ROLE REVERSAL: ST. CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA

Here is an image of   — as the title inscription says –Ἡ ἉΓΙΑ ΑΙΚΑΤΕΡΙΝΑ — He Hagia Aikaterina — “The Holy Catherine.”

At left is Mount Sinai (Jebel Musa/”The Mountain of Moses”.  At the base, Moses with his flock sees the “Unburnt Thornbush,” the bush that burned but was not consumed, which in Eastern Orthodoxy is considered a prefiguration of Mary.  That is why she is shown here in the same form as in the Znamenie (“Sign”) Mother of God icon type.

At the top of the mountain, Moses is seen again, receiving the tablets of the law from God the Father.

But what does Catherine have to do with all this?  If we look on the right side of the icon, we see a body being placed atop a nearby mountain by angels.  This is Mount Catherine (Jebel Katerina), some two miles from Mount Sinai (Jebel Musa).  And of course in the foreground we see Catherine herself, sitting among books, with one hand holding the cross of martyrdom and the other not only placed on her symbol — the wheel — but also holding a palm of victory.

The answer to why Catherine is depicted with images of Mount Sinai is of course that there is a very old monastery at a mountain that came to be named in the first Christian centuries as the Old Testament Sinai, though where Sinai was originally, no one seems to know for certain.  And the reason it is called the Monastery of St. Catherine is the legend (taken as fact in Eastern Orthodox tradition) that the body of St. Catherine was carried by angels from the Egyptian city of Alexandria to the top of Mount St. Catherine, where her relics were supposedly later found.

The Monastery of St. Catherine (Μονὴ τῆς Ἁγίας Αἰκατερίνης/Mone tes Hagias Aikaterines) was not always known by that name — in fact the cult of St. Catherine did not get under way until the 9th century, and only became popular in Western Europe in the 11th.  The monastery was built in the 6th century (c. 545) at the command of Emperor Justinian, so tradition goes — around an earlier chapel of the Burning Bush (the “Unburnt Thornbush,”) supposedly built by St. Helena in 327 c.e.  The monastery’s official name is the “Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai (Ιερά Μονή του Θεοβαδίστου Όρους Σινά/Hiera Mone tou Theobadistou Orous Sina).

Now we have seen that the veneration of St. Catherine of Alexandria did not become popular until the 9th century, which is rather odd, considering that she is supposed to have been a Christian martyr of the 4th century.

According to her hagiography, Catherine was well educated — trained in philosophy and quite learned.  Many men wanted to marry her, but she said she would only marry someone who was her superior in many ways — including knowledge.

She is said to have converted to Christianity.  During the persecution by Maximian, she spoke out in favor of Christianity, and tradition says the Emperor had her debate with 50 of the most learned men, but she defeated them all, and they became Christians.

The Emperor — unhappy about this — sent Catherine to be martyred on a spiked wheel, but an angel broke the instrument of torture.  Seeing this, the Emperor’s wife and some 200 soldiers were converted, and the Emperor then had them beheaded.  In an additional effort to get Catherine to renounce her faith, the Emperor proposed marriage, but she refused him.  Finally he had her beheaded.

As we have seen, this tale continues with angels carrying the body of Catherine from Alexandria to Sinai.  There is much more to the story, but those are the essentials.

As we have seen many times, some of the saints venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy never existed at all, so we are right to be suspicious when a supposed 4th-century saint only becomes popular in the 9th century.  Though there is a Catherine mentioned in a 7th century Syrian liturgical text, the basic tale of her martyrdom first appeared in a menologion of Emperor Basil II (died 886).

So where did the notion of an Alexandrian female philosopher martyr, learned and pure of heart, come from?  Modern scholarship tends to the theory that St. Catherine is merely a Christianized version of a learned female philosopher who really existed,  and is reputed to have been both very beautiful and a lifelong virgin — the Alexandrian  Hypatia.  The big difference, however, is that the noted and respected Neoplatonist teacher and philosopher Hypatia  — gracious, tolerant, and extremely intelligent — was not a Christian martyr, but rather was martyred by fanatical Christian monks in the year 415.  They were said to have been incited in their murder of Hypatia by Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria (Patriarch of Alexandria from 412-444) — who later was venerated as an Orthodox (and Catholic) saint.  The mob — led by a lector named Peter — pulled Hypatia from her chariot, cut her to pieces, and burned the remains.

