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E05351: The Life of *Theodoros (ascetic and abbot of Sykeon, ob. 613, S01619), by Eleusios-Georgios of Sykeon, mentions the production of images of *Theodoros of Sykeon (abbot of Sykeon and bishop of Anastasiopolis, ob. 613, S01619), while he was alive. Written in Greek at Sykeon (central Asia Minor), in the 640s.

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posted on 2018-04-19, 00:00 authored by erizos
Georgios of Sykeon, Life of Theodoros, abbot of Sykeon and bishop of Anastasiopolis (CPG 7973 = BHG 1748)

The priest Solomon from Iouliopolis and his wife, suffering under the influence of a demon, seek the help of Theodoros.

103. 4-7. Καὶ λαμβάνοντες τὴν εὐχὴν αὐτοῦ καθ’ ἡμέραν ἐν βραχεῖ καιρῷ ἠλευθερώθησαν τῶν ἀκαθάρτων πνευμάτων, ὡς ἐκ τούτου ζωγραφίαν αὐτοῦ ποιῆσαι ἐν τῷ προσευκτηρίῳ τοῦ ναοῦ τοῦ Ἀρχαγγέλου, ὅπου ἐκάθευδεν.

‘(…) Thus receiving his blessing every day, they were delivered from the impure spirits within a brief period of time. On account of that, he made a drawing of him at the prayer room of the church of the Archangel, where he had been sleeping.’

During his second visit to Constantinople (609-610), Theodoros stays at the monastery of the Romans at the Petrion, where he performs his customary winter reclusion and performs a number of miracles.

139. Ὅθεν καὶ οἱ τῆς μονῆς πάντες ἅμα τῷ θεοφιλεστάτῳ αὐτῶν ἡγουμένῳ Χριστοφόρῳ, πολλῇ τῇ πίστει πρὸς αὐτὸν διακείμενοι, ἐπόθησαν τὸ ὁμοίωμα τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ λαβεῖν καὶ στῆσαι αὐτὸ ἐν τῇ μονῇ αὐτῶν, μνήμης αὐτοῦ διηνεκοῦς χάριν ἐπὶ οἰκείᾳ αὐτῶν εὐλογία. Καὶ καλέσαντες ζωγράφον, ἐποίησαν αὐτὸν διὰ ὀπῆς μικρᾶς θεωρεῖν τὸν ὅσιον, ἵνα σημειούμενος τὸ εἶδος τοῦ προσώπου δυνηθῇ καθ’ ὁμοίωσιν γράψαι αὐτόν· ὃ καὶ ἀπετελέσθη κατὰ τὴν πίστιν αὐτῶν, καλὸν αὐτοῦ ὁμοίωμα γράψαντος αὐτοῦ. Προτοῦ οὖν ἀπολῦσαι αὐτόν, ἐποίησαν αὐτὸν εἰσελθεῖν καὶ εὐλογηθῆναι τὸ ὁμοίωμα αὐτοῦ παρ’ αὐτοῦ. Αὐτὸς δὲ σεμνὸν αὐτῷ προσμειδιάσας ἔλεγεν· «σὺ παγκλέπτης εἶ· καὶ τί ποιεῖς ὧδε, εἰ μὴ ἵνα τίποτε κλέψῃς;» Καὶ εὐλογήσας αὐτὸ ἀπέλυσε.

‘For these reasons, all the monks of the monastery together with their abbot Christophoros, most dear to God, on account of their great devotion to him, desired to acquire a portrait of his face and set it up at their monastery for the sake of remembering him perpetually and for their own blessing. They invited a painter and arranged for him to have a view of the holy man through a small hole, in order that he might paint him accurately, by recording the appearance of his face. And they achieved their purpose, according to their faith, for he produced a beautiful portrait of him. Now, before letting him go, they arranged for him to be received by Theodoros, and for the portrait to be blessed by him. He [Theodoros] smiled at him modestly and said: “You are a very cunning thief! So what are you up to here? Perhaps trying to steal something?” And he blessed it and released him.’

Text: Festugière 1970.
Translation: Efthymios Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Theodoros the Sykeote, ascetic and bishop of Anastasioupolis, early 7th c. : S01619

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Sykeon Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Commissioning/producing an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


The text is preserved in three manuscripts of the 10th and 11th centuries (Biblioteca Marciana 359; Patmos Monastery Library 254; Athens National Library 1014). The extant text is no earlier than the death of Heraclius in 641, since the author records the fulfilment of Theodoros’ prophecy about the emperor’s thirty-year reign (166. 30-36). The author, however, also tells us that he started composing the text shortly before Theodoros’ death in 613, when he was still a teenager (165). Indeed, in his first appearance in the narrative (2. 21-27), the author requests his audience’s prayers on account of his young age. The twenty chapters which refer to the childhood of Theodoros (3-22) form a separate section with its own epilogue (22) where the author states that he wrote this part as a form of special teaching for the young. This might suggest that the whole childhood section, or at least its epilogue, were composed, when the author was at an advanced age. This is also suggested by the fact that the author introduces himself and talks about his sources in both the epilogue of the childhood section (22), and the final epilogue (170).


The Life of Theodoros contains a number of references to the use of images in the devotion to the saints, thus offering some important attestations to practices and beliefs in the two centuries preceding Byzantine Iconoclasm. These two references to images of Theodoros produced by his devotees during his lifetime are interesting both for the fact that the holy man does not discourage their production, but also for the careful terminology used by the author of the text. Eleusios-Georgios defines religious icons by the word εἰκών (cf. 8.6; 39.4; E05350), and these portraits by the words ζωγραφία ('drawing') and ὁμοίωμα ('portrait'), suggesting that εἰκών had acquired a narrower association with religious paintings. The passage concerning the dedication of the priest Solomon also reveals that the church of the Archangel Michael, which was the part of the monastery of Sykeon where visitors and pilgrims were allowed to stay and sleep, had a separate ‘prayer room’ (προσευκτήριον) for them. The story of this dedication recalls a similar incident recounted in the Life of Daniel the Stylite (see E04560, ch. 59), where a priest dedicates a silver icon after being healed by the living holy man.


Text: Festugière, A.-J. Vie de Théodore de Sykéon. 2 vols. (Subsidia Hagiographica 48; Brussels, 1970), with French translation and commentary. Translation: Dawes, E., and Baynes, N.H., Three Byzantine Saints: Contemporary Biographies (London, 1948) (partial translation). Further reading: Brown, P.R.L., "The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity," Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971), 80-101. Kaplan, M., "Les sanctuaires de Théodore de Sykéôn," in : C. Jolivet-Lévy, M. Kaplan, and J.-P. Sodini (eds.), Les saints et leur sanctuaire à Byzance. Textes, images et monuments (Byzantina Sorbonensia 11; Paris, 1993), 81-94. Kaplan, M. Pouvoirs, église et sainteté. Essais sur la société byzantine (Classiques de la Sorbonne 3; Paris, 2011). Mitchell, S., Anatolia: Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor. Volume Ii: The Rise of the Church (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 122-150. Rosenquist, O., Studien zur Syntax und Bemerkungen zum Text der Vita Theodori Syceotae (Uppsala, 1981).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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