University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E02660: John Chrysostom delivers his homily After the Remains of the Martyrs during a festival for relics of unnamed martyrs brought to Constantinople in c. 400. Attended by the imperial couple, two days of festivities include a nocturnal candlelit procession to the shrine, and choirs singing Psalms; the empress Aelia Eudoxia accompanies and touches the reliquary; demons are driven away. Written in Greek at Constantinople.

online resource
posted on 2017-04-04, 00:00 authored by erizos
John Chrysostom, Homily After the Remains of the Martyrs (CPG 4441.01; BHG 1191p)

Τῆς βασιλίδος μέσων νυκτῶν εἰς μεγάλην ἐκκλησίαν προσελθούσης, κἀκεῖθεν τὰ λείψανα τῶν μαρτύρων ἀραμένης, καὶ προπεμψαμένης διὰ πάσης τῆς ἀγορᾶς ἕως Δρυπίας, τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἀπέχοντος θʹ σημεῖα τῆς πόλεως· ἐλέχθη ἐν τῷ μαρτυρίῳ ἡ προσομιλία, παρούσης αὐτῆς καὶ τῆς πόλεως πάσης καὶ τῶν ἀρχόντων.

‘After the empress had visited the Great Church in the middle of the night, thence taken the relics of the martyrs, and accompanied them through the whole marketplace to as far as Drypia – the shrine lying nine milestones from the city – this address was given at the shrine, in the presence of the empress herself, the whole city, and the magistrates.’

1. The festivities are attended by a great crowd of men and women of all ages, officials, and the empress herself. The empress has followed the coffin of the martyrs during the procession, frequently touching it. This coffin contains a spiritual power which drives away the demons. The spiritual grace of the saints is transmitted from their souls to their bodies and clothes.

