Monday, February 3, 2014

Patron Saints of Horses

No riding Sunday, so something else instead . . .

I was doing some research on Russian icons, and stumbled across this icon (wikimedia commons) of the patron saints of horses, Sts. Florus and Laurus (or Sts. Frol and Lavr from Russian sources) - this icon is from the late 15th century:


I love the mare with the bell and the foals portrayed as miniature adult horses.

This second icon (from skete.com) is pretty clearly based on the first one - it's from the 17th century:


I think the first icon is more powerful in depicting the "spirit" of horses, although the cavorting foal in the second one is lovely.

The legend of Sts. Florus and Laurus isn't particularly edifying and has little to do with horses, but I liked the icons and thought you might as well.

5 comments:

  1. Interesting, I hadn't heard of them. Another patron Saint of horses is St. Martin of Tours, I have a picture of him on my blog sidebar. He was a Roman soldier, who gave part of his cloak to a poor beggar on one cold day as he was riding by.

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  2. These two are lovely. My friend, Jody Cole, is an iconographer and I've been fortunate to paint, or "write" as it is called in iconography, with her. It is such an exciting "secret" art form in my mind, full of symbols and meanings. Thank you for sharing these!

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  3. That's really neat. Thanks for sharing. Dan

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  4. Thank you for your post, but as an Orthodox Christian I must state that the lives of these Saint/Martyrs are INDEED edifying as well as the story of the Archangel Michael (also invoked for protection of horses) included in the icons you posted. Glory to God for his creation of the majestic horse as well as his servants who so lovingly cared for them! God Bless, Kassiani

    The Martyrs Florus and Laurus were brothers by birth not only in flesh but in spirit. They lived in the second century at Byzantium, and afterwards they settled in Illyria [now Yugoslavia]. By occupation they were stone-masons (their teachers in this craft were the Christians Proclus and Maximus, from whom also the brothers learned about life pleasing to God).

    The prefect of Illyria, Likaion, sent the brothers to a nearby district for work on the construction of a pagan temple. The saints toiled at the structure, distributing to the poor the money they earned, while they kept strict fast and prayed without ceasing.

    Once, the son of the local pagan-priest Mamertin carelessly approached the structure, and a chip of stone hit him in the eye, severely injuring him. Sts Florus and Laurus assured the upset father, that his son would be healed.

    They brought the youth to consciousness and told him to have faith in Christ. After this, as the youth confessed Jesus Christ as the true God, the brothers prayed for him, and the eye was healed. In view of such a miracle, even the father of the youth believed in Christ.

    When the construction of the temple was completed, the brothers gathered the Christians together, and going through the temple, they smashed the idols. In the eastern part of the temple they set up the holy Cross. They spent all night in prayer, illumined with heavenly light. Having learned of this, the head of the district condemned to burning the former pagan priest Mamertin and his son and 300 Christians.

    The martyrs Florus and Laurus, having been sent back to the prefect Likaion, were thrown down an empty well and covered over with earth. After many years, the relics of the holy martyrs were uncovered incorrupt, and transferred to Constantinople. In the year 1200 the Novgorod pilgrim Anthony saw them. Stephen of Novgorod saw the heads of the martyrs in the Pantokrator monastery around the year 1350.

    The Holy Archangel Michael returning the horses of Sts. Florus and Laurus, and Sts. Elashippus, Speushippus & Melashippus

    One day their horses were lost. The two brothers appealed to the Archangel Michael to help them recover the runaway horses. [Archangel] Michael helped them recover the horses and the two decided to dedicate their lives to horses and they in turn become the patron saints of horses in Russia. These two saints are much beloved even today in the Russian Orthodox Church.

    [Sts.] Elashippus, Speushippus & Melashippus depicted on the lower portion of the above icon were Cappadocian brothers, two of them twins, who were grooms and horse doctors, who had learned their skills from Ss. Florus & Laurus and the Archangel Michael. These three were also martyred for their faith. Laurus & Florus suffered in the early 2nd Century. On their feast day, it has been the custom to drive all of the horses down to a river or pond, after liturgy. Then a molebin is held, the waters are blessed and the horses are bathed. It is a day of rest for horses. Michael is particularly known for the protection of horses & cattle. Thus, he is at the top of the icon conveying blessing on all surrounding.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your extensive elaboration on the story of the two saints - the sources I consulted indicated that they did not have much to do with horses, and that they were designated the patron saints of horses due to the timing of their deaths coinciding with the ending of a horse plague. Your version is much more interesting and detailed.

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