Icon of the Seven Holy Sleepers – S173


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Church Feast Day 1



Egg Tempera


Private Collection, Netherlands


18th c. (Early)


In the time of the fierce persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Decius (who was emperor from a.d. 249 to 251), there were in Ephesus seven devout Christian soldiers, all sons of a prominent government official.  When Decius came to Ephesus for a pagan festival, these seven brothers withdrew to a cave outside the city.  Decius heard of their withdrawal to this cave, and had it walled in, but God preserved these young men, for a deep sleep fell upon them and they did not die.

Almost two hundred years passed, with Decius and his persecution long dead, but the now Christian Roman Empire was troubled by a heresy which denied the resurrection of the dead.  The  Emperor Theodosios the Younger (a.d. 401 to 450) and many devout Christians were praying for help to combat this heresy.  When shepherds in the field began to remove the stones from the entrance of this cave, the Seven Sleepers arose, and told their story to the Emperor, and this was corroborated by official documents at that time.  After a week, the Seven Sleepers went back to their cave and fell asleep in the Lord, seen here in this icon in front of the city.