Cyril of Scythopolis, Life of Abraamios (CPG 7541 = BHG 12)
Abraamios was born in Emesa in the early years of the reign of Zeno (474-491). He joined a monastery in his city, but fled with his abbot to Constantinople after a Saracen invasion. He was soon appointed abbot at a newly established monastery at the city of Krateia in Honorias (northwest Asia Minor). After some time, he fled to the Holy Land and joined the Monastery of Scholarios, one of the monastic communities of *Sabas (the Sanctified, S00910
). Yet, several years later, he was compelled to return to Krateia, after the local bishop threatened him with excommunication. At his arrival, the bishop died and Abraamios was elected bishop of the city. Cyril refrains from giving details about his life and miracles, but, states that towards the end of his life, Abraamios had too many dealings with the secular authorities because of the affairs of his see, which made him desire to return to the monastic life. The Greek text breaks here. The rest of the story, known in Arabic translation only, recounts how Abraamios failed to meet Sabas at Constantinople, during the latter’s visit there in 531, but was instructed by Sabas in a vision to return to his monastery. Abraamios returned to the monastery of Scholarios, where he died one year later.
Text: Schwartz 1939.
Summary: Efthymios Rizos.
Saint NameAbramios, bishop of Krateia of Bythinia and monk, ob. 553 : S01673
Sabbas the Sanctified, founder of the Mar Saba Monastery in Palestine, ob. 532 : S00910
Saint Name in SourceἈβραάμιος
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Hagiographical - Lives
Evidence not before555
Evidence not after557
Activity not before555
Activity not after557
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcNew Laura
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)New Laura
Major author/Major anonymous workCyril of Scythopolis
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsComposing and translating saint-related texts
Cult Activities - MiraclesMiracle during lifetime
Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - abbots
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
SourceBorn in Scythopolis in c. 525, Cyril was the son of a lawyer serving the bishopric of the city. He grew up in an environment closely linked to the clergy and monasteries of the Chalcedonian Orthodox community of Palestine. During a visit to Scythopolis in c. 531-2, Sabas the Sanctified blessed little Cyril and marked him out as a future monk. Cyril was indeed tonsured, and left for Jerusalem in 543. At the advice of John the Hesychast, he joined the monastery of Euthymios in the same year, where he stayed for ten years. He was chosen to join the 120 monks who reclaimed the New Laura for Orthodoxy, after the expulsion of the Origenists from it in 553. In 557, he was preparing to move to Sabas’ Great Laura, after which nothing is known about his life. All the information concerning Cyril's life is deduced from his writings.
Cyril’s only known work are the Lives of the Monks of Palestine (Μοναχικαὶ Ἱστορίαι), a collection of seven monastic biographies of uneven length. The most extensive and important works of this corpus are the lives of Euthymios and Sabas, founders of the two monasteries which defined Cyril’s own life as a monk. In the epilogue of the Life of Euthymios, the author informs us that he conceived the idea of the work, while living at the monastery of Euthymios and witnessing various miracles of that saint. In the early to mid 540s, he started collecting notes of stories which were orally recounted by older monks, but was only able to turn them into a coherent narrative when he moved to the New Laura (555-558).
The Life of Euthymios was apparently the first of these biographies to be composed, starting in c. 556, at the request of Georgios, abbot and founder of a monastery near Cyril’s native Scythopolis. The Life of Sabas was either slightly later, or roughly contemporary. The third major biography is the Life of Ioannes/John the Hesychast, Cyril’s personal mentor, which was written while its hero was still alive at the age of 104, in 557/558. The briefer Lives of Kyriakos, Theodosios, Theognios and Abraamios are probably the last to be written by the author. By including these figures, which were closely connected with Sabas and his monastery, Cyril produced a gallery of hagiographies of the main Chalcedonian monasteries of the Judaean Desert, which resembles and perhaps follows the model of Theodoret’s Religious History.
For the manuscript tradition of the texts, see:
DiscussionThe claim of the Life about Abraamios’ return to Palestine in 531 is probably inaccurate, since he is known to have participated as bishop of Krateia in sessions of the endemousa synodos (council of the bishops resident in Constantinople) in 536 (Schwartz 1939, 247-249).
Schwartz, E., Kyrillos von Skythopolis (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 49.2; Leipzig, 1939).
Baldelli, R, Mortari, L. Storie monastiche del deserto di Gerusalemme. Abbazia di Praglia, 1990, 395–407.
Festugière, A.-J., Les moines d'Orient, vol. 3, part 3, Les moines de Palestine: Vie des saints Jean l'hésychaste, Kyriakos, Théodose, Théognios, Abraamios (Paris, 1962).
Price, R., and Binns, J., Cyril of Scythopolis, Lives of the Monks of Palestine (Cistercian Studies Series 114; Kalamazoo, 1991).
Flusin, B., Miracle et histoire dans l'œuvre de Cyrille de Scythopolis (Paris, 1983).
Flusin, B., "Palestinian Hagiography (Fourth-Eighth Centuries)," in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography I: Periods and Places (Farnham, 2011), 199-226.
Hombergen, D., The Second Origenist Controversy: A New Perspective on Cyril of Scythopolis' Monastic Biographies as Historical Sources for Sixth-Century Origenism (Rome, 2001).