So it appears that a real, non-Christian female philosopher murdered in Alexandria by a Christian mob eventually became transformed and distorted into the Christian St. Catherine, much as the story of the early life of the Buddha was eventually distorted into the tale of a Christian saint and prince of India named Ioasaph/Josaphat.  That is hagiography for you.  It is helpful in interpreting icons, but should never be regarded as factual history in the absence of real evidence.

You may recall that we have seen the combination of Moses at Mount Sinai, the “Burning Bush” and the body of Catherine being placed atop a mountain before, in an icon of the “Ladder of Divine Ascent”:
https://russianicons.wordpress.com/tag/ladder-of-divine-ascent/
In that example, however, both Moses and the body of Catherine were depicted on the same mountain.

Advertisements

A CONTENTIOUS BEGINNING

You will recall from an earlier posting that in Eastern Orthodoxy, the Evangelist John is commonly called John the Theologian.  Icons of him are very common, and so is the text one usually finds on the book he holds, whether written in Greek or in Church Slavic.

Here is a Greek example from the end of the 14th century:

(Ecclesiastical Byzantine Museum of Mytilene)

Here is a closer view of the text:

It is slightly worn, but we can easily emend it:

Left page:

ΕΝ ΑΡ
ΧΗ ΗΝ
ὉΛΟΓΟC
ΚΑΙὉΛΟ
ΓΟC ΗΝ
ΠΡΟCΤονΘΕΟν

Right page:

ΚΑΙ ΘCΗΝ
ὉΛΟΓΟC
ὉΥΤΟCΗΝ
ΕΝΑΡΧΗ
ΠΡοC ΤοΝΘΝ
ΠΑΝΤΑΔΙΑΥτου

You will note the common abbreviations:
ΘC with a horizontal line above it for ΘΕΟC/Theos, “god.”
ΘΝ  with a horizontal line above it for ΘΕΟΝ/Theon, “God” in the accusative form.

This is such a common text in icons and so frequently used a phrase in Christianity that everyone interested in icons should know it in Greek, at least as it is found in John 1:1-5.  The portion used in the above icon text is in bold type here:

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

En arkhe en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton Theon, kai theos en ho logos.  Houtos en en arkhe pros to Theon.  Panta di autou egeneto kai khoris autou egeneto oude hen.  Ho gegonen en auto zoe en, kai he zoe en to phos ton anthropon.  Kai to phos en te skotia phainei, ka he skotia auto ou katelaben.

“In [the] beginning was the Word/Reason, and the Word/Reason was with [the] God, and god was the Word/Reason.  All through him came-to-be, and without him nothing came-to-be that has become.  In him life was [or, depending on punctuation, ‘That which came to be in him was life’], and [the] life was the light of [the] men.  And the light in the darkness shines, and the darkness has not overcome/taken/understood it.”

Huge amounts of ink have flowed through history on both the proper translation and the interpretation of this.  “Logos” — ordinarily translated as “Word,” was actually a common term in Greek philosophy, used more in the sense of “Reason” as the reasoned order behind the universe.  Philo of Alexandria — influenced by Greek philosophy — used it to refer to the divine Reason of God — an emanation of the invisible and hidden God through which he acts in the material universe — a “second god,” as Philo called it/him.  This is the usage adopted in the Gospel called “of John,” saying essentially that this Reason was in the beginning, it was with God, and it was theos — that is, god by nature — divine.   Theos indicates here the nature of the Logos, just as we would say of a person, “He is man, not animal.”  In the same sense the Logos is god by nature.  The Greek is deliberately ambiguous, to indicate a distinction of this Logos from the hidden God.

Of course this grammatical ambiguity has resulted in endless theological bickering over the centuries as to precisely in what sense Jesus as Logos is theos, — and it continues to this day among Christian denominations.

