August 4, 2016

King Edward's Vision of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus

King Edward the Confessor (r. 1042-1066)

Indeed, when all who were sitting at the table of the king silent and eating hungrily after the fast of Lent, the king suddenly raised his voice in a laugh and laughing far too openly he drew the eyes of all the eating ones to him. And thus with all of them wondering, since they were thinking that he had laughed without cause, nevertheless no one dared to openly ask why this had happened.

When the meal was finished and he had entered his private chamber and as usual taken off his crown, Duke Harold, with two nobles, of whom one was a bishop, the other an abbot, said to him in private: “We saw something unusual today, Lord King, by which we all were greatly astonished.” And when the king had asked them what this was, he responded, "We have never seen you laugh so openly without a cause as today." But he said, “I saw wonderful things, and therefore I did not laugh without a cause.” Then those three nobles, estimating that so great a man did not laugh from foolishness in such a way, began to supplicate him that he see fit to share with them the occasion of so great a joy.

And when he was compelled by them with many requests, he said, “It is more than two hundred years from which time the Seven Sleepers rested in the cave on Mt. Celion near Ephesus on their right side, but now after we began to feast, they turned over to their left side, and on that side they will lie for up to seventy-four years. This rotation, without a doubt, predicts a fearful omen for mortals. For those things, which the Lord gives indication of [or threatens/warns of] in the Gospels, will be executed in these seventy-four years in many ways, for nations will rise against nations, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes throughout the lands and there will be both pestilences and famine and terror from the sky and great signs. Wars and oppressions of nations will torment the human race incomparably and there will be changes of many kingdoms….

…With these things having been heard, the aforementioned nobles with wonder withdrew from the king and soon decided to prepare three legates, each one of his own rank, in order to search for the truth. For Duke Harold directed a soldier, the bishop directed a cleric and the abbot directed a monk with royal gifts and letters stamped with the seal of King Edward to Maniches, Emperor of Constantinople, asking that he order the Seven Sleepers to be shown to the messengers of King Edward. Then Emperor Maniches kindly accepted the legates coming from so far away with their gifts, and he saw to it that they were escorted to the bishop of Ephesus, and he ordered him that he show the aforementioned Seven Sleepers to the English pilgrims. And he obeyed in all particulars the orders of the emperor. For he heard gladly the reason why they had approached Greece, with the cleric and the people he took them to the cave, and led them devotedly into the cave with aromatic spices, and there he showed them the seven sleeping saints with the greatest reverence.

Indeed, as the English legates entered the cave, they found all signs concerning the Seven Sleepers, which King Edward had reported in England, and after presenting their gifts, giving thanks to God, they joyfully returned to their own land.

Source: From the Vita Aedwardi (11th or 12th century), Bodleian Library MS 297.