Holy Forty Martyrs of Sinai and Raithou

On January 14, we celebrate the memory of forty monks from Sinai who were killed by the Saracens, and forty monks from Raithou, on the coast of the Red Sea, who were killed by the Blemmyes, in the fourth century.

Detail of an icon of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Raithou, from the thirteenth century. In the top register, the Virgin Mary stands before a throne adorned with pearls and precious stones, her hands raised in intercession. The Christ Child is depicted in a superimposed nimbus. The Archangels Michael and Gabriel bow in veneration. To the left is Saint John Climacus, and to the right, Saint John of Damascus.

Sabas’ hope was slender, and he glorified God greatly for what had happened. As his wound was not very serious, he showed himself distressed that he had not been found worthy to share the death of the holy ones who were slain. He bewailed his lot and said, ‘Woe is me, wretched man that I am, that I was not found worthy to be reckoned in the number of the holy Fathers who were slain for Christ’s sake’. He spoke thus with tears, and prayed to God, saying, ‘Thou who art God alone, who hast loved mankind, I pray three, separate me not from the holy Fathers who were slain for thy name’s sake, but let the number of the Forty Martyrs be made complete through me, for thou knowest that I have believed in three, loved thee, and longed for thee from a child, sinful and unworthy though I am’. And when he had spoken thus with a wise and true mind, he gave up the ghost on the fourth day after all the holy men.

4 comments to Holy Forty Martyrs of Sinai and Raithou

  • Maria

    A precious icon. So divine!
    Thanks a lot dear father Justin for that interesting photo .

  • Jeremy

    Thank you Father Justin
    I am sorry for my ignorance but where is the account of Sabas moving cry narrated ?

    May i ask why John Climacus is dipicted looking out of the icon ,whereas the eyes of John of Damascus is shown lurned towards the Virgin Mary and Christ Child ?
    I have not read The Ladder of Divine Acent yet but i have now found a bookshop that can order a copy for me.
    God bless you !

    • Father Justin

      The quotations are from Sinai, by Heinz Skrobucha, first published in German in 1959, and then in English by Oxford University Press in 1966. It is comprehensive, spanning from prehistory to modern times. The book is printed with metal type, and each photo has been glued in by hand. In 1959, the monastery was still isolated, difficult to reach, and seldom visited. Everything began to change in the late 1960s. The book captures Sinai as it was then. It is a treasure for all of these reasons.
      Saint John Climacus is portrayed in both icons. In the icon of the Forty Martyrs of Raithou, he looks towards the Virgin Mary. In the icon of the Forty Martyrs of Sinai, he looks out at the viewer.

      • Jeremy

        Thank you Father Justin
        Maybe it feels like going through a doorway and on entering a space that has always been present you see others are silently watching maybe welcoming without speaking in the continuing moment. Please forgive my clumsy and superfluous attempts to express such feelings.
        The colours in your photographs, the light shown in them seems more beautiful and deeper to me. I thought at first you may have a new lens! but it is me failing to see before.
        God Bless You!

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