Saints Cosmas and Damian: The Iconography

In Aegea the natal day Not their birthday but the day they died and were "born again" into Heaven of the martyr saints Cosmas and Damian, brothers. During the persecution of Diocletian, with the help of God they withstood many torments – chains, prison, torture by water and by fire, crucifixion, stones, and arrows. After all this they were beheaded. Three of their brothers are also reported to have suffered with them, that is, Anthimus, Leontius, and Euprepius.– Roman Martyrology for September 7

According to the Golden Legend St. Cosmas and St. Damian were twin physicians in Syria who did not accept fees. Because they and their three brothers would not sacrifice to idols, the proconsul Lisias had Cosmas and Damian cast 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 (image).


In early mosaics the saints are either identified by labels (example) or distinguished only by their martyrs' crowns (example). In medieval portraits they are usually shown in similar or identical garments and often wear hats like those seen at right. Sometimes medical instruments appear as their attributes (example).


  • Died in 287, according to the Golden Legend. Farmer (104) and Butler (III, 659) list them as "date unknown."
  • The traditional date in the Latin Church is September 27, now changed to the 26th. In the East their feast is on July 1 or November 1.


Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University, revised 2015-10-21.


Painting in Pamplona Cathedral (See the description page)

Fra Angelico, Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian Crucified and Stoned, 1438-40 (See description page)

Ceiling of the Church of SS. Cosmas and Damian: Their ascent to Heaven (See the description page)