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E07148: The Greek Life of *Spyridon (bishop of Trimithous in Cyprus, ob. 348, S00790) by Theodore, bishop of Paphos, reports a miracle of the saint, which was depicted in a painting in his church at Trimithous, but not understood until identified from an account of the saint’s life found in Egypt which was read at the saint’s feast in 656. Written in c. 656 in Paphos or Trimithous.

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posted on 07.12.2018, 00:00 by erizos
Theodore of Paphos, Life of Spyridon 20 (CPG 7987, BHG 1647, 1647b)

For the context, see E07147.

While staying in the monastery of Symboulos near the city of Kourion, the author heard the following story from a monk named Ioannes who had heard it during a pilgrimage to the shrine of *Kyros and Ioannes in Egypt during the Persian invasion of 618. After his pilgrimage, Ioannes met in Alexandria the Cypriot deacon Stephanos of Akroterion, who was carrying some books, including a Life of Spyridon. The narrator asked him how the saint's story had reached Alexandria, and Ioannes recounted the following story.

The patriarch of Alexandria invited several bishops in order to demolish by their prayers the idols which were still standing by the power of magic. Praying before each one of them, the bishops caused their destruction, but one idol proved impossible to destroy even by the prayers of the patriarch himself. Prompted by an angelic dream, he invited Spyridon to Alexandria. The holy man obliged, and as soon as he disembarked from his boat onto Alexandrian soil, the idol and its temple collapsed spontaneously. The news of the miracle caused a mass conversion of pagans to Christianity.

20.146-195
Τούτου δὲ τοῦ παραδόξου θαύματος μνημόσυνόν ἐστιν ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐν τῇ πόλει τοῦ σεβασμίου πατρὸς Τριμιθοῦντι ἐπάνω τοῦ μέσου πυλεῶνος ἤγουν τῆς ἀρχοντικῆς θύρας τοῦ ναοῦ ἔνθα κεῖται τὸ τίμιον λείψανον τοῦ ἁγίου πατρὸς ἡμῶν Σπυρίδωνος, εἰκὼν πᾶσαν τὴν διήγησιν ταύτην γεγραμμένην ἔχουσα μετὰ καὶ ἄλλων τινῶν τῶν μὴ γεγραμμένων ἐνταῦθα. ἥντινα ἱστορίαν μετὰ τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν τοῦ παρόντος λόγου τινὲς τῶν φιλοχρίστων ἀνδρῶν τῶν τηνικαῦτα, συμπαρόντων Σεργίου τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου ἀρχιεπισκόπου Κωνσταντίας τῆς Κύπρου καὶ Παύλου τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου ἀρχιεπισκόπου Κρήτης κατὰ συγκυρίαν ἀπὸ Αἰγύπτου ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει ἀνερχομένου καὶ ἐκεῖ παρατυχόντος καὶ Θεοδώρου τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου ἐπισκόπου τῶν αὐτόθι, οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ Θεοδώρου τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου ἐπισκόπου τῆς Κιτιαίων φιλοχρίστου πόλεως, Εὐσεβίου τε τοῦ ἁγιωτάτου ἐπισκόπου Λαπίθου, θεασάμενοι ἀπήγγειλαν τοῖς τε προειρημένοις μακαριωτάτοις ἀνδράσιν καὶ τῇ ἐμῇ ταπεινώσει. ἐγένετο δὲ μεγάλη χαρὰ πᾶσιν τοῖς τὴν φιλόχριστον πόλιν Τριμιθοῦντα οἰκοῦσιν καὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς συναχθεῖσιν ἐν τῇ μνήμῃ τοῦ σεβασμίου πατρός. διηποροῦντο γάρ τινες περὶ τούτου τοῦ θαύματος μετὰ τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν εἰ ἄρα ἀληθῆ εἰσιν τὰ εἰρημένα, διὰ τὸ μηδὲν τοιοῦτο ἐμφέρεσθαι ἐν τῷ βίῳ τοῦ ἁγίου τῷ διὰ ἰάμβων συνταχθέντι. ἡνίκα δὲ ἐπέσκεψαν τῇ γραφῇ τῆς εἰκόνος οἱ προειρημένοι φιλόχριστοι ἄνδρες καὶ λοιπὸν ἐγνώσθη ἡ ἱστορία διὰ τῆς τῶν ἀναγνωσθέντων διηγήσεως, πάντες ηὐφράνθησαν καὶ ἐδόξασαν τὸν Θεὸν ἐπὶ τούτῳ. ἥντινα εἰκόνα καὶ οἱ προειρημένοι ἅγιοι ἀρχιερεῖς θεασάμενοι καὶ ἀκριβῶς τὴν ταύτης γραφὴν καταμαθόντες καὶ πληροφορηθέντες πάνυ ηὐγάσθησαν, καὶ πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως τὸν Θεὸν ἐδόξασαν καὶ τὸν αὐτοῦ δοῦλον πλειόνως ἐθαύμασαν καὶ μετὰ ἀμέτρου εὐφροσύνης τὴν τοῦ δικαίου πατρὸς μνήμην ἐπετέλεσαν.

