September 27

Saints Damian and Cosmas

Damian and Cosmas,  according to legend, were two third-century Syrian brothers (perhaps twins) who trained as physicians before their conversion to Christianity. They were known for their generosity and refusal to accept payment for their medical aid. In one particularly miraculous bit of healing, they grafted the leg of a dead black Ethiopian on to the body of a white patient who had lost his limb to cancer. They were arrested during one of Diocletian’s persecutions and martyred.

Their legend spread widely very quickly with churches dedicated to them as early as the fourth century. The relics of Damian and Cosmas were removed from Syria to Constantinople by the emperor Justinian in the 500s and he ordered an elaborate tomb built for them in gratitude for a healing produced by their intercession. Their bones seem to have divided and multiplied, as a number of churches claim their twin skulls. Pilgrims may visit these heads in Madrid, Munich, and Venice.

They are the patron saints of surgeons, physicians, twins, dentists, barbers, pharmacists, veterinarians, orphanages, day-care centres, and confectioners. They are protectors of children and may be invoked by those suffering from hernias and the plague.

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