, began to throw him terrible glances and gnash his teeth, and told him what the martyrs commanded him to say: Theodoros must rapidly enlighten his own soul; if not, by the power inhabiting this shrine, he was to leave it still ill. Having heard this, Theodoros was seized by fear, since he realised that the menaces uttered by the demoniac were the same as those he had heard in the dream from the martyrs. He thus immediately rushed to the baptistery (photisterion), participated in the mysteries of Christ (ton Christou mysterion metelabe), and so enlightened his soul (ten psyche efotisen).
Under the influence of the Devil, he fell into deep apathy after this communion, and in his sadness quickly went to sleep. He saw in a dream the martyrs in the form of the deacon Ioulianos, who asked the cause of his discouragement. He said it was because the martyrs forced him to participate in communion. The supposed deacon told him that he should rather be happy, because what happened was of benefit to his soul and brought hope for his healing, as it was all the will of God without which the martyrs can do nothing. Then the martyrs withdrew.
Theodoros woke up and was anxious because he was expecting his mother who was to bring him the remnants (leipsana) of his particular heresy. His mother, however, came and brought nothing, because the martyrs had made her forget. Theodoros greeted his mother and began to rejoice. He told his mother how the martyrs forced him to join the Church.
After a couple of days, while he was sleeping, he saw the martyrs, who told him to accompany them. They all came to a magnificent shrine which was so high that it touched the sky. There was a big and amazing icon.
Μέσον μὲν τὸν Δεσπότην Χριστὸν γεγραμμένον χρώμασιν ἔχουσαν, Χριστοῦ δὲ τὴν Δέσποιναν ἡμῶν τὴν Θεοτόκον καὶ Ἀειπάρθενον Μαρίαν εὐώνυμον, καὶ δεξιὸν Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστὴν αὐτοῦ τοῦ Σωτῆρος καὶ πρόδρομον, τὸν ἐν κοιλίᾳ σκιρτήμασιν αὐτὸν προμηνύσαντα, ἐπεὶ καὶ λαλῶν ἔνδον ὢν οὐκ ἠκούετο, καί τινας τοῦ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ προφητῶν ἐνδόξου χοροῦ, καὶ τῆς μαρτυρικῆς ὁμηγύρεως· μεθ’ ὧν ἐτύγχανον καὶ αὐτοὶ Κῦρος καὶ Ἰωάννης οἱ μάρτυρες, οἳ πρὸ τῆς εἰκόνος ἱστάμενοι, τῷ Δεσπότῃ προσέπιπτον, τὰ γόνατα κάμπτοντες, καὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς εἰς ἔδαφος φέροντες, καὶ περὶ τῆς τοῦ νέου θεραπείας πρεσβεύοντες.
'In its centre it represented Christ the Lord depicted in colours; on the left of Christ, Our Lady Mother of God and Ever-Virgin, and, on the right, John the Baptist the Forerunner of the Saviour himself who by leaps in the womb proclaimed Him (since when he spoke inside, he was not heard). And a glorious group of some of the apostles and prophets, and of the assembly of the martyrs. Among them there were the martyrs Cyrus and John themselves, who stood in front of the icon and fell before The Lord in supplication with their knees bent and their heads bowed towards the ground, praying for the young man’s healing.'
They addressed the Saviour twice asking if he would give healing to Theodoros, but with no result. The third time Christ gave a sign of mercy and told them to heal the young man. The martyrs thanked him and said to Theodoros to go to Alexandria, sleep without eating in the great Tetrapylon, and take into a flask some of the oil from the lamp suspended in front of the icon of the Saviour, then return to the martyrs’ shrine still on an empty stomach. He was then to regain health, once he got there and anointed his legs with the oil.
After the dream, Theodoros went to Alexandria and slept in the Tetrapylon. While he was sleeping, he saw an enormous snake crawling out from his feet and then returning into them. The martyrs appeared immediately and forced it to come out again. They crushed its head with a stick and said to Theodoros not to fear the disease that affected both his legs and hands any more. When he awoke, he took the oil from the lamp and hurried to the martyrs’ shrine. Once he got there, he anointed his legs and hands and regained his health.
