Saint NameMenas, soldier and martyr buried at Abu Mena : S00073
Saint Name in SourceΜηνᾶς
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles
Evidence not before380
Evidence not after700
Activity not before325
Activity not after650
Place of Evidence - RegionEgypt and Cyrenaica
Egypt and Cyrenaica
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcAbu Mina
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Abu Mina
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - MiraclesMiracle after death
Miracles causing conversion
Saint denying or suspending miracles
Healing diseases and disabilities
Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Miraculous protection - of people and their property
Power over life and death
Miracle with animals and plants
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesWomen
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
Jews and Samaritans
Cult Activities - RelicsBodily relic - entire body
Cult Activities - Cult Related ObjectsPrecious material objects
SourceThe collection is preserved, not always intact, in 69 manuscripts, on which see:
DiscussionThis collection was apparently compiled and published by the great shrine of Menas, south-west of Alexandria, and provides some interesting evidence about the character of the shrine and the cult practised at it.
In its most complete form, this collection comprises thirteen miracle accounts, but there are reasons to believe that its extant form only represents part of a more extensive work. The fragmentary Coptic Miracles of Menas mention seventeen stories, but preserve the text of only eight, most of which coincide with those of the Greek collection, but two of them do not (E01222). The prologue of the Greek collection indicates that the text was a sequel to a martyrdom account of Menas, which ended by recounting the saint’s burial. This pre-Metaphrastic martyrdom has been lost, but it is likely to have recounted the legend as it is known from the Coptic version (E01222).
The precise date of the text cannot be deduced from internal evidence, even though it can be said with confidence that it is late antique and predates the 7th century. In most of the manuscripts it appears under the name of Timothy of Alexandria, which may allude to Patriarch Timothy I (381-384) or one of the later Timothies, Timothy II Aelurus (457-460), Timothy III Salophakiolos (460-475), or Timothy IV (518-536). The Coptic collection ascribes the text to Theophilus of Alexandria (385-412). Whatever the historical basis of these attributions may be, a 5th or 6th century date appears preferable.
Although the type of cult practised at the shrine was incubation in pursuit of healing, it does not feature prominently in the collection (it is only mentioned in miracle 12). The majority of the miracles take place outside the shrine, especially in the villages and desert between the shrine and lake Mareotis, a dangerous area which pilgrims had to cross on their way to and from the shrine. In their majority, they can be described as miracles of justice, by which the saint punishes the reckless behaviour of greedy individuals, or intervenes to protect their victims. Menas appears on horseback and rescues people from murder and rape, he punishes greedy worshippers who neglect to fulfil their vows, or who dare to commit perjury at the saint’s tomb. The focus of the miracles on the punishment of crimes and greed is reminiscent of the Miracles of Theodore the Recruit (E04625).
The text particularly attentive to the donations made to the shrine after each miracle, and provides some information about the structure of the shrine as an institution. The main clerics of the shrine are the archipresbyteros (chief presbyter) and the oikonomos (steward, managing priest), and there is a host of individuals, both male and female, who live permanently at the shrine, offering their services in various ways. In Miracles 9 and 13, we find that the shrine owned camels and pigs, and some of its members served as herdsmen. It appears that these resident servants of the shrine had some kind of monastic status, since, in miracle 12, we read that one such person was ‘tonsured’ when he was dedicated at the shrine.
The text also contains references to the architectural formation of the shrine, such the crypt (katabasis), sarcophagus, and ciborium where the saint’s remains rested.
One of the most interesting features in this collection is the saint’s appearance in his interventions. When Menas performs his miracles, he is always on horseback, followed by a large entourage, and, in most cases, he does not appear in dreams, but in living reality, and his interventions seem to imply a physical presence. It must have been stories like these that triggered a lively theoretical discussion in the 6th century with regard to the nature of visions, and whether the saints’ souls were actively present in them. The problem of visions of saints on horseback is explicitly discussed by Eustratius of Constantinople, but he does not mention the miracles of Menas among his hagiographic sources (E04192).
Pomialovskii, I., Житие преподобного Паисия Великого и Тимофея патриарха Александрийского повествование о чудесах св. великомученика Мины (St Petersburg, 1900), 61-89.
Delehaye, H., "Les recueils antiques de miracles des saints," Analecta Bollandiana 43 (1925), 5-85, 305-325.
Efthymiadis, S., "Collections of Miracles (Fifth-Fifteenth Centuries)," in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography II: Genres and Contexts (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), 106.