You may remember the tale associated with the popular Greek female saint Irene Chrysovolantou — that the Apostle and Evangelist John sent her — via some sailors — three apples from Paradise.  You will find the story here:

This motif of the three apples from Paradise is also found in the hagiography of the saint depicted in this fresco from Meteora:

We can see enough of his title  inscription to translate it:

At the top is the usual Ὁ ἉΓΙΟC  — Ho Hagios abbreviation, meaning “[the] Saint.” Here it is represented by just the three letters O A Γ.

Then comes the name of the saint, written here as


When we join the parts, it forms Euphrosinos, but it is more commonly written as Ευφροσυνος  —  Euphrosynos.

Notice the ligature (“joining”) of the letters E and Υ (E and U in English) as:

If we look to the right of his head, we find his secondary title:

It reads


The common spelling of this is Ὁ ΜΑΓΕΙΡΑC — HO MAGEIRAS, but as we know from past experience, Greek spelling on icon images often varies, though the pronunciation is usually much the same.

HO MAGIROS/MAGEIRAS — means “the cook,” so we have identified this saint as “Euphrosynos the Cook.”

The tale associated with him — his “hagiography” — relates that he worked as the cook in a kitchen in a monastery.  He took a lot of abuse from the other monks (as cooks often do from those they serve), but through it all he remained patient and humble, though the others did not think much of him.

Now as the tale goes, a priest in the monastery wanted to know what life was going to be like for the “righteous” in the next world.  He prayed fervently for God to show him.

One night the priest had a dream.  In it, he found himself in Paradise, and who should he see there but the abused cook from his own monastery kitchen!  He was quite amazed, and asked Euphrosynos how he managed to be there.  The cook replied that it was just through the goodness of God.

Surrounded by all the beauty of the Garden of Paradise, the priest asked the cook if he might have something from Paradise to take back with him.  The cook picked three juicy apples from a tree, wrapped them in a cloth, and gave them to the priest.

The priest woke suddenly when the semantron (that “gong” board used in old monasteries) was struck.  He found himself in his own room, still thinking of his strange dream.  But he smelled a wonderful fragrance, and found something wrapped in a cloth beside him.  When he opened the cloth, he found there the three apples the cook had given him in Paradise.

The priest hurried to the cook, and when he found him, he asked him where he had been the night before.  The cook replied simply that he had been where the priest had been.

The excited priest went off to tell the rest of the monks about what a holy person the cook they were always complaining about really was, but when the monks went to honor him, he was nowhere to be found, and they never saw him again.  All that was left were the three fragrant apples from Paradise.  Whoever ate them was healed of all physical problems.

Now if we look more closely at this story, we find it is severely lacking in details.  The story does not say when it happened, or precisely where.  Some say it happened in a monastery in Palestine, others say Alexandria in Egypt, and still others say it happened in a monastic community on Mount Athos in Greece.  It is just a kind of pleasant folk tale, the religious equivalent of a fairy tale (which many lives of saints actually are), and it served much the same purpose, both entertaining and teaching a lesson.

Now you know why icons of Euphrosynos picture him holding a branch with three apples on it.  And you also know why icons of Euphrosynos the Cook are commonly found in Greek monastery kitchens, and in many ordinary Greek restaurant and home kitchens as well.  Euphrosynos has become the patron saint of Greek cookery.

We have one more little detail to notice — the little cross with letters on the garment:

If you are a regular reader here, you will recall that IC XC abbreviates Iesous Khristos — “Jesus Christ,” and the NK abbreviates the Greek word NIKA, meaning “He Conquers.”



This very well-painted icon depicts one of the miracles traditionally attributed to St. Nikolai/Nicholas of Myra:

(Courtesy of the Museum of Russian Icons, Clinton, MA)

The title inscription at the base identifies it:

It reads:


The story relates that in the region of Antioch there lived a pious man named Agrik/Agkrikos.  Every year on the day of commemoration of St. Nicholas, he would go to the church consecrated to St. Nicholas and pray, then return to his home and have a big dinner for his friends, relatives, and beggars.

It happened that one year, when the day to honor Nicholas came, he told his son Vasiliy/Basileios/Basil — who was aged 16 — to go to the church and pray to Nicholas and attend the liturgical services, while the father stayed home to prepare for the customary dinner.

While the son was at Matins at the church, it was attacked by Saracens, who captured the son and took him to the island of Crete.  There, because he was an extremely beautiful lad, he was made the cupbearer of the Muslim Prince.

