Temple Gallery

Established 1959

Saints Cosmas and Damian - exhibited at the Temple Gallery, specialists in Russian icons

[ Click on the above image for a full screen view ]

YY028. Saints Cosmas and Damian

Mid 17th century
22.1 x 18.2 cmClick here to convert metric size to imperial

Provenance:  Temple Gallery 2003, P080

Private Collection, New York

£4,500Click here to convert price to USD or EUR

[ Click on any image for a larger view ]   Switch to full-screen mode

Early Christian physicians and martyrs whose feast is celebrated on 27 September. They were twins, born in Arabia, and practised the art of healing in the seaport Ægea, now Ayash (Ajass), on the Gulf of Iskanderun in Cilicia, Asia Minor, and attained a great reputation. They accepted no money for their services and were, therefore, called anargyroi, "the silverless". When persecution under Diocletian began, the Prefect Lysias had Cosmas and Damian arrested, and ordered them to recant however, they remained constant under torture

The veneration of Cosmas and Damian quickly spread beyond Constantinople; accounts of their martyrdom were rewritten by various authors such as Andrew of Crete, Peter of Argos, Theodore II Laskaris, and a certain Maximus around 1300. The legends are preserved also in Syriac, Coptic, Georgian, Armenian, and Latin.

As early as the 4th century, churches dedicated to the twin saints were established at Jerusalem, in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. Devotion to the two saints spread rapidly in both East and West. Theodoret records the division of their reputed relics. Their relics, deemed miraculous, were buried in the city of Cyrus in Syria. Churches were built in their honour by Archbishop Proclus and by Emperor Justinian I (527–565), who sumptuously restored the city of Cyrus and dedicated it to the twins, but brought their purported relics to Constantinople; there, following his cure, ascribed to the intercession of Cosmas and Damian, Justinian, in gratitude also built and adorned their church at Constantinople.

In Rome Pope Felix IV (526-530) built a church in their honour that still stands today, the mosaics of which are highly important.