University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E04389: Procopius of Caesarea, in his On Buildings, reports that the emperor Justinian (r. 527-565), when seriously ill, was visited in a vision and miraculously healed by *Kosmas and Damianos (brothers, physician martyrs of Syria, S00385). In gratitude, the emperor embellished and enlarged the saints' church at the head of Constantinople's Golden Horn. Procopius also records that the shrine was visited by many seeking healing. Written in Greek at Constantinople, in the 550s.

online resource
posted on 2017-11-20, 00:00 authored by julia
Procopius, On Buildings, 1.6.5-8

Κατὰ δὲ τοῦ κόλπου τὸ πέρας ἔν τε τῷ ἀνάντει καὶ ἰσχυρῶς ὀρθίῳ τέμενος ἐκ παλαιοῦ Κοσμᾷ τε καὶ Δαμιανῷ ἁγίοις ἀνεῖται· οὗ δὴ αὐτόν ποτε νενοσηκότα πικρότατα καὶ δόκησιν παρεχόμενον ὅτι δὴ ἀποθάνοι, πρός τε τῶν ἰατρῶν ἀπολελειμμένον ἅτε δὴ ἐν νεκροῖς κείμενον, ἐς ὄψιν ἐλθόντες ἐσώσαντο οἱ ἅγιοι οὗτοι ἐκ τοῦ παραδόξου καὶ τοῦ παραλόγου καὶ ὀρθὸν ἔστησαν. 6 οὓς δὴ εὐγνωμοσύνῃ ἀμειβόμενος ὅσα γε τὰ ἀνθρώπεια, ὅλην ἐναλλάξας τε καὶ μετασκευασάμενος τὴν προτέραν οἰκοδομίαν ἄκοσμόν τε καὶ ἄδοξον οὖσαν οὐδὲ ἀξιόχρεων τηλίκοις ἁγίοις ἀνεῖσθαι, κάλλει τε καὶ μεγέθει τὸν νεὼν κατελάμπρυνε καὶ φωτὸς αἴγλῃ, ἄλλα τε πολλὰ οὐ πρότερον ὄντα ἀνέθηκεν. 7 ἐπειδάν τέ τινες ἀρρωστήμασιν ὁμιλήσαιεν ἰατρῶν κρείττοσιν, οἵδε τὴν ἀνθρωπείαν ἀπογνόντες ἐπικουρίαν ἐπὶ τὴν μόνην αὐτοῖς ὑπολελειμμένην ἐλπίδα χωροῦσι, καὶ γενόμενοι ἐν ταῖς βαρέσι πλέουσι διὰ τοῦ κόλπου ἐπὶ τοῦτον δὴ τὸν νεών. 8 ἀρχόμενοί τε τοῦ εἴσπλου εὐθὺς ὁρῶσιν ὥσπερ ἐν ἀκροπόλει τὸ τέμενος τοῦτο ἀποσεμνυνόμενόν τε τῇ τοῦ βασιλέως εὐγνωμοσύνῆ καὶ παρεχόμενον τῆς ἐντεῦθεν ἐλπίδος αὐτοῖς ἀπολαύειν.

'At the far end of the bay, on the ground which rises steeply in a sharp slope, stands a sanctuary (temenos) dedicated from ancient times to Saints Kosmas and Damianos. When the Emperor himself once lay seriously ill, giving the appearance of being actually dead (in fact he had been given up by the physicians as being already numbered among the dead), these Saints came to him here in a vision, and saved him unexpectedly and contrary to all human reason and raised him up. 6. In gratitude he gave them such requital as a mortal may, by changing entirely and remodelling the earlier building, which was unsightly and ignoble and not worthy to be dedicated to such powerful Saints, and he beautified and enlarged the church (neōs) and flooded it with brilliant light and added many other things which it had not before. 7. So when any persons find themselves assailed by illnesses which are beyond the control of physicians, in despair of human assistance they take refuge in the one hope left to them, and getting on flat-boats they are carried up the bay to this very church (neōs). 8 And as they enter its mouth they straightway see the shrine as on an acropolis, priding itself in the gratitude of the Emperor and permitting them to enjoy the hope which the shrine (temenos) affords.'

