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E07145: The Greek Life of *Ioannes/John Kalybites (ascetic in 5th or 6th century Constantinople, E02745) recounts the life of a child ascetic associated with the Sleepless Monks of Constantinople. It tells the edifying story of the son of a rich family, who returns and lives as an ascetic at his family home, recognised only just before his death. Written in Constantinople in the late 5th century or later.

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posted on 2018-12-05, 00:00 authored by erizos
The Life of John/Ioannes Kalybites (BHG 868)


1-4. Ioannes was the last of four children born to a rich Christian family in Constantinople. He received an excellent education. When he was twelve, he met a monk of the monastery of the akoimetoi and remained fascinated by him. Ioannes told him that he wanted to disregard the things of the world and become a monk. When Ioannes went back to his house, he asked his parents to give him a Gospel, and his parents gifted him with a beautiful codex.

5-6. When the monk came back from his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he brought Ioannes with him secretly, since Ioannes was afraid that his mother would have forbidden him to go to the monastery. However, they did not have enough money to pay for the boat, therefore Ioannes tricked his parents into giving him money and a servant.

7. After a few days, Ioannes sent the servant back and they sailed for the monastery. Here, Ioannes received the tonsure and the monk’s cassock, in spite of his young age. He lived an ascetic life praying day and night with great humility. All the monks were astonished by his extreme ascetic practices, to the point that even the abbot told him not to burden himself with such great renunciations because he was too young for them.

8-9. The devil raised up in him unbearable homesickness for his parents and for his former house. The archimandrite reproached him because he had pushed himself too hard, contrary to what God teaches. Ioannes asked the archimandrite to give him his blessing to visit his parents, because it was the only way to defeat the devil. The archimandrite accepted and Ioannes left the monastery.

10. On his way to his parents’ house, he donated his clothes to a poor man whom he encountered. When he arrived in front of his parents’ house he prayed for God to grant him to die in that place, in order to avoid the devil’s temptations.

11. None of his household recognised him, but they let him stay outside the house out of pity. Even his own father brought him food without recognising him. However, his mother wanted him removed from her property because his poverty was disturbing. An attendant helped Ioannes build a small cell, which provided him with a shelter. His father sent him food every day, but Ioannes used to give it to the poor, to the point that he was almost starving.

12-13. After three years, he had a vision of Christ prophesying that he would die in three days. Being near death, Ioannes asked to speak with his mother. At first, she refused, but then she accepted. Before revealing himself to his mother, Ioannes made her promise to bury him with his poor clothes in the place where his cell was. When he revealed himself to them, they all wept.

14. When Ioannes died, the mother forgot her promise and dressed him with rich clothes. While she was preparing her son for burial, she was paralysed and was healed only when her husband persuaded her to respect their son’s wishes. They buried Ioannes in his cell and built an oratory there. The parents consecrated all their goods to the oratory, which hosted many pilgrims. The memory of Ioannes is celebrated on 15 January.

Text: Lampsidis 1964.
Summary: Giovanni Hermanin de Reichenfeld.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Ioannes/John Kalybites, ascetic in Constantinople : S02745 Man of God from Edessa, ob. 5th c. : S01211

Saint Name in Source

Ἰωάννης Ἰωάννης

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives


  • 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

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Aristocrats


For the manuscript tradition, see:


The legend of Ioannes Kalybites reproduces the Syriac monastic story of the Man of God of Edessa (see E02324). At Constantinople, it was used as a narrative for a cult which apparently developed at a shrine belonging to the order of the Sleepless Monks (Akoimetoi). This daughter house of the Akoimetoi was apparently a former aristocratic residence on the Golden Horn, bequeathed to the order and serving as a hostel and house for the poor. Its location is placed in the area of Odunkapi in today's Eminönü.


Text: Lampsidis, O., Ὁ ἅγιος Ἰωάννης ὁ Καλυβίτης. Ἀνέκδοτα κείμενα ἐκ παρισινῶν κωδίκων (Athens, 1964). Translation and comments : Baguenard, J.-M., Les moines Acémètes. Vies des saints Alexandre, Marcel et Jean Calybite (Spiritualité Orientale 47; Abbaye de Bellefontaine 1988). Further reading : Crostini, B. "Mapping Miracles in Byzantine Hagiography: the Development of the Legend of Saint Alexios," in: K. Cooper and J. Gregory (eds.), Signs, Wonders, Miracles: Representation of Divine Power in the Life of the Church (Woodbridge, 2005), 77-87. Drijvers, H.J.W., "Die Legenden des heiligen Alexius und der Typus des Gottesmannes im syrischen Christentum," in M. Schmidt (ed.), Typus, Symbol, Allegorie bei den östlichen Vätern und ihre Parallelen im Mittelalter (Regensburg, 1982), 187-212. Efthymiadis, S., and Déroche, V., "Greek Hagiography in Late Antiquity (Fourth-Seven Centuries)," in: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography. Vol. 1: Periods and Places (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 35-94, at pp. 59-60. Hatlie, P., The Monks and Monasteries of Constantinople, ca. 350-850 (Cambridge, 2007). Janin, R., La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire byzantin. I: Les églises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople. (2nd ed.; Paris, 1969), 270-271. Stebbeins, E.C., "Les origines de la legende de saint Alexis," Revue Belge de Philologie et d' Histoire 51 (1973), 497-507.

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