«Καὶ ἄλλα δέ τινα,» φησὶν πρὸς ἐμὲ Ἰωάννης ὁ θεοφιλέστατος μοναχός, «εἶχεν ἡ βίβλος ἐκείνη περὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ θεοφόρου Σπυρίδωνος,» ὡς διηγήσατο αὐτῷ Στέφανος ὁ προειρημένος διάκονος, ὕστερον δὲ πρεσβύτερος, ὡς εἴρηται, γεγονώς· ὃς καὶ πρὸ τούτων τῶν ἓξ ἐτῶν τὸν βίον ἀπολιπὼν μετῴκησεν πρὸς Χριστὸν ἐν ἀγαθῇ πολιᾷ καὶ πολιτείᾳ τὸν τῆς ἑαυτοῦ ζωῆς χρόνον πληρώσας, κατὰ τὴν ἀρτίως διελθοῦσαν ὀγδόην ἐπινέμησιν μετὰ τὴν γεναμένην πρώτην ἅλωσιν τῆς Κυπρίων νήσου. ἔχει δὲ τὸ πιστὸν ὁ λόγος, ὅτι καὶ ἐν τῇ γραφῇ τῆς εἰκόνος ἄλλα τινά εἰσιν τὰ μὴ ἐκφερόμενα, ὡς εἴρηται, ἐνταῦθα, ἅπερ ἠγνόηται ἡμῖν διὰ τὴν πολλὴν τοῦ χρόνου πάροδον καὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ εὑρεῖν ἡμᾶς μηδένα μνημονεύοντα τοιούτου τινὸς πράγματος μήτε ἐγγράφως μήτε ἀγράφως. (195)


‘Of this extraordinary miracle there is still a memorial in the reverend father’s city of Trimithous, in the form of an image above the middle gate, namely the stately portal of the temple where the precious relic of our holy father Spyridon rests, which contains in painting the whole of this account alongside other episodes which are not included here. None of those then living at the said Christ-loving town knew this story, until the present narrative was read out for the first time at God’s holy church, on the day of the memory of our holy father Spyridon, in the fourteenth year of this indiction, which was the fifteenth of our Christ-loving and most pious emperor Constantine [Constans II] and the second of Constantine [Constantine IV], his most pious son, crowned by God [= 656]. After the reading of this text – in the presence of his holiness Sergius, archbishop of Constantia of Cyprus, his holiness Paulos, archbishop of Crete, who happened to be travelling from Egypt to Constantinople and was present there, his holiness Theodoros, the local bishop, but also his holiness Theodoros, bishop of the Christ-loving city of Kition – some of the pious men of that time noticed the depiction and pointed it out to the said beatitudes and to my humble self. And there was great rejoicing among all those inhabiting the Christ-loving city of Trimithous, and all those who had gathered for the memory of the reverend father. For, after the reading, some were wondering about this miracle, whether the account was true, since no such thing is included in the saint’s life which was composed in iambic verses. But when the said Christ-loving men examined the image of the painting and the narrative was plainly recognised thanks to the account of the reading, everyone was pleased and gave thanks to God for this. When the said holy prelates saw the image and fully understood the meaning of what it was depicting, they all rejoiced and gave several and manifold thanks to God, admired his servant even more, and celebrated the righteous father’s memory in endless joy.

