Saint Pantaleon

For other people with the same name, see Pantaleon (disambiguation).
Saint Pantaleon (Panteleimon)

13th Century Icon of Saint Panteleimon, including scenes from his life, from the Monastery of St. Katherine on Mount Sinai.
Great-Martyr and Unmercenary Healer
Born c. 275
Died 305[1]
Venerated in Anglicanism
Eastern Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy
Roman Catholicism
Major shrine Pantaleon Monastery in the Jordan desert, Pantaleon Church built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century, Constantinople
Feast 27 July [2] / (9 August)
Attributes A compartmented medicine box, with a long-handled spatula or spoon; a martyr's cross.
Patronage Physicians, midwives, livestock, lottery, lottery winners and victories, lottery tickets, invoked against headaches, consumption, locusts, witchcraft, accidents and loneliness, helper for crying children

Saint Pantaleon (Greek: Παντελεήμων [Panteleímon], "all-compassionate"), counted in the West among the late-medieval Fourteen Holy Helpers and in the East as one of the Holy Unmercenary Healers, was a martyr of Nicomedia in Bithynia during the Diocletianic Persecution of 305 AD.

Though there is evidence to suggest that a martyr named Pantaleon existed, some consider the stories of his life and death to be purely legendary.[3]


According to the martyrologies, Pantaleon was the son of a rich pagan, Eustorgius of Nicomedia, and had been instructed in Christianity by his Christian mother, Saint Eubula; however, after her death he fell away from the Christian church, while he studied medicine with a renowned physician Euphrosinos; under the patronage of Euphrosinos he became physician to the Emperor Maximian or Galerius.[3]

Pantaleon in the Catacombs of Nicomedia.

He was won back to Christianity by Saint Hermolaus (characterized as a bishop of the church at Nicomedia in the later literature), who convinced him that Christ was the better physician, signalling the significance of the exemplum of Pantaleon that faith is to be trusted over medical advice, marking the direction European medicine was to take until the 16th century.

St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote regarding this incident:

He studied medicine with such success, that the Emperor Maximian appointed him his physician. One day as our saint was discoursing with a holy priest named Hermolaus, the latter, after praising the study of medicine, concluded thus: "But, my friend, of what use are all thy acquirements in this art, since thou art ignorant of the science of salvation?[4]

Icon of Saint Panteleimon, with scenes from his life, 13th century (Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai).

By miraculously healing a blind man by invoking the name of Jesus over him, Pantaleon converted his father, upon whose death he came into possession of a large fortune, but freed his slaves and, distributing his wealth among the poor, developed a great reputation in Nicomedia. Envious colleagues denounced him to the emperor during the Diocletian persecution. The emperor wished to save him and sought to persuade him to apostasy. Pantaleon, however, openly confessed his faith, and as proof that Christ is the true God, he healed a paralytic. Notwithstanding this, he was condemned to death by the emperor, who regarded the miracle as an exhibition of magic.

According to the later hagiography, Pantaleon's flesh was first burned with torches, whereupon Christ appeared to all in the form of Hermolaus to strengthen and heal Pantaleon. The torches were extinguished. Then a bath of molten lead was prepared; when the apparition of Christ stepped into the cauldron with him, the fire went out and the lead became cold. Pantaleon was now thrown into the sea, loaded with a great stone, which floated. He was thrown to wild beasts, but these fawned upon him and could not be forced away until he had blessed them. He was bound on the wheel, but the ropes snapped, and the wheel broke. An attempt was made to behead him, but the sword bent, and the executioners were converted to Christianity.

Pantaleon implored Heaven to forgive them, for which reason he also received the name of Panteleimon ("mercy for everyone" or "all-compassionate"). It was not until he himself desired it that it was possible to behead him, upon which there issued forth blood and a white liquid like milk.

St. Alphonsus wrote:

At Ravello, a city in the kingdom of Naples, there is a vial of his blood, which becomes blood every year [on his feastday], and may be seen in this state interspersed with the milk, as I, the author of this work, have seen it.[4]

Early veneration

The vitae containing these miraculous features are all late in date and "valueless" according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.[5] Yet the fact of his martyrdom itself seems to be supported by a veneration for which there is testimony in the 5th century, among others in a sermon on the martyrs by Theodoret (died c. 457);[6] Procopius of Caesarea (died c. 565?), writing on the churches and shrines constructed by Justinian I[7] tells that the emperor rebuilt the shrine to Pantaleon at Nicomedia; and there is mention of Pantaleon in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum.[8]

Veneration in the East

Panteleimon, is shown here with a lancet in his right hand. This tile probably formed a frieze on a church wall or altar screen.[9] The Walters Art Museum.

