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E07113: Sophronius of Jerusalem, in his Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John, recounts how *Kyros and Ioannes/Cyrus and John (physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt, S00406) healed a certain Photeinos from blindness at their shrine at Menouthis (near Alexandria, Lower Egypt), involving in the cure a follower of the doctrine of fatality; the latter commemorated the event by setting up images at the shrine of Christ, *John the Baptist (S00020) and Saint Kyros. Sophronius also mentions a church in Alexandria dedicated to the *Three Children (presumably the Three Hebrew Youths of the Old Testament Book of Daniel, S01198). Written in Greek in Alexandria, 610/615.

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posted on 2018-11-16, 00:00 authored by julia
Sophronius of Jerusalem, The Miracles of Saints Cyrus and John, 28


There was a certain aristocrat by the name of Nemesion, a very dignified and rich man who held the honorary office of prefect (apo eparchon). He was also very well educated in pagan doctrines and used his vast knowledge to speak against God and the gospels. He fought with the possibility of the providence of God over all his creatures, arguing that both God and human lives depend on the stars and their movements. However, he claimed to be a Christian, even though he foolishly followed those who proclaim fatality, the power of fate (heimarmene). Yet he was justly punished for his sins, since he lost sight in the eyes with which he impiously observed the sky and the stars, forgetting his baptism and that which he promised Christ. He did not realise the cause of his misery and visited elite physicians and was quick to pay lavish wedges to obtain healing. But despite spending a lot money for the treatment, he remained blind. As a matter of fact, he did not really have to do any of this, as he shamelessly followed the doctrine of fatality and taught that it determines all thing and announces all events. He should rather have resorted to the observation of the stars' movements to see if they predicted healing for him and ordained it.

Yet he spent a lot of time and money on medical treatment, but without any effect. So he decided to go to the martyrs Kyros and Iohannes, probably thinking that they would be executors of the decrees of fate. He thus arrived at their sanctuary and asked for both the restoration of his sight and the completion of the decree of fate, since he wanted to credit it for his healing instead of the martyrs. The martyrs, however, did nothing of what Nemesion wished for, but wanted to strike the fool and show him his impiety.

There was a certain Photeinos, a man from a very modest milieu, who sold fruit in front of the sanctuary (neos) of the Three Children [in Alexandria]. He also lost his sight and frequented at the same time the shrine of the martyrs, hoping to obtain healing from them. The martyrs appeared to him in a dream and told him to find Nemesios and put his hand on the latter's eyes in order to regain his own sight. Photeinos, however, was afraid of doing this as he knew Nemesios' rank and riches. Yet when he was two or three times reprimanded by the saints for not executing their order, he decided to recount his vision to the audience in the sanctuary. These people went to find the advocate Kyros, who was a good Christian and a frequenter of the shrine, and told him about the apparitions seen by Photeinos. Kyros immediately went to find Nemesios, revealed the order of the martyrs to him and persuaded him to execute it. Thus Nemesios went and placed himself in front of the martyrs' tomb. He prayed for a long time and then, bursting into tears, he touched the tomb with the relics (he soros ton leipsamenon) and the probe (he mele) of the saints. Then he put Photeinos' hands on his own eyes, since he was there as well. The latter regained his sight as soon as his hands touched Nemesios' eyes. It stimulated everybody present including Nemesios to cry, whose tears were nevertheless useless, since he did not change his opinions.

Photeinos offered thanks to God and the martyrs and went away very happy.

Νεμεσίων δὲ τάχα μὴ βλαβεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θαύματος, μέρος τι τοῦ τοίχου πλησίον τοῦ μνήματος μαρμάροις ἐκόσμησεν, Χριστὸν ἐν ταύταις καὶ Ἰωάννην τὸν Βαπτιστήν τε καὶ πρόδρομον καὶ Κῦρον τυπώσας τὸν μάρτυρα, καὶ ἑαυτὸν τὴν ἐπὶ τούτῳ χάριν κηρύττοντα.

'Whereas Nemesios, probably unaffected by the miracle, decorated with marbles a part of the wall near the tomb. He depicted on them Christ, John the Baptist and Forerunner, and Kyros the martyr, as well as himself as a herald of their grace.'

Text: Fernández Marcos 1976, lightly modified in the light of Gascou 2007. Summary and translation: J. Doroszewska.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Three Hebrew Youths of the Old Testament Book of Daniel : S01198 Kyros and Ioannes/Cyrus and John, physician and soldier, martyrs of Egypt : S00406 John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source

οἱ ἅγιοι τρεῖς παῖδες Κῦρος καὶ Ἰωάννης Ἰωάννης βαπτιστής καί πρόδρομος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Alexandria Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of miracles

