Chapter 143 of the Golden Legend by Jacobus Voragine (1275), translated by William Caxton, 1483

Cosmo and Damian were brethren germane, that is of one father and of one mother, and were of the city Egea, and born of a religious mother named Theodora. They were learned in the art of medicine and of leechcraft, medicine and received so great grace of God that they healed all maladies and languors, not only of men but also cured and healed beasts. And did all for the love of God without taking of any reward.

St. Damian Accepts a Gift

There was a lady which had spent all her goods in medicines, and came to these saints, and anon was healed of her sickness, and then she offered a little gift to St. Damian, but he would not receive it. And she sware swore and conjured him by horrible oaths that he granted to receive it, and not for covetise of greed for the gift, but for to obey to the devotion of her that offered it, and that he would not be seen to despise the name of our Lord of which he had been conjured. And when St. Cosmo knew it, he commanded that his body should not be laid after his death with his brother's. And the night following our Lord appeared to St. Cosmo and excused his brother.

Their Martyrdom

And when Lysias heard their renomee fame, reputation he made them to be called tofore him, and demanded asked their names and their country. And then the holy martyrs said: Our names be Cosmo and Damian, and we have three other brethren which be named Antimas, Leontius, and Euprepius. Our country is Arabia, but Christian men know not fortune.1

They Are Thrown Into the Sea

Then the proconsul or judge commanded them that they should bring forth their brethren, and that they should all together do sacrifice to the idols. And when in no wise they would do sacrifice, but despised the idols, he commanded they should be sore tormented in the hands and feet. And when they despised his torments, he commanded them to be bound with a chain and thrown into the sea, but they were anon immediately delivered by the angel of our Lord, and taken out of the sea, and came again tofore the judge.

And when the judge saw them, he said: Ye overcome our great gods by your enchantments; ye despise the torments and make the sea peaceable. Teach ye me your witchcraft, and in the name of the god Adrian, I shall follow you.

And anon as he had said this two devils came and beat him greatly in the visage, face and he crying said: "O ye good men, I pray you that ye pray for me to our Lord." And they then prayed for him and anon the devils departed.

Then the judge said: Lo! ye may see how the gods had indignation against me, because I thought to have forsaken them, but I shall not suffer my gods to be blasphemed.

Cast into a Great Fire

And then he commanded them to be cast into a great fire, but anon the flame sprang far from them and slew many of them that stood by. And then they were commanded to be put on a torment named eculee, the rack but they were kept by the angel of our Lord, and the tormentors tormented them above all men, and yet were they taken off without hurt or grief, and so came all whole tofore the judge.

Crucified, Stoned, Shot with Arrows, and Beheaded

Then the judge commanded the three to be put in prison, and made Cosmo and Damian to be crucified, and to be stoned of by the people, but the stones returned to them that threw them, and hurt and wounded many of them. Then the judge, replenished filled with woodness, madness made the three brethren to stand by the cross, and commanded that four knights should shoot arrows to Cosmo and Damian, but the arrows returned and hurt many, and did no harm to the martyrs. And when the judge saw that, he was confused discomfited in all things, he was anguishous full of anxiety or fear unto the death, and did do behead all five brethren together.

Buried Together with Their Brothers

Then the Christian men doubted of wondered about the word that St. Cosmo had said, that his brother should not be buried with him, and as they thought thereon there came a voice which cried and said: They be all of one substance, bury them all together in one place. And they suffered death under Diocletian about the year of our Lord two hundred and eighty-seven.

Miracles of Saints Cosmas and Damian

The Husbandman and the Snake

It happened that a husbandman farmer after that he had laboured in the field about reaping of his corn, he slept with open mouth in the field, and a serpent entered by his mouth into his body. Then he awoke and felt nothing, and after returned into his house. And at even evening he began to be tormented and cried piteously, and called unto his help the holy saints of God, Cosmo and Damian, and when the pain and anguish increased he went to the church of the saints, and fell suddenly asleep, and then the serpent issued out of his mouth like as it had entered.