“There were also some other things,” the most pious monk Ioannes told me, “contained in that book about our holy father and God-bearing Spyridon,” as the said deacon Stephanos had told him – who later became a presbyter, as we have said. He departed this life six years ago, and moved to Christ, having completed the time of his living in good old age and conduct, during the eighth year of the recently concluded indiction cycle [AD 650], right after the first fall of the isle of Cyprus [AD 649]. His words are true, because in the depiction of the image there are also other episodes which are not recounted here, as we said, but are unknown to us, due to the passing of a long period of time, and because we have found no person recording such a thing in writing or otherwise.’

Text: Van den Ven 1953. Summary and Translation: Efthymios Rizos

History

Evidence ID

E07148

Saint Name

Spyridon, bishop of Trimythous (Cyprus), ob. 348 : S00790 Kyros and Ioannes/Cyrus and John, physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt : S00406

Saint Name in Source

Σπυρίδων Κῦρος καὶ Ἰωάννης

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

650

Evidence not after

660

Activity not before

656

Activity not after

656

Place of Evidence - Region

Aegean islands and Cyprus Aegean islands and Cyprus

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Paphos Trimythous

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

Paphos Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia Trimythous Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people

Source

For the manuscript tradition, see: https://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/13463/

Discussion

This is a passage of major importance for our understanding of the development and production of hagiographic legends. Writing in the 7th century, Theodore of Paphos was one of the bishops invited to the yearly festival of the popular bishop at Trimithous, which was also attended by other members of the Cypriot episcopate (the archbishop of Salamis-Constantia, the bishops of Trimithous and Kition, and the visiting archbishop of Crete). According to custom, Theodore was apparently invited to give one of the sermons of the day, and he used the occasion to recount an episode of the saint’s life which had been unknown to the locals. It had reportedly been derived from a version of Spyridon’s hagiography which was known in Egypt, but had in the meantime been forgotten in Cyprus itself. The author claims that the reliability of the story was proven by its association with an ancient painted cycle of the saint’s life, which could be seen at Spyridon’s church. The description suggests that the cycle decorated the middle portal of a triple-gate entrance of the basilica, probably connecting the nave with the narthex. The legend on which this painting was based diverged in many aspects from the legend known in Trimithous. The city preserved only the ‘orthodox’ hagiography of Spyridon, namely the lost Life in verse by Triphyllios of Nicosia, which Theodore paraphrases in the first section of his work. Theodore’s knowledge of the saint’s alternative hagiography was indirect. It had been reportedly discovered by a Cypriot cleric in Alexandria, was had recounted it in part to a monk who, in turn, told it to Theodore. Was this a true story or a literary device lending credibility to an orally transmitted legend?

Bibliography

Text: Van den Ven, P., La légende de s. Spyridon évêque de Trimithonte (Bibliothèque du Muséon 33; Louvain, 1953), 1-103. Further reading: Chrysos, E., "Αγία νήσος αγίων επισκόπων," in: Th. Giangou and Ch. Nassis (eds.), Κυπριακή Αγιολογία (Paralimni, 2015), 281-292. Efthymiadis, S., and Déroche., V., "Greek Hagiography in Late Antiquity (Fourth-Seven Centuries)," in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography. Vol. 1: Periods and Places (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 35-94, at p. 77. Rapp, C., "Cypriot Hagiography in the Seventh Century: Patrons and Purpose," in: Th. Giangou and Ch. Nassis (eds.), Κυπριακή Αγιολογία (Paralimni, 2015), 397-411.

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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