Cult Activities - Miracles

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

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Sophronius (c. 560-c. 637) was born to a Chalcedonian family in Damascus, and was probably familiar with both Greek and Syriac culture. He was educated as a teacher of rhetoric, but in c. 580 became an ascetic while in Egypt, and entered the monastery of St. Theodosios near Bethlehem. He travelled widely to monastic centres in Egypt, the Near East, Aegean, and North Africa, accompanying his friend, the monk and writer John Moschus, who dedicated to him his treatise on the religious life, the Spiritual Meadow (Leimon pneumatikos). In 633-634, Sophronius travelled to Alexandria and to Constantinople in order to persuade the patriarchs to renounce Monoenergism. In 634, he was elected patriarch of Jerusalem. He is venerated as a saint in the catholic and orthodox churches; in the Byzantine rite he shares with John Moschus a feast day on 11 March. He died in Jerusalem in about 637. His extant doctrinal writings include a Letter to Arcadius of Cyprus and the Synodical Letter against Monenergism. Other works have also been preserved, such as an encomium on the Alexandrian martyrs Cyrus and John (in gratitude for healing his vision), The Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John, a collection of 23 Anacreontic poems, and several patriarchal sermons on such themes as the Muslim siege of Jerusalem and on various liturgical celebrations. The Miracles of the Saints Cyrus and John comprise 70 stories; this number, as explained by the author in the Preface, consists either of 7 decades or 10 heptades, both of which refer to biblical and pagan (Pythagorean) arithmetic, where 7 is a mystic number and 10 is a perfect number. References to the number 7 and its multiple (14) recurs in the work several times (Miracles 5, 15, 23, 39, 43; Gascou 2006: 11 with notes). The significance of other numbers has also been noted: for the number 3, see Fernández Marcos 1975: 42, n. 15; for the number 67 (Miracle 1), see Nissen 1939: 377, n. 2.  All 70 stories concern miraculous healings performed by the two martyrs, considered saints of the first rank by Sophronius (Miracle 29), in their sanctuary at Menouthis, near Alexandria. The first 35 miracles concern Alexandrians, the next 15 Egyptians and Libyans, mostly of the Alexandrian region, and the last 20 foreigners of whom some were settled in Alexandria. Sophronius wanted to flatter in this way the self-esteem of the Alexandrians who were the possessors of the saints' relics. He also argued that the miracles of Alexandria were particularly credible, since they delivered plenty of verifiable facts. For the same reason, the miracles selected by him were limited to those of his own times and concerned persons who were still alive and could testify to the events. Sophronius seems also to have had at his disposal earlier and parallel collections. A powerful feature of the miracle stories is a disdain for secular doctors, but not medicine per se, who are seen as ineffective in comparison to the power of the saintly healing of Cyrus and John. The collection is also notable for Sophronius’ polemic against Miaphysites, who evidently attended the shrine. The most recent edition of Sophronius' text is Fernandez Marcos 1976, but Gascou in his translation of 2007 includes several textual emendations which we have followed when they occur.


The names in this story are symbolic. That of Nemesios alludes to the star of Nemesis which was the name of Saturn/Kronos in late-antique Egypt. Photeinos is formed from the word photisma which brings associations with baptismal illumination. The account is a polemic against the doctrine of predestination and astral determinism, as well as against astrology and the horoscopes that existed in Egypt of that time, penetrating the upper strata of the Christian community in Alexandria (see Gascou 2006: 92, n. 528 for references to discussion on this issue). The probe (mele) of the martyrs is a probe in the medical sense, which had various forms; here apparently it refers to an ophthalmological probe (Gascou 2006: 96, n. 551).


Text: Fernández Marcos, N., Los thaumata de Sofronio. Contribución al estudio de la "Incubatio" cristiana, Manuales y anejos de "Emérita" 31 (Madrid, 1975), 243-400. Translations: Gascou, J., Sophrone de Jérusalem, Miracles des saints Cyr et Jean (BHGI 477-479) (Paris, 2006). French translation and commentary. Peltier, D., "Sophrone de Jérusalem, Récit des miracles des saints Cyr et Jean" (unpublished dissertation; Paris 1978). Further reading: Duffy, J., “Observations on Sophronius' Miracles of Cyrus and John,” Journal of Theological Studies 35 (1984), 71-90. Duffy, J., “The Miracles of Cyrus and John: New Old Readings from the Manuscript,” Illinois Classical Studies 12:1 (1987), 169-177. Gascou, J., “Religion et identité communautaire à Alexandrie à la fin de l'époque byzantine, d'après les Miracles des saints Cyr et Jean,” in: J.-Y. Empereur and C. Décobert (eds.), Alexandrie médiévale, 3 (Cairo, 2008), 69-88. Gascou, J., Les origines du culte des saints Cyr et Jean (2006); online document: Le Coz, R., “Les Pères de l'Eglise grecque et la médecine,” Bulletin de Littérature Ecclésiastique 98 (1997), 137-154. Maraval, P., “Fonction pédagogique de la littérature hagiographique d'un lieu de pèlerinage: l'exemple des Miracles de Cyr et Jean,” in: Hagiographie, culture et sociétés (IVe-XIIe siècles), Actes du Colloque organisé à Nanterre et à Paris (2-5 mai 1979) (Paris, 1981), 383-397. Nissen, T., “Sophronios-Studien III, Medizin und Magie bei Sophronios,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 39 (1939), 349–81. Papaconstantinou, A., Le culte des saints en Égypte des Byzantins aux Abbassides. L'apport des inscriptions et des papyrus grecs et coptes (Paris, 2001). Sansterre, J.-M., "Apparitions et miracles à Ménouthis: de l'incubation païenne à l'incubation chrétienne," in E. Dierkens (ed.), Apparitions et miracles (Brussels, 1991), 69-83. Schönborn, C., Sophrone de Jérusalem. Vie monastique et confession dogmatique (Paris, 1972). Wipszycka, E., “Les confréries dans la vie religieuse de l'Egypte chrétienne,” in: E. Wipszycka, Études sur le christianisme dans l'Égypte de l'antiquité tardive (Rome, 1996), 257-278.

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