Fortunately, all we need worry about is learning to recognize this common inscription on the book held in icons of John.

A TRICKY ONE AND AN EASY ONE

Here is an 18th century Greek icon.  It depicts a fellow dressed as a bishop, but to know who he is, we must read the title inscription at upper right.

(Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens)

Here it is:

It is rather faint, but it reads:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟς ΙΑΚω
ΒΟς Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟ
ΘΕΟς

If we put it all together, it is:

Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC ΙΑΚΟΒΟC Ὁ ΑΔΕΛΦΟΘΕΟC
HO HAGIOS IAKOBOS HO ADELPHOTHEOS
“[The] Holy Jacob/James the Brother [of] God”

In Greek he is called Iakobos — Jacob — but in English that is traditionally rendered as “James” when referring to this person.  Adelphotheos is a composite word made from adelphos (“brother”) and Theos (“God”).  That title comes from what Paul wrote in Galatians 1:18-19:

Ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν, καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε· ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον, εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου.

Epeita meta ete tria anelthon eis Hierosolyma historesai Kephan, kai epemeina pros auton hemeras dekapente. heteron de ton apostolon ouk eidon, ei me Iakobon ton adelphon tou kyriou.

“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Cephas [Peter], and stayed with him fifteen days.  But of the other apostles I saw none, except James the brother of the Lord.”

Given that in Eastern Orthodoxy Jesus is considered to be God, the title was adapted for James as “Brother of God.”

And here is his scroll text:

It is a rather tricky one, because it consists of two joined excerpts from the Liturgy of St. James.  Here is the first part:

ΙΔΕ Ὁ ΑΜΝΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ Ὁ ὙΙΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΟΣ Ὁ ΑΙΡΩΝ ΤΗΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΣΦΑΓΙΑΣΘΕΙΣ ὙΠΕΡ ΤΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΣΜΟΥ ΖΩΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΙΑΣ
Ide ho amnos tou Theou ho huios tou Patros ho airon ten hamartion tou kosmou sphagiastheis huper tes tou kosmou zoes kai soterias

“Behold the Lamb of God, the son of the Father, who takes away the sins  of the world, sacrificed for the life and salvation of the world.”

The second part is abbreviated in phrasing, but I have added in brackets what is missing:

Ὁ ΜΕΛΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC [ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΜΕΡΙΖΟΜΕΝΟC ΚΑΙ ΤΟΙC ΠΙCΤΟΙC ΜΕΤΑΔΙΔΟΜΕΝΟC] ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΔΑΠΑΝΩΜΕΝΟC ΕΙC ΑΦΕCΙΝ ἉΜΑΡΤΙΟΝ [ΚΑΙ ΖΩΗΝ ΤΗΝ ΑΙΩΝΙΟΝ ΝΥΝ  ΚΑΙ ΑΕΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΙC ΤΟΥC ΑΙΩΝΑC]
Ho melizomenos [kai me merizomenos kai tois pistois metadidomenos] kai me dapanomenos eis aphesin hamartion [kai zoen ten aionion nun kai aei kai eis tous aionas]

Who is parted [and not divided, and distributed to the faithful] and not expended; for the remission of sins [, and the life everlasting; now and always, and into the ages.]”

That refers to the Eucharistic bread, which is, in Eastern Orthodox belief, the “Lamb of God” — Jesus.

Here is another icon of James, painted in a much simpler manner, and from the end of the 18th century”

(Velimezis Collection)

You should be able to easily read the title inscription.  But let’s look at the text on the book he holds:

This one — if you have been a careful reader of this site — should be rather easy too, if you note the common abbreviation.  Remember how I always say that icon inscriptions are very repetitive, so learning a few enables one to read many icons?   Well, we just saw this inscription (at least most of it) in the preceding posting on Antipas of Pergamum, and we also saw it earlier on an icon of St. Nicholas of Myra.  In this example it reads:

Left page:

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚΣ ΕΓ
ω ΕΙΜΙ
ἩΘΥΡα

Right page:

ΔΙ ΕΜΟΥ
ΕΑΝ ΤΙΣ
ΕΙΣΕΛ
ΘΗ σω

It begins with the words

ΕΙΠΕΝ
ὉΚC

ΕΙΠΕΝ/EIPEN means “said.”
Ὁ /HO is of course the masculine definite article “the.”