Text: Haury 1913. Translation: Dewing 1940.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Kosmas and Damianos, brothers, physician martyrs of Syria : S00385

Saint Name in Source

Κοσμᾶς καὶ Δαμιανός

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Other lay individuals/ people


Procopius of Caesarea, (c. 500 – c. 560/561 AD) was a soldier and historian from the Roman province of Palaestina Prima. He accompanied the Roman general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian (527-565). He wrote the Wars (or Histories), On Buildings and the Secret History. On Buildings is a panegyric in six books. It lists, and sometimes describes, the buildings erected or renovated by the emperor Justinian throughout the empire (only on Italy is there no information). The bulk of these are churches and shrines dedicated to various saints; the Buildings is therefore a very important text for the evidence it provides of the spread of saintly cults by the mid 6th c. On Buildings dates from the early 550s to c. 560/561; a terminus post quem is 550/551 as the text mentions the capture of Topirus in Thrace by the Slavs in 550 and describes the city walls of Chalkis in Syria built in 550/551; a probable terminus ante quem is 558 when the dome of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople collapsed, which is not mentioned in the book; or before 560 when the bridge on the river Sangarius was completed, as Procopius reports on the start of works. On Buildings thus belongs to the later years of Justinian’s reign. The work is not finished and is probably Procopius’ last work. It glorifies Justinian, depicting him as a great builder and an emperor restlessly transforming the state, expanding and reforming it, destroying paganism, extirpating heresy, and re-establishing the firm foundations of the Christian faith (Elsner 2007: 35). More on the text: Downey 1947; Elsner 2007; Greatrex 1994 and 2013. Overview of the text: Book 1. Constantinople and its suburbs Book 2. Frontier provinces of Mesopotamia and Syria. Book 3. Armenia, Tzanica, and the shores of the Black Sea. Book 4. Illyricum and Thrace (the Balkans). Book 5. Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine. Book 6. North Africa, from Alexandria to central Algeria.


The church of Kosmas and Damianos was situated on the shore of the Golden Horn near the district of Blachernae, outside the city wall, in the modern district of Eyüp in Istanbul. According to tradition (Patria of Constantinople 3.126), the church was first built by Paulinus, a fellow student of the emperor Theodosius II (r. 408-450), but it is uncertain whether this is true. There was a famous monastery attached to the church, known as the Kosmidion. Further reading: Janin 1969, 286-289.


Edition: Haury, J., Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia, vol. 4: Περι κτισματων libri VI sive de aedificiis (Leipzig: Teubner, 1962-64). Translations and Commentaries: Compagnoni, G.R., Procopio di Cesarea, Degli Edifici. Traduzione dal greco di G. Compagnoni (Milan: Tipi di Francesco Sonzogno, 1828). Dewing, H.B., Procopius, On Buildings. Translated into English by H.B. Dewing, vol. 7 (London: William Heinemann, New York: Macmillan, 1940). Grotowski, P.Ł., Prokopiusz z Cezarei, O Budowlach. Przełożył, wstępem, objaśnieniami i komentarzem opatrzył P.Ł. Grotowski (Warsaw: Proszynski i S-ka, 2006). Roques, D., Procope de Césarée. Constructions de Justinien Ier. Introduction, traduction, commentaire, cartes et index par D. Roques (Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2011). Veh, O., and Pülhorn, W. (eds.), Procopii opera. De Aedificiis. With a Commentary by W. Pülhorn (Munich: Heimeran, 1977). Further Reading: Downey, G.A., “The Composition of Procopius’ ‘De Aedificiis’," Transactions of the American Philological Association 78 (1947), 171-183. Elsner, J., “The Rhetoric of Buildings in De Aedificiis of Procopius”, in: L. James (ed.), Art and Text in Byzantine Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 33-57. Greatrex, G., “The Dates of Procopius’ Works,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 18 (1994), 101-14. Greatrex, G., “The Date of Procopius Buildings in the Light of Recent Scholarship,” Estudios bizantinos 1 (2013), 13-29. Janin, R., Constantinople byzantine: développement urbain et répertoire topographique (Paris: Institut français d'études byzantines, 1950). Janin, R. La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire Byzantin I 3: Les églises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople. 2nd ed. (Paris, 1969). Mango, C., Studies on Constantinople (Aldershot: Variorum, 1997 [repr. of 1993]). Van Millingen, A., Byzantine Churches in Constantinople: Their History and Architecture (London: Macmillan, 1912).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager