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Statuary St. Cosmas and Damian

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St. Cosmas and Damian

Sts Cosmas & Damian, born in Cilicia, Turkey, were twin brothers, physicians, and early Christian martyrs. They practiced their profession in the seaport of Ayas, Adana then in the Roman province of Syria, accepting no payment for their services. They are the patrons for physicians, surgeons, dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians and day-care centers.


During the persecution under Diocletian, Cosmas and Damian were arrested by order of the Prefect of Cilicia, one Lysias who is otherwise unknown, who ordered them under torture to recant. However, according to legend they stayed true to their faith, enduring being hung on a cross, stoned and shot by arrows and finally suffered execution by beheading. Anthimus, Leontius and Euprepius their younger brothers, who were inseparable from them throughout life, shared in their martyrdom.

Their most famous miraculous exploit was the grafting of a leg from a recently deceased Ethiopian to replace a patient's ulcered leg, and was the subject of many paintings and illuminations.


As early as the 4th century, churches dedicated to the twin saints were established at Jerusalem, in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. Theodoret records the division of their relics. Their relics, deemed miraculous, were buried in the city of Cyrrus in Syria. Churches were built in their honor 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 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, and it became a celebrated place of pilgrimage. At Rome Pope Felix IV (526–530) rededicated the Library of Peace (Bibliotheca Pacis) as a basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano in the Forum of Vespasian in their honour. The church is much rebuilt but still famed for its sixth-century mosaics illustrating the saints.

What are said to be their skulls are venerated in the convent of the Clares in Madrid, where they have been since 1581, the gift of Maria, daughter of Emperor Charles V. They had previously been removed from Rome to Bremen in the tenth century, and thence to Bamberg (Matthews). Other skulls said to be theirs have been discovered at Easter 1334 by Burchard Grelle, Archbishop of Bremen. He "personally 'miraculously' retrieved the relics of the holy physicians Cosmas and Damian, which were allegedly immured and forgotten in the quire of the Bremen Cathedral. In celebration of the retrieval Archbishop and Chapter arranged a feast at Pentecost 1335, when the relics were translated from the wall to a more dignified place." (For the original quotation see the note) Grelle claimed the relics were those Archbishop Adaldag brought from Rome in 965. In about 1400 the cathedral master-builder Johann Hemeling commissioned a shrine for the relics, which has been accomplished until after 1420. The shrine from carved oak wood covered with gilt rolled silver is considered an important mediaeval gold work. In 1649 Bremen's Chapter, meanwhile Lutheran, sold the shrine without the heads to Maximilian I of Bavaria. The Heads remains in Bremen, why in Munich they have had two heads from Bamberg and Emnporer Heinrich. The two heads remained in Bremen and came in the possession of the small catholic community. They have been shown last time from 1934 to 1968 in the Church of St. Johann and buried 1994 under the bottom of the crypt. (Wilhelm Tacke: St. Johann in Bremen - erine 600jahrige Geschichte - von den Bettelbrudern bis zu den Propsten, Bremen 2006, S. 172ff.) It is now shown in the Jesuit church of St Michael in Munich. At least since 1413 another pair of skulls is stored in St Stephens's Cathedral in Vienna. Other relics are claimed by the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice.

The martyr twins are invoked in the Canon of the Mass in the prayer known as the Communicantes (from the first Latin word of the prayer): "In communion with the whole Church, they venerate above all others the memory of the glorious ever-virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, then of blessed Joseph, husband of the Virgin, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Laurence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all your Saints: grant through their merits and prayers that in all things we may be defended by the help of your protection." They are also invoked in the Litany of the Saints, and in the older form of the Roman rite, in the Collect for Thursday in the Third Week of Lent, as the station church for this day is Santi Cosma e Damiano.

Their feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, which had been on September 27, was moved in 1969 to September 26, because September 27 is the dies natalis ("day of birth" into Heaven) of Saint Vincent de Paul, now more widely venerated in the Latin Church, but some traditionalist Catholics continue to observe the pre-1970 calendar.

Sts Cosmas and Damian are regarded as the patrons of physicians and surgeons and are sometimes represented with medical emblems.

Sir William Hamilton (1730–1803) reported that, among the wax representations of body parts then presented as offerings to the two doctor saints at Isernia, near Naples, on their feast day, those of the penis were the most common. They were in fact venerated as patrons of "young girls anxious for a husband, and married women desirous of children."

In Brazil, the twin saints are regarded as protectors of children, and September 27 is commemorated, especially in Rio de Janeiro, by giving children bags of candy with the saints' effigy printed on them and throughout the entire state of Bahia where Catholics and adepts of Candomble religion offer typical food such as caruru. The ritual consists of first offering the food to seven children that are no older than seven years old and have them feast while sitting on the floor and eat with their hands. Only after all children have finished can the guests enjoy the food that is being offered. The Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, in Igarassu, Pernambuco is Brazil's oldest church, built in 1535.

In the UK St Damian is the dexter side support of the arms of the British Dental Association.

Eastern Christianity

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, Saints Cosmas and Damian are venerated as a type of saint known as Unmercenary Physicians (Greek: ἀνάργυροι, anargyroi, "without money"). This classification of saints is unique to the Eastern Church and refers to those who heal purely out of love for God and man, strictly observing the command of Jesus: "Freely have you received, freely give." (Δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε... Matthew 10:8) While each of the Unmercenaries have their own feast days, all are commemorated together on the first Sunday in November, in a feast known as the Synaxis of the Unmercenary Physicians.

The Orthodox celebrate no less than three different sets of saints by the name of Cosmas and Damian, each with its own distinct feast day:

Saints Cosmas and Damian of Cilicia (Arabia) (October 17) Brothers, they were beaten and beheaded together with three other Christians: Leontius, Anthimus, and Eutropius.

Saints Cosmas and Damian of Asia Minor — alternately, of Mesopotamia (November 1) Twin sons of Saint Theodota. Died peacefully and were buried together at Thereman in Mesopotamia.

Saints Cosmas and Damian of Rome (July 1) Brothers, they were martyred outside Rome by a jealous pagan physician during the reign of the Roman Emperor Carinus (283–284).

Orthodox icons of the saints depict them vested as laymen holding medicine boxes. Often each will also hold a spoon with which to dispense medicine. The handle of the spoon is normally shaped like a cross to indicate the importance of spiritual as well as physical healing, and that all cures come from God.

In Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic, the Greek Orthodox Church is the Holy Anargyroi/Sts. Kosmas & Damianos Greek Orthodox Church.

Church of England

In the Church of England, dedications of churches to SS Cosmas and Damian are very rare:

Blean, Kent, church of St Cosmus and St Damian in the Blean;

Challock, Kent;

Keymer, Sussex, St Cosmas and St Damian Church, Keymer;

Sherrington, Wiltshire, church of St Cosmo and St Damian, in the Benefice of the Upper Wylye Valley;

Stretford, near Leominster, Herefordshire church is no longer in use and is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

The text in this box was generated from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the CC-BY-SA.

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