αʹ. (…………) Καὶ τί δεῖ λέγειν γυναῖκας, ἢ ἄρχοντας, ὅπου καὶ αὐτὴ ἡ τὸ διάδημα περικειμένη καὶ τὴν πορφυρίδα περιβεβλημένη, παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἅπασαν οὐδὲ μικρὸν τῶν λειψάνων ἀποσχέσθαι ἠνέσχετο, ἀλλ’ ὥσπερ θεραπαινὶς παρηκολούθει τοῖς ἁγίοις, τῆς θήκης ἁπτομένη καὶ τῆς ὀθόνης τῆς ἐπικειμένης, καὶ πάντα τὸν ἀνθρώπινον καταπατοῦσα τῦφον, καὶ ἐν μέσῳ θεάτρῳ τοσούτῳ φαινομένη δήμῳ, ἣν οὐδὲ εὐνούχοις ἅπασι τοῖς ἐν ταῖς βασιλικαῖς στρεφομένοις αὐλαῖς θέμις ἰδεῖν; (………) ἐπεὶ καὶ αὕτη κιβωτὸν ἀνῆγε πολλῷ βελτίονα ἐκείνης τῆς τοῦ Δαυΐδ. Οὐ γὰρ πλάκας λιθίνας, ἀλλὰ πλάκας ἔχει πνευματικὰς, καὶ χάριν ἐπανθοῦσαν, καὶ δωρεὰν ἀποστίλβουσαν, καὶ ὀστᾶ αὐταῖς ἀντιλάμποντα ταῖς ἀκτῖσι· μᾶλλον δὲ λαμπροτέραν ἀφίενται ἀστραπήν. Ἀκτῖνα μὲν γὰρ βλέποντες ἡλιακὴν, οὐδὲν πάσχουσι δαίμονες· τὴν δὲ ἐντεῦθεν ἐκπηδῶσαν λαμπηδόνα μὴ φέροντες, ἀποτυφλοῦνται καὶ δραπετεύουσι καὶ ἐκ πολλοῦ φεύγουσι τοῦ διαστήματος· τοσαύτη καὶ τῆς τέφρας τῶν ἁγίων ἡ δύναμις, οὐκ ἔνδον ἐγκαθημένη μόνον ἐν τοῖς λειψάνοις, ἀλλὰ καὶ περαιτέρω προϊοῦσα καὶ τὰς ἀκαθάρτους ἀπελαύνουσα δυνάμεις, καὶ τοὺς μετὰ πίστεως προσιόντας μετὰ πολλῆς ἁγιάζουσα τῆς περιουσίας. Διά τοι τοῦτο καὶ ἡ φιλόχριστος αὕτη παρείπετο τοῖς λειψάνοις, συνεχῶς ἐφαπτομένη, καὶ τὴν εὐλογίαν ἐπισπωμένη, καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις πᾶσι διδάσκαλος γινομένη τῆς καλῆς ταύτης καὶ πνευματικῆς ἐμπορίας, καὶ διδάσκουσα πάντας ἀρύεσθαι ἀπὸ τῆς πηγῆς ταύτης τῆς ἀεὶ μὲν ἀντλουμένης, οὐδέποτε δὲ κενουμένης. Καθάπερ γὰρ τὰ νάματα τῶν πηγῶν βρύοντα, οὐκ εἴσω τῶν οἰκείων κόλπων κατέχεται, ἀλλ’ ὑπερβλύζει καὶ ὑπερχεῖται· οὕτω δὴ καὶ ἡ τοῦ Πνεύματος χάρις ἡ τοῖς ὀστέοις παρακαθημένη καὶ τοῖς ἁγίοις συνοικοῦσα, καὶ εἰς ἑτέρους πρόεισι τοὺς μετὰ πίστεως ἐφεπομένους αὐτῇ, καὶ ἀπὸ ψυχῆς εἰς σώματα, καὶ ἀπὸ σωμάτων εἰς ἱμάτια, καὶ ἀπὸ ἱματίων εἰς ὑποδήματα, καὶ ἀπὸ ὑποδημάτων εἰς σκιὰς ἐκτρέχει. (………) Οὕτω δὴ καὶ σήμερον γέγονε· τῶν γὰρ λειψάνων φερομένων, ἐμπρησμοὶ δαιμόνων, ὀλολυγαὶ καὶ κωκυτοὶ πανταχόθεν ᾔροντο, τῆς ἀκτῖνος τῶν ὀστῶν ἐκπηδώσης, καὶ τὴν φάλαγγα τῶν ἀντικειμένων κατακαιούσης δυνάμεων.

‘1. [………] Yet why should I speak of women or magistrates, when even she who wears the crown and is dressed in the purple did not suffer to be separated even a little from the relics along the entire journey, but followed the saints like a maid, touching the casket and the veil which covered it? Suppressing all human pride, she has allowed herself to be seen by so many people in the midst of the crowd – she whom not one of the eunuchs serving in the imperial courts is allowed to look at! […………] For she was accompanying an arc which was much better than David's. For it does not contain stone tablets, but spiritual tablets, a blooming grace, a resplendent gift, and bones reflecting the very rays of the sun. Or rather they release an even brighter flash of light – because demons suffer nothing, when they look at the rays of the sun, but, unable to bear the brilliance that bursts forth from here, they are blinded and flee and run far away. So great is the power even of the ashes of the saints that it does not rest just inside the remains, but it extends beyond them, drives away the impure powers, and sanctifies in its great bounty those who approach with faith. This is precisely the reason why this woman who loves Christ has followed the relics, constantly touching them, earning their blessing, and teaching everyone else about this beautiful and spiritual merchandise, instructing everyone to draw from this fount which is constantly drained, but never emptied. For, just as the waters that gush forth from the springs cannot be contained within their hollows, but well and flow over, even so does the grace of the Spirit abiding by these bones and dwelling with these saints extend to others who follow it with faith, and from the soul it flows into the bodies, and from the bodies to the clothes, and from the clothes to the shoes, and from the shoes it runs into the shadows. [………] This is what happened also today. For, while the relics were being conveyed, demons were being burned, cries of grief and shrieks went up everywhere, as the ray of the bones leapt forth and burned the phalanx of the adversary powers.’

2. The procession during the night was like a river or sea of fire, as the crowd walked carrying candles. The empress was more resplendent than the moon, since she was the only empress that has shown such a respect for the martyrs. She has provided a great exemplar for the people.

3. Posterity will remember the empress’ act, since she has acted as a hostess of saints and patron of the churches. She is comparable to Phoebe, Priscilla, and Miriam. She has provided for choirs to accompany the procession, singing the Psalms in Latin, Greek, Syriac, and other languages. She has arranged that her husband, the emperor, join the feast one day later, after her departure. This allows the festival to be extended by an extra day, and it is convenient, because the women attending will not be disturbed at the sight of the troops accompanying the emperor’. The sermon closes with wishes for the long and happy life of the imperial couple.

Text: Migne, PG 63, 467-472
Summary and translation: E. Rizos


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anaunian Martyrs (Sisinnius, Martyrius, Alexander), ob. c. 397 : S00605

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

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

Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

John Chrysostom

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous behaviour of relics/images Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Officials Soldiers Crowds

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Bodily relic - bones and teeth Bodily relic - corporeal ashes/dust Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Reliquary – institutionally owned Touching and kissing relics


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. This sermon is preserved in two manuscripts, on which see:


This sermon is one of the most interesting and colourful attestations of the impressive ceremonies organised in Constantinople for the reception of relics in the Theodosian period. The title of the text informs us that the venue of the homily was the shrine (martyrium) of the Apostle Thomas at Drypia, where the relics of unnamed martyrs were deposited. According to the title, the shrine, which is not mentioned elsewhere, was located in the Thracian countryside, nine miles west of Constantinople, perhaps in the area between the suburbs of Hebdomon and Rhegion. The identity of the imported martyrs is also unknown. They may have been the recent Italian martyrs of Anauni, *Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander, whose relics were sent to John Chrysostom by Vigilius, bishop of Tridentum (Trento), in 397/8 (E01086). Such an early date in the episcopate of John would be consistent with the fact that, in the sermon, the bishop’s relationship with the empress Eudoxia appears to be still cordial, without anything anticipating their bitter clash in 403/404. Indeed, the splendid celebration seems to have been the product of collaboration between John and the empress, both of whom apparently shared a taste for fine ceremonial and for the cult of the martyrs. During his episcopate, John introduced various innovations in the liturgical life of Constantinople, including impressive celebrations with torch-lit or sea-borne processions for the martyrs. The ecclesiastical historian Socrates (6.8) reports that nocturnal processions with antiphonal singing and candles were established by John, with the support of Eudoxia, in reaction to similar celebrations by the Arian community of the city. The festivities seem to have lasted for three days. The title reports that the ceremonies started at Saint Sophia, where the relics were probably first received and venerated upon their arrival at the city. Apparently after a night vigil, the relics are taken from the cathedral in a vast torch-lit procession, led by John, the empress, and various high officials, who follow on foot the carriage with the relics. After a journey of nine miles, the procession reaches the shrine, and there follow another two days of festivities, including services with choirs singing in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and other languages. On the first day, John delivers this enthusiastic homily, praising the empress for her humility and zeal, comparing her with King David when he escorted the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Obededom the Gittite to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:12–15), and with Phoebe and Priscilla of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 18:2, 26; Romans 16:1). It seems that Eudoxia and the women of the congregation left the shrine after the service of the first day, but Chrysostom and his clergy remained for a second day, in order to receive at the shrine the emperor Arcadius and his military retinue, after which he gave another sermon (see E02661).


Text: Migne, J.-P., Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca 63 (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1862), 467-472. Translation: Mayer, W., and Allen, P., John Chrysostom (The Early Church Fathers Series; London: Routledge, 2000), 85-92. Further reading: Barnes, T. D., and Bevan, G.A., The Funerary Speech for John Chrysostom (Translated Texts for Historians 60; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013), 29-30. 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).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager