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E02298: John Chrysostom delivers a homily On the Cemetery and the Cross during a Good Friday service held at the Antiochene extramural shrine (martyrion) and cemetery, known as the Koimeterion. The service is held there, because the site has more graves than the other martyria of Antioch. Written in Greek at Antioch (Syria), 386/397.

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posted on 2017-02-01, 00:00 authored by erizos
John Chrysostom, On the Cemetery and the Cross (CPG 4337, BHG 434e)

Καὶ εἰς τὸν σταυρὸν τοῦ Κυρίου καὶ Θεοῦ καὶ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

'On the name of the Cemetery and on the Cross of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

αʹ. Πολλάκις ἐζήτησα πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν, τίνος ἕνεκεν οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν τοὺς οἴκους τοὺς εὐκτηρίους τοὺς ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι παραδραμόντες, ἔξω τῆς πόλεως ἡμᾶς σήμερον καὶ ἐνταῦθα ἐκκλησιάζειν ἐνομοθέτησαν· οὐ γὰρ ἁπλῶς, οὐδὲ εἰκῆ μοι δοκοῦσι τοῦτο πεποιηκέναι. Διὸ καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν ἐζήτησα, καὶ εὗρον τῇ τοῦ Θεοῦ χάριτι δικαίαν οὖσαν καὶ εὔλογον, καὶ τῇ παρούσῃ πρέπουσαν ἑορτῇ. Τίς οὖν ἐστιν ἡ αἰτία; Σταυροῦ μνείαν ἐπιτελοῦμεν· ὁ δὲ σταυρωθεὶς ἔξω τῆς πόλεως ἐσταυρώθη· διὰ τοῦτο ἔξω τῆς πόλεως ἡμᾶς ἤγαγον. Τῷ γὰρ ποιμένι, φησὶν, ἀκολουθεῖ τὰ πρόβατα· ἔνθα ὁ βασιλεὺς, ἐκεῖ καὶ οἱ στρατιῶται· καὶ ὅπου τὸ πτῶμα, ἐκεῖ καὶ οἱ ἀετοί. Ἀλλ’ ἔξω μὲν τῆς πόλεως διὰ τοῦτο· [.......] Τίνος δὲ ἕνεκεν ἐν τῷ μαρτυρίῳ τούτῳ, καὶ οὐχὶ ἐν ἑτέρῳ; Καὶ γὰρ τῇ τοῦ Θεοῦ χάριτι ἐξ ἑκάστης πλευρᾶς ἡ πόλις ἡμῖν τοῖς λειψάνοις τῶν ἁγίων τειχίζεται. Τίνος οὖν ἕνεκεν ἐνταῦθα, καὶ οὐκ ἐν ἄλλῳ μαρτυρίῳ συνάγεσθαι ἡμᾶς ἐκέλευσαν οἱ πατέρες; Ὅτι ἐνταῦθα τῶν νεκρῶν κεῖται πλῆθος. Ἐπεὶ οὖν σήμερον Ἰησοῦς πρὸς τοὺς νεκροὺς κατέβη, διὰ τοῦτο ἐνταῦθα συλλεγόμεθα. Διὰ τοῦτο καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ τόπος κοιμητήριον ὠνόμασται, ἵνα μάθῃς ὅτι οἱ τετελευτηκότες καὶ ἐνταῦθα κείμενοι οὐ τεθνήκασιν, ἀλλὰ κοιμῶνται καὶ καθεύδουσι.

‘I have several times asked myself why our fathers, bypassing the prayer houses which are within the cities, established that today we should hold church outside the city, at this place – for I do not believe that they did this in a meaningless or random way. I have therefore investigated the reason and, by the grace of God, have found it to be just and plausible and fitting with the present celebration. What is, then, the reason? We are celebrating the memory of the Cross, and the Crucifix was crucified outside the city, hence they brought us outside the city: for, it says, the sheep follow their shepherd; where the king is, there are also the soldiers; where there is a carcass, there the vultures gather [Matthew 24.28]. So this is the reason why we are outside the city. [.......] Now, for what reason do we gather at this shrine (martyrion) and not at another one? For, by the grace of God, our city is walled by the relics of the saints on each one of its sides. For what reason, then, did our fathers order us to assemble here and not at another shrine (martyrion)? Because here lies a multitude of dead people. Therefore, since Jesus descended to the dead today, for that reason we gather here. For this reason has this place been called koimeterion (= ‘dormitory’), so that you may learn that the deceased lying here have not died, but are asleep and resting. […]'

There follows an explanation of why death after Christ is no death, but sleep, and the sermon proceeds to the subject of the Crucifixion.

Text: Migne 1859. Translation: Efthymios Rizos..


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes

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

Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Major author/Major anonymous work

John Chrysostom

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Other liturgical acts and ceremonies

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Crowds


John of Antioch, bishop of Constantinople, who came to be known as Chrysostom (the Golden Mouth), was born in 344/354 in Antioch on the Orontes where he studied under Libanius. He joined the Nicene Christian community of Antioch, led by bishop Meletios of Antioch, and was ordained priest by Meletios’ successor, Flavianos in 386. Acquiring a great reputation as a preacher, John was appointed as bishop of Constantinople in 397. Clashing with the bishop of Alexandria Theophilos and the empress Eudoxia in 403/404, Chrysostom was deposed and banished to Cucusus in Cappadocia and died in Comana of Pontus in 407. The text is known from 16 manuscripts: (accessed 21/06/2017)


This passage is the earliest attestation of the custom of celebrating the Good Friday service of the Passion of Christ at shrines in the cemeteries. Chrysostom refers to it as a general rather than local practice, but he informs us that the Church of Antioch had the custom of holding the Good Friday service at one particular shrine of the several surrounding the city. This was the so-called Koimeterion, the most ancient Christian cemetery of the city, which is known to have contained several burials of martyrs and a large number of Christian graves. The origins of the Antiochene Koimeterion very probably went back to the pre-Constantian period, and at least to the 3rd century.


Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologiae cursus completus: Series Graeca 49 (Paris, 1859), 393-398. Further reading: Downey, G., Ancient Antioch (Princeton, 1961). Drobner, H.R., The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 327-337. Kelly, J.N.D., Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom. Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995). Mayer, W., and Allen, P., The Churches of Syrian Antioch (300‒638 CE) (Late Antique History and Religion 5; Leuven: Peeters, 2012), 85-89.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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