The parents were grief-stricken, so sorrowful with weeping that they neither attended church nor commemorated Nicholas for two years.  Even into the third year they kept this up, until finally in the third year, on the day before St. Nicholas was to be commemorated,  the father said to his wife that it was no use to weep; they should go to the church with oil and candles and pray to St. Nicholas for their son.  So again they attended on St. Nicholas Day, prayed fervently to Nicholas, and came home to have the customary guests for the special annual dinner.

While everyone was seated at the meal, the dogs in the yard began to bark loudly.  Agrik sent his servants out to see what was happening.  When they returned, they said they saw no one, and nothing at all.  But the barking not only continued, but got worse, so Agrik himself went to investigate.  He was surprised to see a handsome young man in saracen clothes standing outside, holding a container of wine in his hands.  Agrik, walking toward him, recognized his own son.  The puzzled boy told him he did not know what had happened.  He had just been pouring wine into the cup of the Muslim Prince on Crete,  when suddenly the lad felt someone grab his hand, and he was carried off by St. Nicholas as though in a whirlwind, and then found himself outside his own home.

Now if you are a regular reader here, you will know it is not unusual in Eastern Orthodox hagiography for stories or parts of stories to be recycled from saint to saint.  So perhaps you immediately recognized that the tale of the boy carried off to become a cupbearer, and saved and brought home by a Saint, is essentially the very same “rescued boy” motif that we find in the hagiography of St. George.  You will find it in this previous posting:

And here, again, is the iconographic image of the boy being rescued by St. George, with the wine pitcher still in his hand.

We can look back even farther for the more ancient origin of this tale.  In Book 20 of Homer’s Iliad, we find these lines (233-235):

Τρωὸς δ᾿ αὖ τρεῖς παῖδες ἀμύμονες ἐξεγένοντο, Ἶλός τ᾿ Ἀσσάρακός τε καὶ ἀντίθεος Γανυμήδης, ὃς δὴ κάλλιστος γένετο θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων· τὸν καὶ ἀνηρείψαντο θεοὶ Διὶ οἰνοχοεύειν 235κάλλεος εἵνεκα οἷο, ἵν᾿ ἀθανάτοισι μετείη.

And from Tros again three matchless sons were born, Ilus, and Assaracus, and godlike Ganymedes, who was born the most beautiful of mortal men; wherefore the gods caught him up on high to be cupbearer to Zeus by reason of his beauty, that he might live with the immortals.”

Yes, the abduction, in ancient Greek mythology, of the youth Ganymede, who because of his great beauty was made cupbearer to Zeus.

Here is a closer look at the father (and mother) seeing their son standing outside with St. Nicholas:


Here are the dinner guests, and a barking dog out in the yard:





As you know, there are a number of “group” icons showing saints associated with a particular story, like the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, and so on.

Today we will take a brief look at another group icon.  Here is an example painted by Emmanuel Tsanes (Εμμανουήλ Τζάνες, 1610 – 1690):

It is identified by title (in Greek) as:


A fuller title would be:
“The Holy Ten Martyrs those in Crete.”

In normal English, it would be “The Holy Ten Martyrs of Crete.”

In this icon they are:

Top row, left to right:
Ευαρεστος  — Euarestos
Πομπιος  — Pompios
Ζωτικος — Zotikos
Αγαθοπους — Agathopous
Βασιλιδης Βασιλειαδης — Basilides/Basileiades

Second row:
Θεοδουλος — Theodoulos
Cατορνινος — Satorninos
Ευπορος — Euporos
Γελασιος — Gelasios
Ευνικιανος — Eunikianos

The name Pompios is sometimes replaced in lists of the ten by either Cleomenes or Mobios.
Each holds a cross of martyrdom.

The cult of the “Ten Martyrs” became particularly popular on Crete (then Candia) near the end of the rule of the island by Venice, which terminated in 1669.

The tales of their martyrdom is found in a work written sometime between the 6th and 8th century, though it is supposedly based on a lost earlier text.

