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E01001: Two Coptic miracles of Apa *Mena (soldier and martyr of Abu Mena, S00073), attributed to the time of Damian, archbishop of Alexandria (576–605), concerned with the building of his shrine and the celebration of his feast day; preserved in a 9th century parchment codex.

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posted on 17.12.2015, 00:00 by Bryan
Miracles of Apa Mena

1) The miracle of the pious brick-maker

At the time of the archbishop Apa Damian of Alexandria, the building of the martyr shrine (martyrion) of Apa Mena was finished, but the people who had laid the foundation for the topos had died before finishing it. Apa Mena urged the archbishop in a dream to finish the topos, and the archbishop recruited all the necessary craftsmen to fulfil the task.

Among them was a very poor brick-maker from Alexandria who had spent all he had on doctors to overcome an illness. He and his wife with his five children were starving. The money he had received from the archbishop to make bricks for the shrine was not enough and his wife was worried concerning the life of their children. In his despair over whether to leave his job at the shrine, because it did not earn enough money, or to stay, Apa Mena appeared to him in the disguise of a soldier and convinced him to remain at work, promising him extra wages. When the saint returned to the brick-maker the next day, he took one of his bricks and then gave it to the brick-maker as his wages. The brick-maker felt cheated and decided to leave the building site at the shrine, but the saint urged him to take the brick on his journey home to Alexandria. The worker did so, and once he reached his family home in Alexandria the brick had turned to gold.

The brick-maker understood that it was the saint who had touched his brick which then turned to gold, and glorified the God of Apa Mena. In fear of the neighbours’ reaction to their sudden fortune, the brick-maker and his wife decided to go to the saint Apa *Kyri [presumably Kyros/Cyrus, the companion of Iohannes/John, S00406] and to have the gold valued there by one of the goldsmiths. On the way, he found the belt (ⲟⲩⲙⲟⲩⲥ ⲛⲥⲧⲣⲁⲧⲓⲱⲧⲁ) of a foreign soldier, which he understood to be another gift from Apa Mena. He had the gold of the brick weighed and valued and decided to have a golden plate (ⲟⲩⲇⲓⲥⲕⲟⲥ ⲛⲛⲟⲩⲃ) and a golden cup (ⲟⲩⲡⲟⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ ⲛⲛⲟⲩⲃ) made from it. Both items he donated to the shrine of Apa Mena and continued his work there. Three times did the saint place one of his bricks into his basket, before the brick-maker set off to go home to Alexandria and three times the brick turned to gold. The man became very rich and told the archbishop about these miracles which had happened through Apa Mena.

The archbishop wrote to the emperor about the miracles and the emperor asked to see the brick-maker and the golden brick. The emperor kissed the brick-maker on the head and worshipped the golden brick together with all the people in the palace and the people in the city of Rome. He divided the gold of the brick and made crowns for himself and his children from one part and a table and a cup from the other half, which he then donated to the shrine of Peter the chief apostle.

