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:
Ὁ ΜΑΓΗΡος — HO MAGIROS
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.”