ΚC/KS, you will note, has a horizontal line above it, signifying that it is an abbreviation.  It abbreviates ΚΥΡΙΟC/KYRIOS, meaning “Lord.”  That gives us

ΕΙΠΕΝ Ὁ ΚΥΡΙΟΣ/EIPEN HO KYRIOS

So literally it reads “Said the Lord,” but in normal English order we translate that as:
The Lord said.”

Then it continues with the beginning of that now familiar (I hope!) text:

Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· δι’ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ, σω– [θήσεται, καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται, καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει].

Ego eimi he thura: di emou ean tis eiselthe, so-[thesetai, kai eiseleusetai kai exeleusetai, kai nomen euresei.]

And of course it is from John 10: 9:

I am the door: by me if anyone enters in, he shall be sa- [ved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture].”

“OH, NO! NOT MORE GREEK!” OR “YAY! MORE GREEK!”

Depending on whether you want to learn to actually READ icons or not, you will either find this posting quite interesting or else unutterably boring.  In any case, here we go.

Today we will look at a Greek-inscribed image of  a rather generic-looking saint called in Greek Ὁ Άγιος Ιωαννίκιος ο Μέγας ὁ εν Ολύμπω/Ho Hagios Ioannikios ho Megas Ho en Olympo — “[The] Holy Ioannikios the Great, the-one in Olympus.”  You may also find him as Όσιος Ιωαννίκιος ὁ Μεγάλος/Hosios Ioannikios ho MegalosHosios Ioannikios ho Megalos.  You will recall that Hosios is the Greek title for a male monk-saint — the equivalent of the Slavic Prepodobnuiy, which is customarily loosely rendered as “Venerable.”  And ho Megalos here has the same meaning as ho Megas — “the Great.”

In Russian iconography he is called Преподобный Иоанникий Великий/Prepodobnuiy Ioannikiy Velikiy, which means simply “Venerable Ioannikios the Great.”

It is not so much the saint that interests us today as reading his inscriptions, which are good practice.  Here is his image:

If you have been a faithful reader of this site (you all are, aren’t you?), then you will easily be able to translate the title inscription.  Here is what we see at top left:

Γ
ὉἉ

That is obviously a common abbreviation for ἉΓΙΟC/Ho Hagios, “The Holy.”

Below that we find:

ΙΩΑΝΝΙ
ΚΙΟς

ΙΟΑΝΝΙΚΙΟC/IOANNIKIOS, the saint’s name.  Notice that the second letter of the name is the old form of the letter Omega, but I have used the common modern form in representing it.

At right we see:
Ὁ ΜΕ
ΓΑC

— which you have probably already read as HO MEGAS and have translated as “The Great.”

Now we come to the interesting part — the scroll inscription.  As you already know, saints in icons speak through scrolls, just as cartoon characters speak through cartoon bubbles.  Here is the inscription:

It reads (with spaces added, ligatures separated,  and abbreviations completed in lighter type):

Ἡ ΕΛΠΙΣ ΜΟΥ Ὁ
ΘΕΟC ΚΑΤΑΦΥΓΗ
ΜΟΥ Ὁ ΧΡΙCΤΟC CΚΕ
ΠΗ ΜΟΥ ΤΟ
ΠΝΕΥΜΑ ΤΟ ἉΓΙ
ΟΝ

From past reading here, you already should know several of the words — those I have put in bold type here:

HO ELPIS MOU HO
THEOS KATAPHYGE
MOU HO KHRISTOS SKE-
PE MOU TO
PNEUMA TO AGI-
ON

Here are those you don’t know, with their definitions:

ΕΛΠΙC/ELPIS/HOPE
ΚΑΤΑΦΥΓΗ/KATAPHYGE/REFUGE
CΚΕΠΗ/SKEPE/PROTECTION

We can read the whole inscription like this:

Ho Elpis mou ho Theos;
Kataphyge mou ho Khristos;
Skepe mou to Pneuma to Hagion

Literally,

The Hope of-me the God;
Refuge of-me the Christ;
Protection of-me the Spirit the Holy

And in normal English — the way we would translate it — it means:

My Hope is God;
My Refuge is Christ;
My Protection the Holy Spirit.

