Saints Stephen, Simeon, and Sabas

17th-18th century
Slavic Icon
Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome

According to the label in the Pinacoteca, the saints portrayed here are Stephen, Simeon, and Sabas. St. Stephen is the one in the middle. As an Orthodox deacon, he wears a sleeved white tunic called a sticharion and holds a censer and a chest with the "Holy Gifts," the bread and wine that will be consecrated in the liturgy (Tradigo, 272). The gray dot above the center of his forehead is puzzling. It is not in any of the many other St. Stephen icons I have seen. Could it be a stylized tonsure? Many of the saint's icons picture him tonsured. Or is it a stone, like the rocks that Western images often put on Stephen's head as a reference to the way he died?

The saint on the left wears an omophorion, the scarf-like white vestment worn only by bishops. The only bishop saint named Simeon is St. Simeon Bar Sabbas, who was beheaded in 341 on the orders of the King of Persia. His feast day is April 21 in the Catholic Church and April 17 in the Orthodox churches. See Acta Sanctorum, April vol. 2, 846-48, and Butler, II, 141.

That leaves the monk St. Sabas on the right, identifiable by his scroll, long cross, bifurcated white beard, and monastic habit.

At the top is a small image of the Hospitality of Abraham.

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Read more about St. Sabas, St. Stephen, and the Hospitality of Abraham.

Photographed at the Pinacoteca Vaticana by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.