|Saints Francis, Lawrence, Cosmas, John the Baptist, Damian, Anthony Abbot, and Peter
National Gallery, London
Unlike many other doctors, Cosmas and Damian were also saints. They lived in what today is modern Turkey, where they practiced healing the sick. They may also have been color blind (!), replacing (as in the paintings shown here) a patient’s gangrenous leg with one of the wrong color. But the Florentine Filippo Lippi clearly was not, when he painted them in exquisite red colors in the company of five other saints. In the Renaissance Cosmas and Damian became the patron saints of the ruling Florentine family of the Medici, whose name is a play on the Italian word for doctor.
|A verger’s dream: Saints Cosmas and Damian performing a miraculous cure by transplantation of a leg, ca. 1495
Attributed to the Master of Los Balbases
|Main altar of Saint Cosmas and Damian
Dominican convent of San Marco, Florence, Italy
of a leg by Saints Cosmas
and Damian, assisted by angels
During the persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian, Cosmas and Damian were arrested and ordered under torture to recant but stayed true to their faith. They were hung on a cross, stoned, and shot by arrows, then beheaded, as shown in the painting by Fra Angelico. Their three younger brothers shared in their martyrdom (ca. 287 CE). Their skulls are said to be preserved, as relics, in St. Michael’s Church in Munich.
|The martyrdom of
Saints Cosmas and Damian
Musée du Louvre, Paris
|Reliquary containing the alleged skulls of Cosmas and Damian
St. Michael’s Church, Munich
GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief