Cosmas and Damian

Publish date 13-01-2023

by Chiara Dal Corso

Cosmas and Damian are two oriental saints who lived in the third century, brothers, born in Arabia.
We know of them that they studied medicine in Syria and lived in Cilicia (now a region in southern Turkey), where they dedicated themselves full time to treating all the people who needed it without making any distinctions: poor, rich, of any origin and religion, and without ever asking for compensation, either economic or any other type of good.

And while they carried out their work, in this totally gratuitous way, they proclaimed the Gospel and their faith in Christ. Thanks to their announcement, many people converted to Christianity and they became so well known as to disturb the Roman power of the time, which persecuted and killed them because of their announcement. It was during the reign of the emperor Diocletian, most probably in Cyrus, a Syrian city, near Antioch, or perhaps someone says in Egea of Cilicia, and then translated to Cyrus. The fact is that the love that people had for them was so great that their cult in the following century was already widespread throughout the Christian East and would soon also arrive in Rome and then in the West. Their memorial day is September 26.

In the icons and frescoes of cathedrals or basilicas we always find them represented close together, as they were together in life, in their mission and holiness.
And although they are also martyrs, the iconography prefers to highlight their gift of bringing healing: it always represents them with medicines and/or surgical instruments in their hands (in the reproduction they have scalpels in one hand and a box for the other instruments in the other), making them so immediately recognizable, even to those who cannot read the ancient language in which their name is written. Some texts say that they were twins, but often in the iconography they are also represented of different ages: one younger and beardless, the other older, with a beard and already a little white-haired.

Two saints who still bear witness today and tell us that it is possible to live holiness in the daily life of one's work, of one's "duty" which, done with love and disinterest, done out of love for Jesus, can become good for many, a love that gives a non-human courage and that remains forever ... beyond the ages.

Chiara Dal Corso
NP October 2022

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