We get a good idea of their hagiography from the pages of The Lives of the Primitive Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Volume 12.  This massive work by Alban Butler was first printed in london from 1756 to 1759 (the pages shown are from an 1800 Edinburgh printing):



There is today a village on the Island of Crete called Agioi Deka — “Holy Ten,” because it is where these saints were said to have been martyred.  Around the turn of the century there was a small, dark and stagnant lake where animals were taken to drink at the edge of the village that traditionally had been called Αγία Λίμνη — Aya Limni in modern pronunciation — “Holy Lake.”  Its waters reputedly had healing powers.  There is a story that a young man had a vision of the Ten in 1898, and they told him to drink the water to be healed of fever.   In 1902 Bishop Vasileos Markakis of Gortyna and Arkadia had the waters drained, and what are said to be the “tombs” of the Ten were revealed.  A small church still called “Holy Lake” was then built over them in 1915-1917.  Here is an image of the “tombs” beneath the church:

As we see from the account of the Ten found in the work by Alban Butler, the remains of the Ten were said to have been long before taken to Rome.



Today’s icon, from the first half of the 17th century,  is a well-known example by the Stroganov painter Никифор Истомин Савин — Nikifor Istomin Savin.  The subject is, as the title tells us, the “Miracle of the Great Martyr of Christ Feodor Tiron and the Serpent.”  Serpent and dragon are virtually synonymous here.

The tale depicted is this:  It happened that in the town where Feodor’s mother lived, a fierce dragon took over the well that supplied the people with water, demanding tribute such as cows and sheep.  One day when the saint’s mother took a horse to the well to give it a drink, she herself was captured by the serpent.  In the image below, we see her (and the horse) being taken down into the well:


Now Fedodor’s mother happened to be so pretty that the serpent — who is a kind of king of serpent demons — decided to make her his wife, and so presented her with rich gifts.  In the image below, we see her deep within the earth, seated on a throne, and a crown is  being placed upon her head by subordinate serpents.

Needless to say, all this did not please Feodor.  He engaged in battle with the great serpent.  Here we see an image of the local authorities watching as Feodor and the serpent fight:

Here Feodor cuts off the bearded head of the serpent (“The vorpal blade went snicker-snack”):

Then Feodor lead his mother out of the depths of earth:

Finally, an “Angel of the Lord” flies down from Heaven and places a crown of victory upon Feodor’s head.

I cannot help thinking of the line from the old black and white thriller King Kong:  “Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.”  And fantastic religious stories such as this about Feodor and the Serpent entertained people in the days before such movies — or even science fiction — existed, and they took them quite seriously.


When we read in fiction of the encounter of humans with fauns, like Mr. Tumnus in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or with centaurs, as in Rick Riordan’s book The Lightning Thief, we just note them as part of the pleasant fiction and move on.

In pre-scientific Eastern Orthodox hagiography such encounters were taken quite seriously, and as a part of the real world.

Take one of the noted early founders of monasticism, Antony/Anthony of Egypt, often called Anthony the Great.  His life, as told by Athanasius and by Jerome, was full of supposed encounters with demons, and even, as we shall see, with a centaur and a satyr or faun.

Here is an icon of Anthony, with scenes from his life in the border:

In Jerome’s Life of Paulus, he tells us that when Anthony was 90, he got it into his head that there was no monk in all the desert as perfect as he.  But at night “it was revealed to him” that there was another more perfect, living in another part of the desert.  So Anthony set off to find this paragon of monkly virtue.

Journeying across the dry and barren desert, he felt the burning heat of the noonday sun.  All at once he saw a creature “half horse, half man, called by the poets hippocentaur.”  Startled, Anthony signed himself with the cross, then asked the creature where a servant of God might be living out there.  The creature, trying to speak, made some rather unintelligible animalistic utterances, but then just pointed off in one direction with his right hand.  Then the creature ran off into the desert.  Jerome comments, “But whether the Devil  took this shape to terrify him, or whether it be that the desert, which is known to abound in monstrous animals, engenders that kind of creature also, we cannot decide.”

Here is the segment of the icon showing the encounter with the centaur:

Anthony set off again, and “Before long, in a small rocky valley shut in on all sides, he sees a mannikin with hooked snout, horned forehead, and extremities like goats’ feet.”  The creature exhibited signs of friendliness, holding out the “fruit of the palm trees” to help Anthony on his journey.  So Anthony asked the creature who he might be.  He replied,

“I am a mortal being and one of those desert inhabitants whom the Gentiles [i.e. non-Christians] deluded by various forms of false  worship under the names of Fauns, Satyrs, and Incubi. I am sent to represent my tribe. We pray you on our behalf to entreat the favor of your Lord and ours, who, we have learned, came once to save the world, and ‘whose sound has gone forth into all the earth.'”

