The Great Martyr Antipas (1st century AD) was the bishop of Pergamon. The saint died a martyr’s death in the second half of the 1st century in the city of Pergamon.

Antipas is mentioned in the Book of Revelation: “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas.” (Revelation, 2: 12–13).

In ancient times Pergamon was the center of worshipping the god of medicine Asclepius. In Greek myths, Asclepius was such an artful doctor that he was able to raise people from the dead. He cured from spiritual and physical sufferings. The Asclepions (healing temples) provided medical aid to patients. The Asclepius cult was especially popular among other religious cults. However, it was not Asclepius alone that the inhabitants of Pergamon worshipped. There was also the “Pergamon altar” consecrated to Zeus, named in the Book of Revelation “Satan’s Throne.”

The circumstances of Antipas’ martyr’s death can be found only in the hagiographic literature. An account of the saint’s martyrdom that was included by Metropolitan Macarius in the Menaion Reader, tells that pagan gods lost their power because of Antipas’ prayer s and his righteous life. The governor of Pergamon ordered the saint to offer sacrifices to pagan gods as ancient cults, unlike the recent Christian faith, were sanctified by tradition. To this St. Antipas said that Cain had been the ancient man but he killed his brother. The enraged governor ordered that the saint be thrown inside a heated bull where Antipas found a martyr’s death.

In medieval Rus St. Antipas was honored as the dental healer as Greek and later Russian liturgical books wrote that the Lord heals toothache through the prayer to St. Antipas of Pergamon.

In Byzantine and Russian art St. Antipas of Pergamon is depicted as an old man with gray hair and a middle-sized bear wearing clerical vestments – a phelonion and omophorion – holding a Gospel or a scroll in the hand, such as, for example, on the paintings of the diaconicon at the Katholikon of the monastery Hosios Loukas (Greece) dating to the 1230s or on a 1692 icon from the Church of St. Chariton the Confessor on Ogorodniki (from the collection of the Church Archeological Office at the Moscow Spiritual Academy).

St. Antipas of Pergamon is commemorated on April 24 (April 11, O.S.).

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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