Text: Fernández Marcos 1976, lightly modified in the light of Gascou 2007. Summary and translation: J. Doroszewska.36
Eucharist associated with cultCult Places
Burial site of a saint - tomb/graveUse of Images
Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)
Descriptions of images of saintsNon Liturgical Activity
Visiting graves and shrines
Demoniacs at the site
Miracle after deathRelics
Miracles causing conversion
Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Healing diseases and disabilities
Miraculous behaviour of relics/images
Contact relic - oilProtagonists in Cult and Narratives
HereticsCult Related Objects
SourceSophronius (c. 560-c. 637) was born to a Chalcedonian family in Damascus, and was probably familiar with both Greek and Syriac culture. He was educated as a teacher of rhetoric, but in c. 580 became an ascetic while in Egypt, and entered the monastery of St. Theodosios near Bethlehem. He travelled widely to monastic centres in Egypt, the Near East, Aegean, and North Africa, accompanying his friend, the monk and writer John Moschus, who dedicated to him his treatise on the religious life, the Spiritual Meadow (Leimon pneumatikos). In 633-634, Sophronius travelled to Alexandria and to Constantinople in order to persuade the patriarchs to renounce Monoenergism. In 634, he was elected patriarch of Jerusalem. He is venerated as a saint in the catholic and orthodox churches; in the Byzantine rite he shares with John Moschus a feast day on 11 March. He died in Jerusalem in about 637.
His extant doctrinal writings include a Letter to Arcadius of Cyprus and the Synodical Letter against Monenergism. Other works have also been preserved, such as an encomium on the Alexandrian martyrs Cyrus and John (in gratitude for healing his vision), The Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John, a collection of 23 Anacreontic poems, and several patriarchal sermons on such themes as the Muslim siege of Jerusalem and on various liturgical celebrations.
The Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John comprise 70 stories; this number, as explained by the author in the Preface to the Encomium on the saints Cyrus and John, consists either of 7 decades or 10 heptades, both of which refer to biblical and pagan (Pythagorean) arithmetic, where 7 is a mystic number and 10 is a perfect number. References to the number 7 and its multiple (14) recurs in the work several times (Miracles 5, 15, 23, 39, 43; Gascou 2006: 11 with notes). The significance of other numbers has also been noted: for the number 3, see Fernández Marcos 1975: 42, n. 15; for the number 67 (Miracle 1), see Nissen 1939: 377, n. 2.
All 70 stories concern miraculous healings performed by the two martyrs, considered saints of the first rank by Sophronius (Miracle 29), in their sanctuary at Menouthis, near Alexandria. The first 35 miracles concern Alexandrians, the next 15 Egyptians and Libyans, mostly of the Alexandrian region, and the last 20 foreigners of whom some were settled in Alexandria. Sophronius wanted to flatter in this way the self-esteem of the Alexandrians who were the possessors of the saints' relics. He also argued that the miracles of Alexandria were particularly credible, since they delivered plenty of verifiable facts. For the same reason, the miracles selected by him were limited to those of his own times and concerned persons who were still alive and could testify to the events. Sophronius seems also to have had at his disposal earlier and parallel collections. A powerful feature of the miracle stories is a disdain for secular doctors, but not medicine per se, who are seen as ineffective in comparison to the power of the saintly healing of Cyrus and John. The collection is also notable for Sophronius’ polemic against Miaphysites, who evidently attended the shrine.
The most recent edition of Sophronius' text is Fernandez Marcos 1976, but Gascou in his translation of 2007 includes several textual emendations which we have followed when they occur.
DiscussionThennesos was a city in Augustamnica I, a province of Roman Egypt located on Lake Manzala, near the modern city of Port Said.
Julian of Halicarnassus (d. after 527), whom Theodoros followed, was an anti-Chalcedonian monophysite theologian and bishop of Halicarnassus. He engaged in polemical debate with Severus of Antioch over the nature of Christ.
'The remnants (leipsana) of his particular heresy' the leipsana were some Eucharistic remnants not consumed by the Julianists, the followers of Julian of Halicarnassus (Gascou 2007: 133, n. 776). On the "Eucharistic reserve" which was an indirect consequence of the schism, see Déroche 2002: 168-169.
'Among them there were the martyrs Cyrus and John themselves who stood in front of the icon' – this passage is confusing; the description of the icon first suggests that the martyrs Cyrus and John were represented on the icon, whereas in the next sentence we learn that they stood in front of it; perhaps we are dealing here with the record of a dream whose realm has its own laws.
The tetrapylon was a monument situated towards the East of the city of Alexandria, near the Gate of the Sun. housed a venerated icon of Christ and the miraculous lamp (Gascou 2007: 134, n. 780; for more on the monument, see Gascou 2002). In this miracle it was primarily oil from the lamp in front of this icon that healed Theodoros, the martyrs having refused him their own oil, due to his heretical faith (Sansterre 1991: 77).
Fernández Marcos, N., Los thaumata de Sofronio. Contribución al estudio de la "Incubatio" cristiana, Manuales y anejos de "Emérita" 31 (Madrid, 1975), 243-400.
Gascou, J., Sophrone de Jérusalem, Miracles des saints Cyr et Jean (BHGI 477-479) (Paris, 2006). French translation and commentary.
Peltier, D., "Sophrone de Jérusalem, Récit des miracles des saints Cyr et Jean" (unpublished dissertation; Paris 1978).
Déroche, V., "Représentations de l'Eucharistie dans la haute époque byzantine", Mélanges Gilbert Dagron, Travaux et Mémoires 14 (2002), 167-180.
Duffy, J., “Observations on Sophronius' Miracles of Cyrus and John,” Journal of Theological Studies 35 (1984), 71-90.
Duffy, J., “The Miracles of Cyrus and John: New Old Readings from the Manuscript,” Illinois Classical Studies 12:1 (1987), 169-177.
Gascou, J., “Religion et identité communautaire à Alexandrie à la fin de l'époque byzantine, d'après les Miracles des saints Cyr et Jean,” in: J.-Y. Empereur and C. Décobert (eds.), Alexandrie médiévale, 3 (Cairo, 2008), 69-88.
Gascou, J., Les origines du culte des saints Cyr et Jean (2006); online document: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00009140/
Le Coz, R., “Les Pères de l'Eglise grecque et la médecine,” Bulletin de Littérature Ecclésiastique 98 (1997), 137-154.
Maraval, P., “Fonction pédagogique de la littérature hagiographique d'un lieu de pèlerinage: l'exemple des Miracles de Cyr et Jean,” in: Hagiographie, culture et sociétés (IVe-XIIe siècles), Actes du Colloque organisé à Nanterre et à Paris (2-5 mai 1979) (Paris, 1981), 383-397.
Nissen, T., “Sophronios-Studien III, Medizin und Magie bei Sophronios,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 39 (1939), 349–81.
Papaconstantinou, A., Le culte des saints en Égypte des Byzantins aux Abbassides. L'apport des inscriptions et des papyrus grecs et coptes (Paris, 2001).
Sansterre, J.-M., "Apparitions et miracles à Ménouthis: de l'incubation païenne à l'incubation chrétienne," in E. Dierkens (ed.), Apparitions et miracles (Brussels, 1991), 69-83.
Schönborn, C., Sophrone de Jérusalem. Vie monastique et confession dogmatique (Paris, 1972).
Wipszycka, E., “Les confréries dans la vie religieuse de l'Egypte chrétienne,” in her Études sur le christianisme dans l'Égypte de l'antiquité tardive (Roma, 1996), 257-278.
|ID||Name||Name in Source||Identity||S00020||John the Baptist||Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστής||Certain||S00033||Mary, Mother of Christ||Μαρία||Certain||S00060||Martyrs, unnamed or name lost||Certain||S00084||Apostles, unnamed or name lost||Certain||S00139||Prophets, unnamed or name lost||Certain||S00406||Kyros and Ioannes/Cyrus and John, physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt||Κῦρος καὶ Ἰωάννης||Certain|
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