Icon of the Week: Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus

March 2, 2015 Comments Off on Icon of the Week: Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus

RLPANSoldiers in the Roman army and deeply attached to each other, they were both stationed in Militene, Armenia. The earliest account of Polyeuct’s martyrdom was written by Nearchus. The primary thread running through his narration is the desire of these two friends to spend eternity together. According to the text, when the emperor issues a new edict against Christians, Nearchus is terribly upset. He is worried that, since Polyeuct is a pagan and Nearchus a Christian, his own possible martyrdom and the eventual death of Polyeuct might lead to their being in separate places in the afterlife. Polyeuct reassures him that he has long been drawn to Christianity and intends to die a Christian. With a convert’s fervor, Polyeuct then attacks a pagan procession and gets himself arrested. The judge turns out to be his own father-in-law, Felix, who begs him to reconsider.

Polyeuct’s wife, Paulina, comes to court and unsuccessfully implores him, for the sake of their marriage and their son, to change his mind. After severe tortures, he is condemned to death. Just before he is beheaded, Polyeuct sees Nearchus near. His final words to Nearchus are “Remember our secret vow.” Nearchus recorded this story, which was recounted annually at the church and eventually erected over Polyeuct’s tomb in Militene. In the year 527, a great church with a gold-plated ceiling was built in Constantinople and dedicated to St. Polyeuct. Later in the same century, Gregory of Tours wrote that the most solemn oaths were usually sworn in this church; because Polyeuct had come to be considered the special heavenly protector of vows and avenger of broken promises.

The inscription on the bottom of the icon is a rendering of the saint’s names in classical Armenian, to honor the location of their story. The original of this icon is part of The Living Circle Collection in Chicago, Illinois.

Polyeuct’s feast day is February 13.

(To view more icons from this artist, please visit Trinity Stores at https://www.trinitystores.com/)

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