Theophanes was born in Constantinople around the year 758. When he was only three, his father, who was the governor of the isles of the Archipelago, died. His mother died soon after and Theophanes came under the guardianship of Emperor Constantine Copronimus. At the tender age of twelve he married; however, by mutual consent they never consummated their marriage. In 799, the couple decided to separate to pursue the religious life. His wife went to a convent on an island near Constantinople and Theophanes entered a monastery called Polychronius near Cyzicus. Six years later he founded an abbey that came to be known as the “great acre” and Theophanes served as abbot.
In 787, Theophanes was present at the second general Council of Nicaea and signed the decrees defending sacred images. Later when Leo the Armenian resurrected his campaign against sacred icons and images, he tried to convince Theophanes to go against the Council decrees. When Theophanes declined he was imprisoned and subjected to cruel treatment. After two years he was released but banished to Samothracia where, after only seventeen days, he died on March 12, 817.
In answer to the emperor Leo’s threats, Theophanes replied, “If you think to frighten me into compliance by your threats, as a child is awed by the rod, you only lose your labor. For though unable to walk, and subject to many other corporeal infirmities, I trust in Christ that He will enable me to undergo, in defense of His cause, the sharpest of tortures you can inflict on my weak body.” His great courage and devotion are truly the markings of a saint.
Father, in every age there are those who have suffered great persecution for their faith. Our Lord and Redeemer Jesus was the greatest example to us of endurance in the face of great persecution, torture, and death. Give us the grace, as you have given Saint Theophanes and others, to follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Gregory the Great (604), Pope, Doctor, Patron of Church Music