Saints Cosmas and Damian: The Healers without Borders

Saints Cosmas and Damian were twins who practiced the healing arts throughout Asia Minor according to the Scriptural commandment: “Freely have ye received, freely in turn give.” (Mt 10:8).

The Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian were natives of Asia Minor, brothers by birth, and physicians by profession. Born around 270 A.D. in modern-day Syria and left fatherless at a young age, they were raised by a wealthy, pious Christian mother. She taught them that the greatest and most noble deeds were those accomplished in the name of Christ the Lord, in free and generous service to the poor and needy.

The Twin Healers

Because the good doctors staunchly refused all payment for their services throughout their lifetimes, they were called anargyroi, a Greek word for “the silverless.” Their Christian charity and skillful medical practice engendered widespread fame throughout the surrounding region. They traveled broadly and converted many souls through their compassionate and miraculous cures of people and animals, whom they approached with the same reverence and concern.

If any animal was in pain, they would tend to it as gently and carefully as if it had been a human being. Indeed, they were perhaps even more pitiful towards animals, for they said: “People who can speak and complain of their ills are great to be pitied, but these dumb creatures, made by our King, can only suffer in silence, and surely the alleviation of their suffering will be required at our hands.”

Trained and skilled as physicians, they received from the Holy Spirit the gift of healing people’s illnesses of body and soul by the power of prayer.

They even treated animals everywhere. With a genuine love for both God and neighbor, they never took payment for their services. The fame of the twin saints spread throughout all the surrounding regions, and people called them unmercenary physicians.

Holy Wonderworkers and Miracle Healers

Cosmas and Damian were the original “doctors without borders” who went about the cities and provinces healing the sick by the art of medicine and expelling demons. They cured animals, as well as people, including a camel who “had a foot that had been broken by a devil.

All of that is interesting background, but the thing to remember about the iconography of Cosmas and Damian is that that one generally sees in Russian icons are the Cosmas and Damian born supposedly in Asia Minor sometime not later than the 4th century, where also they were said to have been martyred for their faith in the 3rd century (as you can see, even their dates are confused and uncertain).

Read more about the Many Saints Cosmas and Damian here.

The Healing of The Camel

There is a rather bizarre story about the burial of the Twin brothers. the miracle is an old story that comes from Simeon Metaphrastes. the text exists in Latin, Georgian, and Arabic Versions. It is said that a woman named Palladia was so grateful for her cure that she offered them her estate in payment, which of course, they refused.

But later, Palladia went to Damian and gave him three eggs. Cosmas found that Damian had accepted the eggs. However, they were so opposed to receiving any payment for services that he said he did not want Damian buried with him on his deathbed.

It happened, however, that the brothers had once cured a camel. So when Damian finally died, those with him were puzzled about what to do with the body, given that Cosmas had said he did not want Damian buried with him.

The matter was solved when the Camel that had been healed (from a broken foot)showed up and began speaking in a human voice. The Camel said that Damian had not accepted the eggs as payment for medical services but rather just as a symbol of honor to the Holy Trinity. So, having heard the excuse direct from the Camel’s mouth, they buried Damian with his brother Cosmas.”

 Saints Cosmas and Damian
A camel approaches and speaks with a human voice, ordering them to be buried together. (The camel’s words are represented as a banderole with writing on it coming out of its mouth.)

Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian were martyred together around 303 A.D. After they died, many miracles of healing occurred because of their intercession.

Saints Cosmas and Damian, Pray for Us, and Our animal companions!

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