This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, November 30, 2012

November 30 -- Feast of Saint Shapur and Four Companions

King Shapur II, hunting deer
This is the story of two Shapurs.  The first is known as Shapur II, just to make it all the more confusing.  He was the Shah of Persia from 309 to 379, which is a pretty good run of it.  Wikipedia says that he may be the only monarch in world history to be crowned in utero. The circumstances of his accession to the throne give some indication of the world in which he grew up.  When his dad, Shah Hormizd II died, the eldest son was killed.  The second son was blinded, and the third son was imprisoned.  This cleared the path one of the Shah's wives, who happened to be pregnant, to become the regent since she had the last eligible heir.  Good thing she delivered a boy. 

The other Shapur was the Christian bishop (is that redundant?) of Bet-Nicator.  More on him in a while. 

Shah Shapur II broke a forty-year truce with the Roman Empire and waged two costly but inconclusive wars against it.  The interbellum was occupied by wars against the Scythians and Xionites.  The Roman Emperor Constantine had legalized (and was known to favor) Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, so Shapur II launched a hearty persecution of Christians in Persia. 

Bishop Shapur was hauled in for question.  With him in the dragnet was Isaac, the bishop of Bet-Seleucia.  Three other Christians were also gaffled up: Mahanes, Abraham, and Simeon.  Now it is one thing to proclaim the greatness of your own religion, even if it is outlawed.  But it is another thing -- a less advisable thing -- to denounce the other fella's religion, especially when you're a prisoner and that other religion is sanctioned by the state.  It's not just martyrdom; it's antagonistically, perhaps masochistically, suicidal. 

Bishop Shapur was beaten to death in prison.  Isaac was taken out and stoned to death.  Abraham's eyes were burned out with a hot iron.  Mahanes was skinned from the top of his head to his navel.  Given that, Simeon seems to have gotten off lightly by just being buried up to his torso and shot full of arrows. 

I imagine a lot of potential in the depiction of the five executions in one picture.  I am somewhat surprised that is is not already available on the web.  Someday when I am fabulously wealthy, I must commission images of all the saints whose pictures I can't find.  Until then, we're stuck with our imaginations.