This inscription — which is a common inscription on icons of Ioannikios — is a variation on what was said to be a frequent prayer of his:

Η ελπίς μου ὁ Πατήρ, καταφυγή μου οὙιός, σκέπη μου το Πνεύμα το Ἁγιον, Τριάς Ἁγία, δόξα σοι.

He elpis mou ho Pater, kataphyge mou o Huios, skepe mou to Pneuma to Hagion, Trias Hagia, doxa soi.

Literally:

The help of-me the Father, refuge of-me the Son, protection of-me the Spirit the Holy, Trinity Holy, glory to-you

In normal English,
“My help is the Father, my refuge the Son, my protection the Holy Spirit; Holy Trinity, glory to you.”

In Eastern Orthodoxy, it has become a Trinitarian prayer that is often inserted into longer prayers.

Let’s look now at a late printed icon of Ioannikios that is inscribed in both Greek and Church Slavic:

We see his title written beside his head, first in Greek, then in Church Slavic, both of which you should now be able to read.  But what about his scroll text?

As we shall see, it is nothing to worry about.  It reads (I am using a modern Russian font):

Упование мое
Отец, прибежи-
ще мое Сын,
покров мой Ду-
х Святый, Тро-
ице Святая
слава Тебе.

Upovanie moe Otets, pribyezhishche moe Suin, pokrov moy Dukh Svyatuiy, Troitse Svyataya, slava Tebye.

“My hope is the Father, my refuge the Son, my protection the Holy Spirit; Holy Trinity, glory to you.”

So it turns out to be precisely the same inscription — with a slight lengthening — that is common on Greek icons of Ioannikios — only here in Church Slavic.

If you can endure a bit more of this, we should probably take a look at another Greek inscription on a fresco of Ioannikios:

dd

You will easily recognize the triliteral abbreviation at left as Ho Hagios — “The Holy,” but it is the rest of the title inscription that concerns us here:

Though a bit worn, we can fill it in as reading:

ΙΩΑΝ[N]IΚΙΟ[C]
Ὁ ΘΑΥΜΑΤΟΥΡΓΟC

IOANNIKIOS HO THAUMATOURGOS
“IOANNIKIOS THE THAUMATURGE/WONDERWORKER

“Thaumaturge” is just the word borrowed into English from Greek, but in Greek it means simply “Wonderworker,” someone who works miracles.

So we see that there is another title for Ioannikios the Great:  “Ioannikios the Wonderworker.”

As for the hagiographic life of this Ioannikios, some say he was born in 754 or 755, others in 762 — in Bithynia, in Asia Minor.  As a boy, he tended his parents’ pigs, and was illiterate.  He joined the army, and is said to have been an Iconoclast (an opposer of the use of icons), but later in life converted to the opposite belief, becoming an Iconophile (an advocate of icons).  Troubled by the slaughter he saw in battle, he left the army and became a monk at the Antidion Monastery on Mount Olympus.

As a monk, he was said to have miraculous abilities, and could levitate and become invisible.  He predicted when a number of people would die.  He had power over wild animals, and could overcome snakes and dragons (the dragon part alone tells us that as with all Eastern Orthodox hagiography, we should maintain a healthy skepticism).

He is said to have died in 846 c.e.

ANOTHER “GOD THE FATHER” INSCRIPTION

A reader kindly shared some photos of the dome fresco in the katholikon (main church) of the Pantokrator Monastery at Mount Athos.  The much earlier frescos in the katholikon were painted over in 1854 by Matheos Ioannou of Naoussa, so what we see is comparatively recent.

