Saints Cosmas and Damian were reputed twin brothers, physicians, and early Christian martyrs. They practiced their profession in the seaport of Aegeae, then in the Roman province of Syria, accepting no payment for their services led to them being named Anargyroi, it has been said that, by this, they attracted many to the Christian faith. Nothing is known of their lives except that they suffered martyrdom in Syria during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian, according to Christian traditions, the twin brothers were born in Arabia and became skilled doctors. During the persecution under Diocletian, Cosmas and Damian were arrested by order of the Prefect of Cilicia, one Lysias who is otherwise unknown, who ordered them under torture to recant. However, according to legend they stayed true to their faith, enduring being hung on a cross, stoned and shot by arrows, anthimus, Leontius and Euprepius, their younger brothers, who were inseparable from them throughout life, shared in their martyrdom. As early as the 4th century, churches dedicated to the saints were established at Jerusalem, in Egypt. Devotion to the two saints spread rapidly in both East and West, theodoret records the division of their reputed relics. Their relics, deemed miraculous, were buried in the city of Cyrrus in Syria, at Rome Pope Felix IV rededicated the Library of Peace as a basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano in the Forum of Vespasian in their honour. The church is much rebuilt but still famed for its sixth-century mosaics illustrating the saints, what are said to be their skulls are venerated in the convent of the Clares in Madrid, where they have been since 1581, the gift of Maria, daughter of Emperor Charles V. They had previously removed from Rome to Bremen in the tenth century. Other skulls said to be theirs were discovered in 1334 by Burchard Grelle and he personally miraculously retrieved the relics of the holy physicians Cosmas and Damian, which were allegedly immured and forgotten in the choir of the Bremen Cathedral. In celebration of the retrieval Archbishop and Chapter arranged a feast at Pentecost 1335, Grelle claimed the relics were those Archbishop Adaldag brought from Rome in 965. The cathedral master-builder Johann Hemeling made a shrine for the relics, the shrine, made from carved oak wood covered with gilt and rolled silver is considered an important mediaeval gold work. In 1649 Bremens Chapter, Lutheran by this time, sold the shrine without the heads to Maximilian I of Bavaria, the two heads remained in Bremen and came into the possession of the small Roman Catholic community. They were shown from 1934 to 1968 in the Church of St. Johann, the shrine is now shown in the Jesuit church of St Michael in Munich. At least since 1413 another supposed pair of skulls of the saints has been stored in St Stephenss Cathedral in Vienna, in Canada it has been moved to Sept.25. Sts Cosmas and Damian are regarded as the patrons of physicians and surgeons and are represented with medical emblems. The ritual consists of first offering the food to seven children that are no older than seven years old and then having them feast while sitting on the floor, only after all children have finished can the guests enjoy the food that is being offered
Image: Saint Côme & Saint Damien Grandes Heures Anne de Bretagne XV Ie
Saints Cosmas and Damian Commemorative Plaque in Budapest
Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian, by Gerard Seghers, 17th century, Private collection, U.S.
Cosmas and Damian miraculously transplant the black leg of the Ethiopian onto the white body of the patient.