Anthony, hearing this, burst into tears, and was happy that he could understand the satyr’s language.  Then Anthony struck the ground with his staff and broke into a kind of rant against the city of Alexandria, beginning with “Woe to you, Alexandria, who worship monsters instead of God! Woe to you, harlot city, into which the demons of the whole world have flowed.”

Anthony had not even finished his outburst “when, as if on wings, the wild creature fled away.”

Jerome, apparently supposing some might doubt this account of meeting a satyr, adds:

“Let no one hesitate to believe this incident; its truth is supported by what took place when Constantine was on the throne, a matter of which the whole world witnessed.  For a man of that kind was brought alive to Alexandria and shown as a wonderful sight to the people. Afterwards, his lifeless body, to prevent its decay through the summer heat, was preserved in salt and brought to Antioch so that the Emperor might see it.”

In case you are wondering, Anthony eventually does find the more perfect monk — Paul the Theban — who is a mere 113 years old.  But to me the interesting part of the story is his supposed encounter with remnants of the pre-Christian world — a centaur and a faun/satyr.

Here is a closer look at Anthony’s scroll:

It reads:


It is taken from a standard quote by Antony:
Είδον εγώ τας παγίδας του διαβόλου απλωμένας επί πάσαν την γην. Και ηρωτήθην : Τις δύναται εκφυγείν από τας παγίδας του διαβόλου; Και ήκουσα φωνήν λέγουσά μοι : Ο ταπεινός

Eidon ego tas pagidas tou diabolou aplomenas epi pasan ten gen.  Kai erotethen.  Tis dynatai ekphygein apo tas pagidas tou diabolou?  Kai ekousa phonen legousa moi: “Ho tapeinos.”

“I saw the snares of the Devil spread  on all the earth.  And I groaned, saying, ‘Who can escape such snares?’  And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Humility.'”


In 2014 the foundations of what is reputed to be a fourth-century basilica were found just offshore in Lake İznik at the site of what was ancient Nicaea, in Turkey.  Archeologists say the church was dedicated to a martyr named Neophytos.

In iconography and hagiography, he is referred to as Neophytos of Nicaea.  Though his “acts” — that is, the account of his life and miracles — are unreliable, he may have actually been a martyr of the early 300s c.e, from just before the legalization of Christianity under the Roman Emperor Constantine.  It is said that the basilica was built for his relics (that is, his remains) on the site of his martyrdom.

Neophytos — Неофит (Neophit) in Slavic — is not a common saint in icons, but there is one interesting thing about him.  His iconography depicts him with a dove, so one should not confuse him with St. Triphon (Trifon), who is also shown with a bird.

The Stroganov Podlinnik depicts him, but gives only “Holy Martyr Neofit” as identification, without any painting instructions:

The Bolshakov Podlinnik offers only  a bit more information under his day of commemoration — January 21 — beginning with the last word of the first line here:

I svyatago muchenika neofita, mlad aki dimitriy, rizui prostuiya.
And of Holy Martyr Neofit, youth like Dimitriy [Demetrios of Thessaloniki], robe simple [meaning the ordinary, basic garment] .

I mentioned that his “acts” are unreliable and highly fanciful.  They are interesting to read as an example of the extravagance of such pious tales.

Dmitriy Rostovskiy wrote that Neophytos was born at Nicea of parents name Theodoulos and Florence.  They had him baptized and raised as a Christian.

As a little boy, Neophytos is said to have daily brought his poor school friends home and to have given them his dinner, himself going without.  He had the custom of worshiping at the eastern gate of the city, where he traced a cross on the wall and venerated it.  His little friends, having eaten, found him praying there.  He struck a stone and water poured forth from it, so that his friends could drink and satisfy their thirst.  He made them promise not to tell anyone about it.

Florence, Neophytos’ mother, had a dream in which she saw her son striking a stone and bringing forth water to give his friends, as Moses had similarly struck a stone in the Old Testament.  She woke and prayed to the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to her about her son.  A brilliantly shining white dove descended from Heaven, sat on Neophytos’ bed, and spoke these words:  “I am sent from the Savior to keep your bed clean.”

Florence was so terrified by the experience that she fell down dead.  The news quickly got around, and lots of people gathered in the house.  Word was sent to the father Theodoulos, and he rushed home in tears.

