Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

[Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian]Article

about the year 303

Saints Cosmas and Damian were brothers, and born in Arabia, but studied the sciences in Syria, and became eminent for their skill in physic. Being Christians, and full of that holy temper of charity in which the spirit of our divine religion consists, they practised their profession with great application and wonderful success; but never took any gratification or fee, on which account they are styled by the Greeks Anargyri, that is, without fees, because they took no money. They lived at Ægæ, or Egæa, in Cilicia, and were remarkable both for the love and respect which the people bore them on account of the good offices which they received from their charity, and for their zeal for the Christian faith, which they took every opportunity their profession gave them to propagate. When the persecution of Dioclesian began to rage, it was impossible for persons of so distinguished a character to lie concealed. They were therefore apprehended by the order of Lysias, governor of Cilicia, and after various torments were beheaded for the faith. Their bodies were carried into Syria, and buried at Cyrus. Theodoret, who was bishop of that city in the 5th century, mentions that their relics were then deposited in a church there, which bore their names. He calls them two illustrious champions, and valiant combatants for the faith of Jesus Christ. The emperor Justinian, who began his reign in 527, out of a religious regard for the treasure of these precious relics, enlarged, embellished, and strongly fortified this city of Cyrus; and finding a ruinous church at Constantinople, built in honour of these martyrs, as is said, in the reign of Theodosius the Younger, (who died in the middle of the fifth age,) raised a stately edifice in its room, as a monument of his gratitude for the recovery of his health in a dangerous fit of sickness, through their intercession, as Procopius relates. To express his particular devotion to these saints, he built also another church under their names at Constantinople. Marcellinus, in his chronicle, and Saint Gregory of Tours, 5 relate several miracles performed by their intercession. Their relics were conveyed to Rome, where the holy Pope Saint Felix, great-grandfather to Saint Gregory the Great, built a church to their honour, in which these relics are kept with veneration to this day.

These saints regarded it as a great happiness, that their profession offered them perpetual opportunities of affording comfort and relief to the most distressed part of their fellow-creatures. By exerting our charity towards all in acts of benevolence and beneficence, according to our abilities; and in treating enemies and persecutors with meekness and good offices, we are to approve ourselves followers of Christ, animated with his spirit. Thus we shall approach nearest in resemblance to our divine original, and show ourselves children of our heavenly Father, who bears with the most grievous sinners, inviting them to repentance and pardon, and showering down his mercies and benefits upon them. He only then arms himself with his justice against them, when they by wilful malice forfeit his grace, and obstinately disappoint his gracious love and kindness. His very nature is boundless goodness, and continual emanations of mercy descend from him upon his creatures. All the scattered perfections and blessings which are found in them, come from this source. In the imitation of the divine goodness, according to our abilities, at least in the temper of our mind, consists that Christian perfection, which, when founded in the motive of true charity, is the accomplishment of the law. Men engaged in professions instituted for the service of their neighbour, may sanctify their labour or industry, if actuated by the motive of charity towards others, even whilst they also have in view the justice which they owe to themselves and their family, of procuring an honest and necessary subsistence, which is itself often a strict obligation and no less noble a virtue, if it be founded in motives equally pure and perfect.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 26 September 2013. Web. 27 December 2014. <>