Icon of the Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste (Bulgarian, 18th c.) – S410


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Church Feast Day 1



Egg Tempera


National Art Gallery, Sophia, Bulgaria


18th c. (Late)


These 40 valiant soldiers of the Roman Army refused to offer sacrifices to the pagan idols in a.d. 320, and confessed Christ before their commander, who order them stoned, but the stones turned to hit those who threw them.  The commander had his teeth smashed, and so he vengefully brought the Forty Holy Martyrs to a freezing lake, where the guards built warm baths on the shores as the Martyrs slowly were freezing to death in the frigid waters.

During the night one of those 40 was overcome by pain and cowardice, and came out of the lake to a bath house, renouncing Christ. When he entered the bath house, the shock of the difference in temperature killed him immediately, and he lost both this world and the next.  One of the soldiers on the shore saw 40 brilliant crowns descend from Heaven over the martyrs, but as one began to rise up at the apostacy of the one coward, he suddenly was filled with blessed understanding and jumped into the lake to join the rest and receive his crown.  In the morning the martyrs’ legs were broken so they drowned, joining the chorus of blessed saints and angels who always stand in the presence of the Living God.