Meeting him outside the house, Neophytos said:
Зачем ты скорбишь, отец? Не умерла мать моя, а крепко уснула.
“Why are you mourning, Father?  My mother did not die, but fell asleep.”

He brought him into the house, took his mother’s hand, and said:
Встань, мать моя; ты заснула крепко.
“Wake, my mother — you fell sound asleep.”
And his mother was raised from the dead.

Having been restored to life, Florence told her husband of her visions concerning Neophytos, and word quickly spread around, so that even “pagans” were converted to Christianity.

The dove kept coming to Neophytos’ bed and talking to him.  One day it said:
Выйди, Неофит, из дома отца твоего, и иди вслед за мною.
“Go forth, Neophytos, from your father’s house, and follow after me.”

The dove led him to a cave on Mount Olympos, and in the cave lived a lion.  Neophytos said to the lion, “Get out of here, and go find yourself another cave, because the Lord has commanded me to live here.”  The lion obediently left.

Neophytos lived in the cave, and was fed by an angel.  When his parents were about to die a year later, he went to the city, kissed them goodbye, and then sold the property, giving the money to the poor.  Then he returned to his cave, where he is said to have remained until the age of 15.

At this time Decius came to the city, and announced a day when all the inhabitants of the region were to offer sacrifice to the gods.  When this happened, angels brought Neophytus from his cave, and set him down in the middle of the Nicaeans.  There he began to berate Decius for the worship of the gods.

I won’t go into all the gory details used to ornament his martyrdom, but at one point Neophytos, according to the tale, was thrown into a furnace, where he remained cool and unharmed, like the “Three Hebrew Children” in the Old Testament story from the book of Daniel (Daniel 3).  And when the “pagans” came to open the furnace, the flames shot out of it and burned them, while Neophytus was untouched by the heat.  Seeing this, the others accused Neophytos of sorcery.

Then they decided to tie him to a post and set bears upon him.  But the bears would not harm him.  Then they got a very large, recently-captured lion, and released it to attack Neophytos.  But the lion just wept, and licked Neophytos’ feet.  It was the same lion Neophytos had sent out from his cave at Mount Olympos, and it would not harm him.  Neophytos told the lion to return to his cave, and the lion, roaring loudly, broke out the gates, walking among the terrified people of the city, and went back to his former home on the mountain without harming anyone, as Neophytos had commanded him.

Finally, a vicious man with a spear ran at Neophytos, piercing him through the chest, and the saint at last died, so it is said, on January 21 at the age of 15 and four months.

This far-fetched tale gives a very good idea of how various details were assembled to create these fictional “acts” or lives of saints such as Neophytos.  We have the childhood miracles, as in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas — in this case water from a stone, as was said of Moses in Numbers 20; we have the mother raised from the dead after having been said to be asleep, as done by Jesus with a girl in the New Testament (Matthew 9:24); we have the dove, as at Jesus’ baptism; the feeding by an angel, like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:5-8; there is a friendly lion, as in the hagiographic tales of Gerasim of the Jordan and of Jerome, as well as survival inside a fiery furnace, as in Daniel 3.  These were the days before novels, and such tales provided entertainment and religious instruction for the pious, who thought all the marvels related in them quite factual.



Do you remember the popular Disney movie from the 1960s called “The Parent Trap”?  In it, a girl goes to camp and discovers that she has an identical twin.  It is actually based on a 1949 story by the German author Erich Kästner titled Das Doppelte Lottchen, “Doubled Lottie.”  Today’s icon saints are like the “Doubled Lottie” story gone extreme.

To make it very simple, there are two saints very prominent throughout Eastern Orthodoxy, whether in Greek, Russian, or Balkan iconography.  They are called in English Cosmas and Damian, in Russia Kozma and Domian (sometimes spelled Damian), and in Greek Kosmas and Damianos.

As you already know from previous postings, the Eastern Orthodox calendar of saints is filled with confused and dubious stories, and Cosmas and Damian exemplify that. Why?  Because in that calendar there are three different pairs of brothers with exactly the same names and titles, and all were physicians.

1.  There is the Cosmas and Damian pair of brothers and physicians celebrated on July 1, said to have been born in Rome.
2.  There is the Cosmas and Damian pair of brothers and physicians celebrated on October 17th, said to have been born in Arabia.
3.  There is the Cosmas and Damian pair of brothers and physicians celebrated on November 1, said to have been born in Asia Minor.