ed. Drescher, p. 88, col. I, line 1–p. 89, col. I, line 4:
ⲡⲁⲣⲭⲓⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲇⲉ · ⲁϥⲧⲛⲛⲟⲟⲩ ⲙⲙⲁⲣⲕⲟⲥ ⲡⲉⲣⲅⲁⲧⲏⲥ ϣⲁ ⲡⲣⲣⲟ · ⲙⲛ ⲧⲧⲱⲃⲉ ⲛⲛⲟⲩⲃ ⲛⲧⲉⲣⲉϥⲛⲁⲩ ⲇⲉ ⲉⲣⲟϥ ⲛϭⲓ ⲡⲣⲣⲟ ⲙⲙⲁⲓⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ · ⲁϥⲧⲱⲟⲩⲛ ⲁϥⲁϩⲉⲣⲁⲧϥ · ⲁϥϯⲡⲉ ⲉϫⲛ ⲧⲉϥⲁⲡⲉ · ⲁϥⲕⲁⲁϥ ⲕⲁϩⲏⲩ ⲛⲧⲡⲟⲣⲫⲩⲣⲁ ⲉⲧⲧⲟ ⲉϩⲓⲱⲱϥ ⲁϥⲕⲁⲁⲥ ϩⲓϫⲙ ⲛⲕⲁϩ · ⲁϥⲧⲣⲉⲩⲕⲁ ⲧⲧⲱⲃⲉ ⲛⲛⲟⲩⲃ ϩⲓϫⲱⲥ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁⲡⲣⲣⲟ · ⲟⲩⲱϣⲧ ϩⲓϫⲱⲥ · ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲛⲟϭ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ ⲙⲡⲡⲁⲗⲗⲁⲇⲓⲟⲛ · ⲙⲛ ⲡⲙⲏⲏϣⲉ ⲧⲏⲣϥ ⲛⲧⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ϩⲣⲱⲙⲏ
ⲁⲡⲙⲁⲓⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲇⲉ ⲛⲣⲣⲟ · ϫⲓ ⲛⲧⲧⲱⲃⲉ · ⲛⲧⲁⲥⲣⲛⲟⲩⲃ · ⲛⲧⲟⲟⲧϥ ⲙⲡⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛⲉⲣⲅⲁⲧⲏⲥ ⲁϥϯ ⲛⲁϥ ⲙⲙⲏⲧ ⲛϣⲓ ⲛⲛⲟⲩⲃ ϩⲁ ⲧⲧⲱⲃⲉ ⲧⲧⲱⲃⲉ
ⲇⲉ ϩⲱⲱⲥ ⲛⲧⲁⲥⲣⲛⲟⲩⲃ ⲁϥⲁⲁⲥ ⲛⲥⲛⲁⲩ ⲛⲟⲩⲱⲛ ⲁϥⲥⲙⲓⲛⲉ ⲛⲟⲩⲕⲗⲟⲙ ⲉϫⲱϥ ⲟⲩⲁ ⲉϫⲉⲙ ⲡⲉϥϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲕⲉ ⲥⲛⲁⲩ ⲉϫⲉⲛ ⲧⲉϥϣⲉⲉⲣⲉ ⲥⲛⲧⲉ · ⲙⲛ ⲕⲉⲟⲩⲁ ⲉϫⲉⲛ ⲧⲣⲣⲱ ⲡⲕⲉⲟⲩⲱⲛ ⲇⲉ ⲁϥⲁⲁϥ ⲛⲧⲣⲁⲡⲏⲍⲁ · ϩⲓ ⲡⲟⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ · ⲁϥⲕⲁⲁⲩ ϩⲉⲙ ⲡⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲛ ⲙⲡⲁⲛϫⲱϫ ⲛⲛⲁⲡⲟⲥⲧⲟⲗⲟⲥ
ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲟⲥ

'The archbishop sent Mark, the worker, to the emperor together with the golden brick. When the pious emperor saw him, he rose, stood up, and kissed him on his head. He took off his purple mantel which he wore and placed it on the ground. He had the golden brick put on it. The emperor worshipped it (the brick) together with all the important people at the palace and the whole multitude in the city of Rome. The pious emperor took the brick which had turned to gold from the worker and gave him ten measures of gold for the brick. The brick itself which had turned to gold he divided it into two parts. He made a crown for himself and one for his son, also two for his two daughters, as well as one for the empress. The other half, he made into a table (trapeza) and a cup (poterion). He placed them in the martyr shrine (martyrion) of Peter, the head of the apostles.'