(Photo courtesy of Clemens Staphorst)

Our purpose in looking at this fresco today is to examine the Greek inscription.  Long-time readers here already know that icons of God the Father painted as an old man are extremely common throughout Eastern Orthodox iconography, with a history going back many centuries.

Here is a closer look at the inscription:

(Photo courtesy of Clemens Staphorst)
It reads:

Ὁ ΑΝΑΡΧΟC ΠΑΤΗΡ — HO ANARKHOS PATER — “THE BEGINNINGLESS FATHER.”  So the image represents God the Father.

The Pedalion (The Rudder, a treatise on  Orthodox Church canons by Nicholas the Hagiorite, 1749-1809) says:

ὁ άναρχος Πατήρ πρέπει να ζωγραφίζεται καθώς εφάνη εις τον προφήτην Δανιήλ ως παλαιός ημερών.

The Beginningless Father should be painted as he appeared to the Prophet Daniel, as the ‘Ancient of Days.‘”

You will recall from a previous posting here (https://russianicons.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/an-ancient-of-days-trinity-icon-and-how-to-read-it/) that there is an ongoing controversy in Eastern Orthodox circles as to whether the “Ancient of Days” type should be used to represent Jesus, or whether it should be God the Father.  But in the study of icons we pay no attention to modern doctrinaire quibbles over what this or that person thinks painters should have done.  Instead we simply go with historical reality — with what a painter actually did in a given case.  And in this case the image is quite clearly identified as the “Beginningless Father” — God the Father.  You will recall that in Russian iconography, God the Father is commonly titled “Lord Sabaoth.”

Note the triangle halo with the faint HO ON  (“The One Who Is” ) inscription in it — an inscription generally found on icons of Jesus.  The triangle with its three points is of course a “Trinity” symbol, and more often found in late Orthodox iconography.

A CHRISTIAN ICONOCLAST

This  image by Emmanuel Panselenos/Panselinos looks like an icon of Jesus, doesn’t it?

It is not Jesus, however.  We might have suspected so, given the Roman armor he wears and his spear and sword, but of course the definitive identifier is the Greek inscription, which reads:

Ὁ ἉΓ[ΙΟC] ΑΡΤΕΜΙΟC
HO HAGIOS ARTEMIOS
“[The] Holy Artemios”

Artemios is another of the warrior saints, which accounts for the armor and weapons.  Officially, he is a Μεγαομαρτυς/Megalomartys — a “Great Martyr.”  The hagiographies of great martyrs frequently credit them with undergoing severe suffering under persecution for their beliefs, along with miracles and the often the conversion of others.  Though it is said that Great martyrs are generally from the time before the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Artemios was killed after that.  He is said to have been born in Egypt, and was a general under Emperor Constantine.

Constantine’s successor and son — Constantius II — sent Artemios to retrieve the relics of three famous saints —  first those of St. Timothy in 356, and the following year those of the Apostle Andrew and the Evangelist Luke.  Having brought these to Constantinople, he was rewarded in 360 by being made Imperial Prefect of Egypt (Dux Aegypti).

Artemios was a fanatical Christian iconoclast, with a reputation for the destruction of statues of the gods.  He entered the Temple of Serapis in Alexandria and destroyed the images and offerings.  When Julian became Emperor, he listened to the complaints of the people about Artemios, who was accused of badly administering the province under his control.  Having been called to Antioch and found guilty, Artemios was condemned to death, and is said to have been beheaded there in 362, which accounts for why he is known as Artemios of Antioch.

The hagiography of Artemios, however, gives another view.  It relates that he was beheaded for questioning the Emperor’s torturing of two Christian priests, Eugenios and Makarios, saying the Emperor was being guided by a devil.   Artemios was stripped of his office and beaten, and told to sacrifice to Apollo and be made a praetorian prefect, or else be killed.  Artemios refused and was tortured.  Being asked then to sacrifice to Zeus and Asklepios, Artemios again refused and reviled the Emperor.  He was squeezed between two large quarry stones, again refused to sacrifice, and  and was beheaded.  His body is said to have been claimed by a Christian deaconess named Ariste, who sent it to Constantinople as that of a martyr.