The Woman Attacked by the Devil

There was a man that should have gone had to go a long voyage, and recommended his wife to Cosmo and Damian, and left a token with her that, if he sent for her by that token she should come to him. And the devil knew well the token, and transfigured himself in the form of a man, and brought to the woman the sign of her husband and said: Thine husband hath sent me from that city to thee for to lead thee to him.

And yet she doubted for had doubts about whether to go with him and said: I know well the token, but because he left me in the keeping of the saints Cosmo and Damian, swear to me upon their altar that thou shalt bring me to him surely, and then I shall go with thee.

And he sware like as she had said. Then she followed him. And when she came in a secret place the devil would have thrown her down off her horse for to have slain her. And when she felt that, she cried to God and to the saints Cosmo and Damian for help, and anon these saints were there with a great multitude clothed in white, and delivered her, and the devil vanished away. And they said to her: We be Cosmo and Damian, to whose oath thou believedest, therefore we have hied us hurried to come to thine help.

The Man With the Cankered Thigh

Felix, the eighth pope after St. Gregory, did do make a noble church at Rome of the saints Cosmo and Damian, and there was a man which served devoutly the holy martyrs in that church, who a canker had consumed all his thigh. And as he slept, the holy martyrs Cosmo and Damian, appeared to him their devout servant, bringing with them an instrument and ointment of whom that one said to that other: Where shall we have flesh when we have cut away the rotten flesh to fill the void empty place?

Then that other said to him: There is an Ethiopian that this day is buried in the churchyard of St. Peter ad Vincula, which is yet fresh, let us bear this thither, to there and take we out of that morian's Moor's flesh and fill this place withal. with it

And so they fetched the thigh of the sick man and so changed that one for that other. And when the sick man awoke and felt no pain, he put forth his hand and felt his leg without hurt, and then took a candle, and saw well that it was not his thigh, but that it was another. And when he was well come to himself, he sprang out of his bed for joy, and recounted to all the people how it was happed had happened to him, and that which he had seen in his sleep, and how he was healed. And they sent hastily to the tomb of the dead man, and found the thigh of him cut off, and that other thigh in the tomb instead of his.

Then let us pray unto these holy martyrs to be our succour help and help in all our hurts, blechures wounds and sores, and that by their merits after this life we may come to everlasting bliss in heaven. Amen.

This text was taken from the Internet Medieval Source Book. E-text © by Paul Halsall. Annotations, formatting, and added rubrics by Richard Stracke. The drop initial (first letter of the text) is from the Isabella Capitals font by John Stracke. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the sources. No permission is granted for commercial use.

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These saints' attributes are physicians' hats and medical instruments. (See the description page for this image and the page explaining the iconography of images of this saint.)

Cosmo is said of cosmos, which is to say a form, shape, or ornation. Or, after Isidore, cosmos in Greek is said clean in Latin. He was a form to others in example, he was ornate in good virtues, and clean from all vices. Damian is said of dama, which is a beast humble and meek. Or damianus is said of dogma, which is doctrine, and ana, that is above, or of damum, that is sacrifice. Or Damianus is said as it were the hand of our Lord. He had meekness in conversation, supernal doctrine in predication, his sacrifice was in mortification of his flesh, and he was the hand of our Lord in medicinal curation and healing.


1 The translator omitted from Lysias's interrogation a question about the brothers' fortuna. Fortuna can mean pure chance, as in "wheel of fortune," but it can also mean one's social condition or one's wealth. When the brothers reply fortunam christiani nesciunt (Graesse, 637), they are probably including all three meanings. In one of the legends in the Acta Sanctorum the brothers give an answer that covers the first and third meanings explicitly: fortuna non habemus nec enim est apud Christianos fortuna, "we do not have a fortune, and for Christians there is no such thing as Fortune" (September vol. 7, 471).