The Eastern tradition concerning Pantaleon follows more or less the medieval Western hagiography, but lacks any mention of a visible apparition of Christ. It states instead that Hermolaus was still alive while Pantaleon's torture was under way, but was martyred himself only shortly before Pantaleon's beheading along with two companions, Hermippas and Thermocrates. The saint is canonically depicted as a beardless young man with a full head of curly hair.

Pantaleon's relics, venerated at Nicomedia, were transferred to Constantinople. Numerous churches, shrines, and monasteries have been named for him; in the West most often as St. Pantaleon and in the East as St. Panteleimon; to him is consecrated the St. Panteleimon Monastery at Mount Athos, and the 12th-century Church of St. Panteleimon in Gorno Nerezi, in the Republic of Macedonia.

Church of St. Panteleimon, built in 1735-39, is one of the oldest in St. Petersburg.

Armenians believe that the Gandzasar Monastery in Nagorno Karabakh contains relics of St. Pantaleon, who was venerated in eastern provinces of Armenia.

Veneration in Western Europe

At the Basilica of the Vierzehnheiligen near Staffelstein in Franconia, St. Pantaleon is venerated with his hands nailed to his head, reflecting another legend about his death.

After the Black Death of the mid-14th century in Western Europe, as a patron saint of physicians and midwives, he came to be regarded as one of the fourteen guardian martyrs, the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Relics of the saint are to be found at Saint Denis at Paris; his head is venerated at Lyon. A Romanesque church was dedicated to him in Cologne in the 9th century at latest.


In the British Library there is a surviving manuscript, written in Saxon Old English, of The Life of St Pantaleon (British Library, MS Cotton Vitellius D XVII), dating from the early eleventh century, possibly written for Abbot Ælfric of Eynsham.[10]


In France, he was depicted in a window in Chartres Cathedral.[3] In southern France there are six communes under the protective name of Saint-Pantaléon. Though there are individual churches consecrated to him elsewhere, there are no communes named for him in the north or northwest of France. The six are:


In Cologne a 10th Century Romanesque church, partly built by the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, Theophanu, who married the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II in 972


In Italy, Pantaleon gives favourable lottery numbers, victories and winners in dreams.[11] A phial containing some of his blood was long preserved at Ravello.[3] On the feast day of the saint, the blood was said to become fluid and to bubble (compare Saint Januarius). Paolo Veronese's painting of Pantaleon can be found in the church of San Pantalon in Venice; it shows the saint healing a child. Another painting of Pantaleon by Fumiani is also in the same church.[3] He was depicted in an 8th-century fresco in Santa Maria Antiqua in Rome, and in a 10th-century cycle of pictures in the crypt of San Crisogono in Rome.[3] In Calabria, there is small town named Papanice, after Pantaleon. Each year on his feast day, a statue of the saint is carried through the town to give a blessing for all those who seek it.

San Pantaleone or Pantalone was a popular saint in Venice, and he therefore gave his name to a character in the commedia dell'arte, Pantalone, a silly, wizened old man (Shakespeare's "lean and slippered Pantaloon") who was a caricature of Venetians. This character was portrayed as wearing trousers rather than knee breeches, and so became the origin of the name of a type of trouser called "pantaloons," which was later shortened to "pants."[12]



  1. Antonelli, Antonello. "San Pantaleone" Santi e beati
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Butler, Alban (2000). Butler's Lives of the Saints. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 217.
  4. 1 2 Liguori, Alphonsus (1888). "SS. Hermolaus, Priest; and Pantaleon, Physician". Victories of the Martyrs. London: Benziger Brothers. pp. 308–311.
  5. Löffler, Klemens (1911). "St. Pantaleon". The Catholic Encyclopedia. 11. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  6. Graecarum affectionum curatio, Sermo VIII, "De martyribus", published in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, LXXXIII 1033
  7. De aedificiis Justiniani (I, ix; V, ix)
  8. Bollandists' Acta Sanctorum for November, II, 1, 97
  9. "Saint Panteleimon". The Walters Art Museum.
  10. Joana Proud, 'The Old English 'Life of Saint Pantaleon' and its manuscript context' in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library (1997, vol. 79, no. 3, pp.119-132
  11. Jockle, Clemens (1995). Encyclopedia of Saints. London: Alpine Fine Arts Collection. p. 349.
  12. Harper, Douglas. "Pantaloon". Etymology Online. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
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