Hieromartyr Artemon the Presbyter of Laodicea in Syria

The Hieromartyr Artemon was born of Christian parents in Laodicea, Syria in the first half of the third century. From his youth, he dedicated himself to the service of the Church. The saint served the Church as a a Reader for sixteen years.

For his zeal in Church services, Bishop Sisinius ordained him deacon. St Artemon also fulfilled this service with fervor and diligence for twenty-eight years, then he was ordained to the priesthood. In this position, St Artemon served the Church of God for thirty-three years, preaching Christianity among pagans. When the emperor Diocletian (284-305) began his fierce persecution against Christians, St Artemon was already old. The emperor issued an edict ordering Christians to offer sacrifice to idols.

Saint Sisinius, knowing of the impending arrival of the military commander Patricius in Laodicea, went with the priest Artemon and other Christians into the temple of the goddess Artemis. There they smashed and burned the idols, reducing them all to dust.

Afterwards, St Sisinius and St Artemon gathered the flock into the church and fervently exhorted the Christians to remain firm in the Faith and not to fear the threats of torturers.

When he arrived in Laodicea, Patricius celebrated a five-day festival in honor of the pagan gods, and then went to the temple of Artemis to offer sacrifice. He learned who had destroyed the temple, and went with a detachment of soldiers to the church where the Christians were praying.

As he approached the church, Patricius suddenly felt a chill, and then developed a fever, which left him barely alive. They carried him home and put him to bed. “The Christians have put a curse on me, and their God torments me,” he said to those about him. Although Patricius prayed to the idols, they did not relieve his sufferings. He sent a messenger to St Sisinius and asked for his help, promising to set up a gold statue of the bishop in the middle of the city. The saint replied, “Keep your gold, but if you believe in Christ, He will heal you.”

Patricius was afraid of dying, so he declared that he believed in Christ, and the affliction left him. But even this miracle did not affect the obdurate soul of the pagan. Although he did not touch St Sisinius, he did enforce the imperial edict against other Christians in the city of Caesarea. Along the way he encountered St Artemon, who was followed by six wild donkeys and two deer.

When Patricius asked how he was able to control these wild beasts, St Artemon replied that he held them with the Word of Christ.

Patricius learned from the pagans that the old man was the same Artemon who had destroyed the pagan temple of Artemis. He ordered that Artemon be arrested and taken to the city of Caesarea. St Artemon went with the soldiers without fear, but he ordered the animals to go to St Sisinius.

Seeing the animals Bishop Sisinius asked, “Why have these animals come here?” A doe received the gift of speech from God and said, “The servant of God Artemon is being held by the impious Patricius, and is being brought to Caesarea in chains. He commanded us to come here to give you this news.” Do not be astonished that the Lord, Who opened the mouth of Balaam’s ass (Num. 22:28), also permits the doe to speak. The bishop sent Deacon Phileas to Caesarea to verify this information.

In Caesarea Patricius brought St Artemon to trial and tried to force him to offer sacrifice in the temple of Asclepius. In this pagan temple there lived many poisonous vipers. The pagan priest never opened the doors, nor did he place the sacrifice before the idol. But St Artemon, calling on the Name of Jesus Christ, went into the temple and released the snakes. The pagans fled, but the saint stopped them and killed the snakes by his breath. One of the pagan priests, Vitalius, believed in Christ and asked St Artemon to baptize him.

Patricius thought that St Artemon killed the snakes by sorcery, and again he interrogated and tortured him. Then the doe which had spoken arrived in Caesarea. The doe lay down at the feet of the martyr, licking his wounds. By God’s command the doe spoke again, denouncing the impious pagans. Addressing Patricius, the doe predicted that he would be seized by two birds of prey, and dropped into a cauldron of burning pitch. Patricius was enraged because he had been censured by a wild beast. He commanded his soldiers to shoot the doe with arrows, but she escaped. Afraid that the miracles performed by St Artemon would draw more people to him, Patricius gave orders to execute him.

They filled an enormous cauldron with boiling pitch, intending to throw the saint into it. Patricius rode up to the cauldron on horseback to see if the pitch was indeed boiling. Then two angels in the form of eagles seized Patricius and threw him into the cauldron. His body was consumed so that not a single bone remained.

Seeing the miracle, everyone ran away except St Artemon, who blessed and glorified God. When the saint finished his prayer, a spring of water issued from the ground. St Artemon baptized the pagan priest Vitalius and many pagans, who had come to believe in Christ. On the following morning St Artemon communed the newly-baptized with the Holy Mysteries.

Many of the baptized were ordained to the diaconate and priesthood, and Vitalius was made Bishop of Palestine. The hieromartyr Artemon, instructed by the voice of God, preached the Gospel in Asia Minor. Then an angel appeared to him and transported him to the place which had been revealed to him, where he converted many to Christ. Pagans seized the saint and beheaded him (+ 303).

St Artemon is commemorated on March 24 on the Greek calendar.