June 27, 2010

St. Sampson the Innkeeper, Founder of the Largest Free Clinic in the Roman Empire

St. Sampson the Innkeeper and Physician of Constantinople (Feast Day - June 27)

Saint Sampson the Innkeeper was the son of rich and illustrious Roman parents. In his youth he received an excellent education, he studied the medical arts, and doctored the sick without charge. After the death of his parents St Sampson generously distributed alms and set his slaves free, preparing himself to go into the wilderness.

With this intent in mind he soon journeyed from Rome to the East. But the Lord directed him onto a different path, that of service to neighbor, and so St Sampson came to Constantinople. Settling into a small house, the Saint began to take in homeless wanderers, the poor and the sick, and he attended to them. The Lord blessed the efforts of St Sampson and endowed him with the power of wonderworking. He healed the sick not only through being a skilled physician, but also as a bearer of the grace of God. News of St Sampson spread abroad. The Patriarch heard of his great virtue and ordained him to the holy priesthood.

It was revealed to the grievously ill Emperor Justinian (527-565) that he could receive healing only through St Sampson. In praying, the Saint put his hand on the afflicted area, and Justinian was healed. In gratitude the emperor wanted to reward his healer with silver and gold, but the Saint refused saying, "O Emperor, I had silver and gold and other riches, but I left it all for the sake of Christ, that I might gain heavenly and eternal wealth." Instead St Sampson asked Justinian to build a home for the poor and hospital for the sick. The emperor readily fulfilled his request. With the emperor's assistance Sampson founded the hospital which became the largest free clinic in the empire and served the people of Constantinople for 600 years.

St Sampson devoted the rest of his life to serving his neighbor. He survived into old age and after a short illness he departed peacefully to the Lord on June 27th, 530. The Saint was buried at the Church of the Holy Martyr Mokios, and many healings were effected at his grave. His hospital remained open, and the Saint did not cease to care for the suffering. He appeared twice to a negligent worker of the hospital and upbraided him for his laziness. At the request of an admirer of St Sampson the hospital was transformed into a church, and beside it a new edifice was built for the homeless. During the time of a powerful fire at Constantinople the flames did not touch the hospital of St Sampson. Through his intercession a heavy rain quenched the fire. St Sampson is known as one of the Holy Unmerceneries.

It was on his feast day that Peter the Great defeated Charles XII of Sweden in the Battle of Poltava. This led to St.Sampson's veneration in Russia, including the construction of St Sampson's Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Remains of the hospital of St Sampson with a colonnaded courtyard were excavated south of Hagia Eirene after World War II. The hospital itself lay in between the churches of Hagia Eirene and Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. See the reconstruction here.

"The Emperor fulfilled Sampson's wish and built a spacious hospital and house for lodging pilgrims. He appointed Sampson the director. It should be noted that such institutions were unknown to the pagans. They built grandiose edifices, temples to their gods, palaces, theaters, circuses, whose ruins amaze us even today by their enormous size. They spent huge amounts of money on luxury and pleasures, but nowhere do we see that they tried to ease the lot of the sick and suffering. Christ gave us a commandment to love our neighbor; He taught us to consider each person as our brother, and to serve and help one another. In His life on earth, He Himself showed us an example of what we should do, for He was constantly doing good for people. To emulate our Divine Teacher, to be like Him as much as possible, should be our principal concern in life, if we love our Lord Jesus Christ and wish to be true Christians. And the Lord will help us. In doing good - not for money or thanks but out of love for Christ - we shall find unspeakable happiness and peace for our souls." (A. N. Bakhmeteva, Selected Lives of Saints, Moscow 1872)

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
In thy patience thou hast won thy reward, O righteous Father. Thou didst persevere unceasingly in prayer; thou didst love the poor, and didst provide for them in all things. Wherefore, intercede with Christ our God, O blessed and godly-minded Sampson, that our souls be saved.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
We come together, praising thee with hymns and psalms, O righteous one, as an unrivalled physician and as an intercessor pleasing unto God; O divinely-wise Sampson, ever having recourse to thy godly shrine for help, we glorify Christ Jesus, Who gave thee the grace to work thy cures.