To the brick-maker the emperor gave gold and silver and made him a stratelates, asking him to oversee the building of the shrine of Apa Mena. He also gave him a letter for the archbishop of Alexandria who read it out in public. As a consequence, everybody wanted to see and touch the brick-maker to whom these miracles had happened and who was worthy to receive such favours from the saint. The archbishop had to rescue the brick-maker from the crowd who wanted to touch his garments and see him with their own eyes.

ed. Drescher, p. 90, col. I, line 2–col. II, line 5:
ⲡⲗⲁⲟⲥ ⲇⲉ ⲁⲩⲥⲙⲛⲧⲥ ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲩⲉⲣⲏⲩ · ⲉⲩⲟⲩⲱϣ ⲉⲛⲁⲩ ⲙⲙⲁⲧⲉ ⲉⲡⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛⲧⲁ ⲛⲉⲓϣⲡⲏⲣⲉ ϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲓⲧⲟⲟⲧϥ ϩⲉⲛ ⲛⲉⲩⲃⲁⲗ ⲁⲗⲏⲑⲱⲥ ⲉⲛⲉ ⲙⲡⲉ ⲡⲁⲣⲭⲓⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ · ϩⲱⲃⲉⲥ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲉϫⲉⲙ ⲡⲣⲱⲙⲉ · ⲛⲧⲁ ⲛⲉⲓϣⲡⲏⲣⲉ ϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲓⲧⲟⲟⲧϥ · ⲉϣϫⲉ ⲁⲩⲙⲟⲟⲩⲧϥ ⲡⲉ ϩⲓⲧⲉⲛ
ⲑⲟⲣⲙⲏ ⲙⲡⲙⲏⲏϣⲉ ⲉⲧϣⲟⲩⲟ ⲉϫⲱϥ ϫⲉ ⲉⲩⲉϫⲱϩ ⲙⲙⲁⲧⲉ ⲉⲛⲉϥϩⲟⲉⲓⲧⲉ · ⲏ ϫⲉ ⲉⲩⲉⲛⲁⲩ ⲉⲣⲟϥ ⲙⲙⲁⲧⲉ ϩⲉⲛ ⲛⲉⲩⲃⲁⲗ · ϫⲉ ⲁϥⲉⲣⲙⲡϣⲁ · ⲉⲧⲣⲉ ⲡⲉϩⲙⲟⲧ ϣⲱⲡⲉ ⲛⲁϥ · ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ϩⲓⲧⲙ ⲡⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ

'The people agreed with each other wishing very much to see the man to whom these great miracles had happened with their own eyes. Truly, if the archbishop had not protected the man to whom these miracles had happened, he would have been killed by the attack of the masses who moved towards him, in order to touch his garments, or in order to see him up close with their own eyes, since he had been worthy to have the grace bestowed upon him through the holy martyr Apa Mena.'


2) The punishment of a rich man who decided to cancel his regular charity feast meal (agape) for the poor on the saint's commemoration day

Once on the feast day of Apa Mena, the archbishop of Alexandria, Apa Damian, went to the saint’s shrine to honour the saint in celebration. A rich man called Theodosios who used to prepare a great meal for the poor, the orphans, and the needy on the feast day of Apa Mena, decided not to do so this time. He gave orders to donate only the less valuable parts of the slaughtered animals to be given as charity for the poor, keeping the good meal for himself. He went to the shrine to hear the words read, to attend the night vigil, to hear the bishop’s discourse given in the morning, and to partake in the Eucharist. When people were leaving the church, his wife went home to check on their meal and found everything spoiled. The meat had turned to stone and the cooking pans into wood. Only the lesser meat intended for the charity meal remained unspoiled. The archbishop and the clergy took a look at the evidence and the entire multitude of people marvelled at the power of the saint.

The rich man begged the archbishop for forgiveness, realising his mistake, and the entire congregation, men, women, and children did not leave the festive gathering, but stayed in the shrine of Apa Mena for another night vigil, while the archbishop instructed them that it is a great sin not to give in charity what one has promised. During the night the saint came to the archbishop in a vision telling him to leave the spoiled meat at the man’s house as a lasting sign of his power and to urge the man to offer a different meal (agape) in charity to the poor instead. The man than gave all his possessions to the poor and to the shrine of Apa Mena and remained himself with his family as lifelong servants at the saint’s shrine.