To confuse matters further, all three pairs are given the title ΑΝΑΡΓΥΡΟΙ (Anargyroi)  in Greek.  An– means “without” –Argyr– means “silver,” and the –oi ending indicates the plural.  “Without silver” means that they did not accept payment (think silver coins) for their medical services, something that would horrify today’s medical profession, at least in the United States.

In Russia they are called БЕЗСРЕБРЕННИКИ (Bezsrebrenniki).  Bez– means “without” “—-srebren-” means “silver,” –nik- means loosely “person” and the –i ending indicates the plural, so the meaning is much the same as in Greek, “those who are without silver,” again the significance is that they did not take money for their healing services.  Both the Greek and Slavic titles are generally translated loosely into Engish as “Unmercenaries.”

Modern scholars of hagiography tell us that these three pairs of physician brothers/twins/unmercenaries, all of whom are martyrs, are in fact the same original pair in triplicate, with differing biographies added to them over time.  They opine that this replication of the same pair of saints came about because churches in different locations where the saints were particularly honored came, over time, to assume that “their” Cosmas and Damian were different than the Cosmas and Damian commemorated elsewhere.  As we have seen, the ranks of Eastern Orthodox saints have never really been critically examined by the Eastern Orthodox, who have never had an investigative office such as the Bollandists in the Roman Catholic Church, and so the lives of the Eastern Orthodox saints are often confused and wholly or partly fictitious.

All of that is interesting background, but the thing to remember about the iconography of Cosmas and Damian is that those one generally sees in Russian icons are the Cosmas and Damian born supposedly in Asia Minor sometime not later than the 4th century, where also they were said to have been martyred for their faith in the 3rd century (as you can see, even their dates are confused and uncertain).

There is a rather bizarre story about the burial of the brothers.  It is said that a woman named Palladia was so grateful for her cure that she offered them her estate in payment, which of course they refused.  But later Palladia went to Damian and gave him three eggs.  Cosmas found that Damian had accepted the eggs, and was so opposed to receiving any payment for services that on his deathbed he said that he did not want Damian buried with him.

It happened, however, that the brothers had once cured a camel.  When Damian finally died, those with him were puzzled about what to do with the body, given that Cosmas had said he did not want Damian buried with him.  The matter was solved when the camel that had been healed showed up, and began speaking in a human voice, saying that Damian had not accepted the eggs as payment for medical services, but rather just as a symbol of honor to the Holy Trinity.  So, having heard the excuse direct from the camel’s mouth,  they buried Damian with his brother Cosmas.

As in the following Russian examples, the physician brothers are shown standing side by side,  Kozma generally on the left, and Domian/Damian on the right.  Each holds a medicine box.

In the first example below, we see them painted somewhat realistically in a State Church icon in the manner of the late 19th-beginning of the 20th century.  The background or “light” of the icon is gilded and elaborately incised with twining decoration, and a small image of the “Umilenie”  type of Marian icon is above them


The next example is a late icon painted in a much earlier style.  Again it shows Kozma and Domian holding their medicine boxes, with Jesus blessing from the clouds above:

(Courtesy of
(Courtesy of

This third image again shows them in their typical forms, holding medicine boxes, and above them is an image of the Birth of John the Forerunner.  From the position of the fingers in the “blessing” hand of Domian, this appears to be an Old Believer icon rather than a State Church image.  Note the realistic background landscape, something borrowed from Western European art, and even found, rather uncharacteristically, in many Old Believer icons.

The medicine boxes held by these saints may include medicine spoons, or, as in this example, feathers; these were used to apply medicine.

(Courtesy of
(Courtesy of

In painters’ manuals, the three pairs of “Cosmas and Damian” saints may be distinguished somewhat like this:

The “Asia Minor” pair are depicted as in middle age, with beards of equal length, feathers in hand, holding open medicine boxes, and ochre boots on their feet.

The “Roman” pair are depicted as young, with Cosmas having the face and hair of Demetrios of Thessaloniki, and Damian like the Great Martyr George with his curly hair, holding crosses of martyrdom in their right hands and a medicine box in the left.

The “Arabian” pair are depicted like the patrons of horses Flor and Lavr (Florus and Lavrus) with Cosmas in middle age and Damian younger.

There are several “unmercenary” saints in Eastern Orthodoxy, but the most famous and most often seen in icons are the brothers Cosmas and Damian, as well as the other prominent physician saint Panteleimon, who is discussed in a previous posting.