Saturday, January 07, 2017

The big toe of Saint Cosmo

Cosmo and Damian Veery were twin brother in the 3rd century. They were born in Egea, a city in Cilicia, in Asia Minor. They were of noble birth and the family were Christians. Both Cosmas and Damian, like their brothers, became doctors and practiced their profession in the seaport of Aegeae. The physicians travelled through the cities and the villages, preaching Christ and healing the sick, but would not accept payment for their services and soon became holy unmercenaries attracting many poor, sick, Christians. they also came to be acknowledged as miracle workers for the remarkable cures they were able to effect. During the reign of Emperor Diocletian ((244–312), the brothers were arrested for refusing to renounce Christianity and sacrificing to idols, and the proconsul Lisias had Cosmas and Damian cast them into the sea. They survived, so he had them burned at the stake. Still no luck, so he had them mounted on crucifixes and ordered archers to shoot them and the people of the city to cast stones at them. But the arrows and stones reversed course and shot back at those who had aimed them. Finally Lisias had all five brothers beheaded.

Cosmo and Damian were said to have miraculously grafted the leg from a recently deceased Ethiopian to replace a patient's ulcered or cancerous leg. Keen to spread Christianity they soon fell fowl of the Romans and were all sentenced to death on September 27, 303 AD. Soon after their death they were cannonised and devotion to the two saints spread rapidly in both East and West. Their holy relics can be found across Christendom. Sts Cosmas and Damian are regarded as the patrons of physicians and surgeons. St Damian is the dexter side supporter in the coat of arms of the British Dental Association. In Brazil, the twin saints are regarded as protectors of children.

Less than five hundred years after Cosmas and Damian of Asia Minor were followed by two different sets of brothers of identical name and purpose. All six became saints. The second Cosmas and Damian of Rome were named after the original twins and brought grew up in the reign of the emperor Carinus (283-284). They emulated their predecessors in every detail and were also venerated in their own lifetime as miracle ¬working physicians and men of God. The Roman Cosmas and Damian were imprisoned and put on trial, but eventually released. The pair met an untimely death at the hands of a jealous rival and former teacher. A third pair of physician saints appeared in ancient Arabia, and were also named Cosmas and Damian. The lives of this third pair are not detailed in any extant ac¬counts of the saints, but it is known they served in the manner of the original saints and were martyred in the manner of the second pair. The original saints Cosmas and Damian are honoured on the feast day of Nov. I; the second pair of saints on July I, and the third pair on October 17.

It remains unclear, but during the feast day for Cosmas and Damian at Isernia, near Naples, it was common for barren women and young girls to present wax representations of the phallus in the hope it would invoked fertility. These phallic effergies were euphenistically referred to as ’the big toe of St Cosmo.’

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