medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
On 11/15/11, Terri Morgan sent (reprising a notice sent by George Ferzoco in 1996 and by Carolyn Muessig in 1997, 1998, and 2000):
> Gurias, Samonas and Abibus, martyrs (fourth century) - the first two were hung up by one hand with weights tied to their feet, then beheaded; Abibus was burnt to death. All three, martyrs of Edessa, are 'avengers of unfulfilled contracts'.
Gurias, Samonas, and Abibus (in transliterated Syriac: Guryā, Šmōnā or Šmūnā, and Ḥabīb), referred to since late antiquity as the confessors of Edessa, are first attested in the later fourth-century Syriac Martyrology, where Abibus occurs under 2. September and is said to have perished by fire and where Gurias and Samonas, identified as confessors, occur under 15. November and their manner of death is not specified. As the aforesaid martyrology does not style any of them "ancient martyrs", its term for those who suffered prior to the early fourth-century Great Persecution, one may accept the testimony of their originally fourth-century Syriac Passiones (which come to us in other-language translations and in later, re-worked versions in Syriac) that they were martyred in that persecution. On the other hand, the specific years given in those texts (306/307 for Gurias and Samonas, who have a joint Passio; 308/309 for Abibus) may derive from a later chronicle tradition whose accuracy in these instances cannot be determined.
Abibus' Passio, in which that saint is said to have been a deacon, has him buried at the graves of Gurias and Samonas (who in their Passio are a recluse and a lay preacher, respectively). According to the sixth-century _Chronicle of Edessa_, after the edicts of toleration the Christians of that city built a church for themselves and also a martyrial chapel honoring these three saints (the latter, which was burned by the Persians in 530, is sometimes dated to ca. 350). Their joint cult there is reflected in a hymn by St. Ephraem the Syrian (d. 373) and in a joint feast on 15. November in various Syriac calendars (a few of which also record a celebration of Abibus on 2. September). 15. November is also the standard medieval and later feast day for all three in the Armenian, Georgian, and Greek churches, with the latter passing it on to the early medieval Latin church of Naples (assuming, as seems likely enough, that the Marble Calendar of Naples' _Samo[nae]_ of that day stands for all three) and to Orthodox churches of other countries. They are said to have been unknown in late antique and medieval Coptic Christianity.
Following the practice of Greek synaxaries, cardinal Baronio entered all three saints in the early RM under 15. November. But, as their martyrdoms are said to have been distinct, he created different entries for Gurias and Samonas on one hand and for Abibus on the other. The revised RM of 2001, following its frequent preference for the earliest recorded feast day, moved Abibus' commemoration to 2. September.
In probably the earlier fifth century there came into being a corpus of these saints' Acta including not only the two Passiones in versions ascribing their authorship to one Theophilus but also the lengthy miracle account of Euphemia and the Goth. It's the latter that makes them 'avengers of unfulfilled contracts', although its seemingly originally early medieval Neapolitan analogue of Theodora and the priest Ursus suggests a broader construction of 'protectors of women held in captivity'. For Euphemia and the Goth, see e.g. Susan Ashbrook Harvey, "Sacred Bonding: Mothers and Daughters in Early
Syriac Hagiography", _Journal of Early Christian Studies_ 4 (1996), 27-56, esp. pp. 37-41 (the article is conveniently reproduced here: < http://tinyurl.com/7zjclro >). For Theodora and Ursus, see Paolo Chiesa, "Una donna in pericolo. Un miracolo (napoletano?) inedito di san Samonas di Edessa", _Schede medievali_, no. 46 (2008), 97-110.
Slightly re-worked Greek-language versions of all three texts (the two Passiones and the miracle of Euphemia and the Goth) occur in the tenth-century menologion of Symeon the Metaphrast; similar versions exist in witnesses of the Synaxary of Constantinople and, in Armenian, in the Synaxary of Ter Israel. There are also an early Armenian version of the Passio of Gurias and Samonas and Latin versions (from the Greek) of both Passiones and of the miracle of Euphemia and the Goth.
A church of St. Abibus (but possibly not he of Edessa) is recorded for Constantinople from 536. A tenth-century sermon for delivery in Constantinople, presumably at that city's church of Sts. Gurias, Samonas, and Abibus, attests to a translation thither of that saint's head in the reign of Constantine VII (913-959) from Gamandra in the Byzantine theme of Armeniakon where it supposedly had been for many centuries after a _furtum sacrum_. This sermon (BHG 740m; edited by François Halkin in _Analecta Bollandiana_ 104 , 287-297) shows that these saints' traditional designation as confessors had become problematic in view of the later arising distinction between martyrs and confessors; unfortunately, a lacuna in the sermon's one known witness deprives us of the author's solution to this difficulty.
An early fifteenth-century church (1400/1401) dedicated to Gurias, Samonas, and Abibus in Kastoria in northwestern Greece has recently been restored. Herewith a link to an illustrated blog account of its re-opening this past Monday:
A few depictions:
Abibus (at left) as depicted in the eleventh-century frescoes of the south chapel of the church of St. Nicholas of Myra at Demre in Turkey's Antalya province:
All three are portrayed elsewhere in this burial chapel. See:
Samonas (above) and Gourias (below) as depicted in the mid- to later twelfth-century mosaics of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo:
after the recent cleaning:
Gourias (above) and Samonas (below) as depicted in the late twelfth-century frescoes of the church of the Panagia tou Arakou in Lagoudera (Nicosia prefecture) in the Republic of Cyprus:
A less good view of all three (at right) on the same arch in this church:
Abibus as depicted in the late thirteenth-century frescoes (ca. 1295) by the court painters Michael Astrapas and Eutychius in the church of the Peribleptos (now Sv. Climent Novi) in Thessaloniki:
Gourias, Samonas, and Abibus as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. ca. 1312 and ca. 1321/22) of the nave of the monastery church of the Theotokos at Gračanica in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
Samonas (somewhat degraded):
Abibus (somewhat degraded):
Gourias and Abibus as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century mosaics (betw. 1315 and 1321) in the exonarthex of the Chora church in Istanbul:
Samonas (at left) and Gourias (at right) as depicted in a somewhat degraded earlier fourteenth-century fresco (betw. 1315 and 1321) in the parecclesion of the Chora church in Istanbul:
The martyrdom of Gourias and Samonas as depicted in a November calendar scene in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1335 and 1350) in the narthex of the church of the Holy Ascension at the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serboa's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
The martyrdom of Abibus as depicted in a November calendar scene in the earlier
fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1335 and 1350) in the narthex of the
church of the Holy Ascension at the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in,
depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or
Serboa's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
Samonas (at right in the painting at lower left) and Abibus (in the painting at lower right) as depicted in the earlier sixteenth-century frescoes (1545-1546) by Theofanis Strelitzas-Bathas (a.k.a. Theophanes the Cretan) in the katholikon of the Stavronikita monastery on Mt. Athos:
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