Artemios seems to have been an Arian Christian — one of those who denied the equality in divinity of Father and Son as God, and it is possible the tale of the martyrdom of Artemios was originally an Arian document that underwent later development.  By the 5th century, he had gained a reputation for healing — with a specialty in the cure of hernias, and the site where his relics were kept became a noted healing shrine.  When adopted into Eastern Orthodox hagiography, his Arian connections were not mentioned, and so he became a famous “Orthodox” warrior saint in iconography.

In the Maronite Church, Artemios is known as Mar Shalita.

AN ARGUMENT OVER APPLES

In Greek iconography there is a category of saint called “New Martyr” (νεομάρτυς/neomartys).  New Martyrs are generally those martyred after Constantinople fell to the invading Muslims in 1453, which includes those martyred at any time during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule — a centuries-long period of suffering and oppression of non-Muslims commonly referred to as the “Turkish Yoke.”  There are also earlier New Martyrs, beginning from the time of the Seljuk muslim invasions of Byzantine regions in the 11th and 12th centuries.

An icon found in Greek Orthodoxy, though not so much in Russian, is that of Khrestos/Khristos/Christos/Kristo the Gardener — one of those New Martyrs.  Here is an example:

Let’s look at the inscription:

As you see, it has some ligatures (joined letters):

At left are the words Ὁ ἁΓιος — “The Holy.”  The α is joined to the Γ (g), and ς (s) is attached to the bottom of the ο.

At right is the name ΧΡΗCΤΟC.  The Ρ (r) is joined to the Η (e, pronounced “ee” in Modern Greek), and the C is joined to the Τ.  The last ς (s) is also appended from the ο.

Then comes his secondary title, which is here written as Ὁ ΑΛΒΑΝΤΙΣ — Ho Albantis — but is more generally written Ὁ Αρβανίτης — Ho Arbanites — “The Albanian.”  An Arbanite/Arvanite is traditionally an Albanian who settled in Greek territory.

Other icons of him may add the title Ὁ Νεομάρτυς — “The New Martyr,” and also Ὁ Κηπουρός — Ho Kepouros, meaning “The Gardener.”

The date 1748 and month December are also written on the icon.  1748 was the year of his martyrdom.  Khrestos’ day of commemoration is February 12, so either the painter made an error or it indicates the month in which the icon was painted.

According to his hagiography, Khrestos was an Albanian gardener who decided at age 40 to go to Constantinople.  One day he took some apples to the market to sell.  A Turk came up to him and asked Khrestos the price.  It was higher than the Turk wanted to pay, so after some bickering they could not agree, and Khrestos would not sell him the apples.

In revenge, the Turk told a judge that Khrestos had said he would become a Muslim, but was now refusing.   False witnesses were found to testify against the gardener in court, where he refused to give up his Christian beliefs and convert to Islam.  Because of his refusal to convert, he was beaten and eventually beheaded.

Just how Krestos/Khristos is depicted varies considerably.  Here is a recently painted icon that gives him a rather sly and sinister appearance, oddly enough.  As you can see, he carries a cross of martyrdom and a twig bearing two apples.

You should be able to read the inscription from the information given earlier in this posting.  At lower right we see this added signature:

ΧΕΙΡ Μ[ΟΝΑ]Χ[ΟΥ] ΜΙΧΑΗΛ ΒΙΒ
KHEIR MONAKHOU MIKHAEL BIB
“[The] Hand of Monk Michael”

The BIB is a date in letter numbers — 2012.

There is another Neomartyr named Khrestos, but he was a sailor from a Cretan vessel, who it is is said, was martyred in 1668 on the island of Kos, when he got into an argument over religion and was killed by Janissaries (Ottoman muslim soldiers) after refusing to abandon his religion and saying negative things about Islam.  This Khrestos was from the Greek town of Preveza (Πρέβεζα)

There is also an even more obscure New Martyr Khrestos/Khristos of Ioannina, but he was a priest-monk, commemorated on August 15th.