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E01343: The short recension of the Greek Martyrdom of *Demetrios (martyr of Thessalonike, S00761), of the late 5th or the 6th c., recounts his martyrdom, first miracles, and the foundation of his shrine in Thessalonike (south Balkans/Greece). Written in Thessalonike.

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posted on 2016-05-04, 00:00 authored by erizos
Martyrdom of Demetrios of Thessalonike (Passio Prima; BHG 496)


(1) Under Maximian, Demetrios lives in Thessalonike (2) and is arrested for converting many to Christianity. (3) Demetrios is presented to the emperor, during a festival of gladiatorial games. Maximian, (4) busy with the games, orders him to be kept in a bath nearby. The emperor’s favourite gladiator, Lyaios, participates in the games, and a reward is offered to anyone that comes to fight with him. (5) The young man Nestor demands to fight. The emperor tries to discourage him, proposes that he take the money and go. (6) Nestor fights and immediately kills Lyaios. (7) Maximian is enraged and leaves without paying Nestor the reward. His people convince him that this was the result of magic performed by Demetrios, and the emperor orders his execution. Demetrios is killed in his prison cell within the bath by soldiers who pierce him with their spears. He is buried on the spot by local Christians. (8) Miracles happen, and, many years later, a Praetorian Prefect of Illyricum, Leontios, is cured there and builds the basilica.

The sections concerning the relics, miracles, and the foundation of the basilica read as follows:

7. (……) Τὸ δὲ πανάγιον αὐτοῦ λείψανον καταφρονηθὲν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνῃρηκότων οἱ τῶν τότε ἀδελφῶν εὐλαβέστεροι ἄνδρες, λαβόντες νυκτός, ὥστε διαλαθεῖν, ἐν αὐτοῖς οἷς ἔρριπτο χώμασι διαμησάμενοι τῆς γῆς ὅσον οἷον τε ἦν, ἔκρυψαν, ἵνα μὴ παρά τινος τῶν αἱμοβόρων ζῴων ὑπομείνῃ βλάβην. Οὐδενὶ δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα διὰ φροντίδος ἐγένετο μετενέγκαι τὸ σωμάτιον τοῦ μακαρίου, ἀλλ’ ἔμενεν ἐπὶ σχήματος.

8. Ἐκ δὲ τῶν ὑπὲρ λόγον ἐν τῷ τόπῳ γινομένων δυνάμεων ἰάσεών τε καὶ χαρισμάτων τοῖς μετὰ πίστεως ἐπικαλουμένοις περιβοήτου γενομένης τῆς ἐνεργείας τοῦ μάρτυρος, Λεόντιος ὁ θεοφιλέστατος ἀνὴρ κατακοσμῶν τὸν τῆς ἐπαρχότητος κατὰ τὸ Ἰλλυρικὸν θρόνον, τῆν περιέχουσαν τὸ πανάγιον λείψανον οἰκίαν ἐπὶ μικροῦ πάνυ τοῦ σχήματος ὑπάρχουσαν καὶ φορυτοῖς περικεχωσμένην καὶ στενουμένην ὑπὸ τῶν περιβόλων τοῦ δημοσίου λουτροῦ καὶ τοῦ σταδίου περιελὼν καὶ περικαθάρας χωρίοις τε εὐρυτέροις ἐμπλατύνας, ἀνήγειρε τὸν εὐκτήριον οἶκον, τῇ Θεσσαλονικέων πόλει οἰκεῖον μάρτυρα καὶ πολίτην λαμπροτέραις τοῦ ναοῦ κατασκευαῖς εἰς ἐτοιμοτέραν εὐηκοΐαν αὐτὸν ἐπαγόμενος, ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, μεθ’ οὗ τῷ πατρὶ σὺν ἁγίῳ πνεύματι δόξα, τιμή, κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.

'7. (……) As for his most holy relic (πανάγιον αὐτοῦ λείψανον), which was disdained by his murderers, the most pious of our brethren at that time took it during the night, so as to escape notice, and buried it, covering it with earth, as much as they could, in the same ground where it had been thrown, so that it might not suffer damage by sanguivorous beasts. After that, no one cared to move the poor body of the blessed one, but it remained on the spot.

8. Because of the ineffable miracles, cures and graces granted to those invoking with faith, the power of the martyr became famous, and Leontios, a man most dear to God, who graced the throne of the Prefecture of Illyricum, demolished the house containing the most holy relic, which was very small, buried in debris, and cramped between the precinct walls of the public bath and the stadium, he cleared the site all around, expanding it with more spacious grounds, and built the house of prayer. By the grander construction of the temple, he presented to the city of Thessalonike its own martyr and citizen, now readier to receive prayers – in Christ Jesus, our Lord, with Whom glory, honour, and power be to the Father and the Holy Spirit, to the ages of ages.'

Text: Delehaye 1909. Summary and Translation: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Demetrios, martyr in Thessalonike, ob. 304-311 : S00761

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Balkans including Greece

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Thessalonike Drizypera Δριζύπερα Drizypera Büyük Karıştıran

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives


Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Construction of cult building to contain relics


The short recension of the Martyrdom of Demetrios of Thessalonike (known as passio prima) is preserved in 16 manuscripts, dating from the 8th/9th to the 13th centuries, on which, see: Text edition: Delehaye 1909, 259-263.


The short version of the Martyrdom of Demetrios of Thessalonike is probably the earlier version of the the text which is our main source for the establishment and development of one of the most important martyr cults of Thessalonike and the Balkan area. For a full discussion of the texts and the cult, see E01344.


Text: Delehaye, H., Les légendes grecques des saints militaires (Paris: Picard, 1909), 259-263.

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