ed. Drescher, p. 95, col. II, line 17–p. 96, col. I, line 14:
ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁϥϯ ⲛⲛⲉϥⲉⲛⲕⲁ ⲛⲛⲉϩⲏⲕⲉ · ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲧϣⲁⲁⲧ · ϩⲉⲛⲕⲟⲟⲩⲉ ⲇⲉ ⲟⲛ ⲁϥⲧⲁⲁⲩ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲡⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲓⲟⲛ ⲙⲡϩⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ · ⲁϥⲟⲩⲱϩ ϩⲉⲙ ⲡⲧⲟⲡⲟⲥ · ⲙⲛ ⲧⲉϥⲥϩⲓⲙⲉ · ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉϥϣⲏⲣⲉ · ⲛⲉϥϩⲙϩⲁⲗ ⲇⲉ ⲁϥϯ ⲛⲁⲩ ⲛⲧⲉⲩϭⲓⲛⲱⲛϩ ⲁϥⲕⲁⲁⲩ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲉⲩⲟ ⲛⲣⲙϩⲉ ⲛⲧⲟϥ ⲇⲉ · ⲙⲛ
ⲧⲉϥⲥϩⲓⲙⲉ · ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉϥϣⲏⲣⲉ · ⲁⲩⲟⲩⲱϩ ϩⲙ ⲡⲙⲁⲣⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ ⲙⲡϩⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ · ϣⲁ ⲡⲉϩⲟⲟⲩ ⲙⲡⲉⲩⲙⲟⲩ

'He gave his property to the poor and those in need, and other things he donated to the martyr shrine (martyrion) of saint Apa Mena. He stayed in the topos together with his wife and his children. He gave his servants their means of life and set them free. But he and his wife together with his children stayed in the martyr shrine (martyrion) of saint Apa Mena until the day of their death.'

Text: Drescher 1946. Translation: Gesa Schenke.

History

Evidence ID

E01001

Saint Name

Menas, soldier and martyr Abu Mena : S00073 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Kyros and Ioannes/Cyrus and John, physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt : S00406

Saint Name in Source

ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲏⲛⲁ ⲡⲁⲛϫⲱϫ ⲛⲛⲁⲡⲟⲥⲧⲟⲗⲟⲥ ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲕⲩⲣⲓ

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles Late antique original manuscripts - Parchment codex

Language

Coptic

Evidence not before

600

Evidence not after

900

Activity not before

550

Activity not after

650

Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Abu Mena

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Abu Mena Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Specialised miracle-working Power over objects Saint aiding or preventing the construction of a cult building

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people

Source

The two separate miracles are included in the Coptic parchment codex M585, fol. 38r–49v, of the Pierpont Morgan Library, found at the monastery of Saint Michael at Hamouli in the Fayum. Neither of these two miracles is known so far through any other source. The date of their composition remains obscure.

Discussion

In the story, the fame of Apa Mena is spread all the way to Rome, but is clearly fantastical (if only because by the time of the archbishop Damian there was no emperor/ruler in Rome). Through the miracles recorded here not only the saint and his shrine become famous, but also the person to whom these miracles happen. The brick-maker himself suddenly finds himself the object of desire as people wanted to touch the garment of someone who was favoured by the saint.

Bibliography

Edition and translation: Drescher, J., Apa Mena: A Selection of Coptic Texts Relating to St. Menas (Cairo, 1946), 73–96 (text); 149–159 (introduction and translation). Further reading: Grossmann, P., "The Pilgrimage Center of Abu Mina," in: D. Frankfurter (ed.), Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt (Leiden, 2015), 281–302. Grossmann, P., "Abu Mina, Ägypten: Das Pilgerzentrum," e-Forschungsberichte des deutschen archäologischen Instituts 2015-1, pp. 1-3: www.dainst.org/publikationen/e-publikationen/e-forschungsberichte Litinas, N., Greek Ostraca from Abu Mina (O.Abu Mina) (Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete, Beiheft 25; Berlin, 2008). Ward-Perkins, J.B., "The Shrine of St. Menas in the Maryût," Papers of the British School at Rome 17 (1949), 26–71.

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