May 3, 2018

Translation of the Sacred Relics of Saint Luke of Steirion

Translation of the Relic of Hosios Loukas (Feast Day - May 3)

Our Venerable Father Luke of Steirion (Hosios Loukas) reposed in his cell at Mount Steirion in Thebes of Boeotia in 953, and his primary feast is celebrated on February 7th. Due to the numerous miracles at his grave following his repose, the caretakers decided to build other cells and a church over it, making his cell its crypt. The Saint's remains were placed in a new church replacing this original one built by an abbot named Philotheos.

This Philotheos is depicted three times in the frescoes of Hosios Loukas Monastery. (a) In the crypt, at the groin vault above the southeast tomb, there are four portraits of higoumenoi (abbots), whose names are known from the accompanying inscriptions. One of them is called Philotheos. (b) Again in the crypt, close to the entrance, we find a composition with many monks; although there is no inscription here, in the first row it is easy to recognize the portraits of three of the higoumenoi also represented in the groin vault; the third of them is Philotheos. (c) At the northeastern chapel of the katholikon, next to the actual tomb of Saint Luke, there is a poorly preserved fresco representing the offering of a model of a church by the same Philotheos to Saint Luke. Thus the paintings offer unexpected confirmation of the textual testimony.

Thus a first church was built around his tomb, and later rebuilt by Philotheos to become the actual katholikon. The Saint's relics were placed inside the monumental tomb, which still exists at the same floor level as the katholikon. When did this happen? It must have been during the eleventh century, as almost all scholars concur that the monastery's pictorial decoration dates from then. On the other hand, it is clearly stated in the records of the monastery that the translation of the relics occurred on the third of May, which coincided with the feast of the Ascension: in the eleventh century, this coincidence occurred only three times, in 1011, 1022, and 1095. It was probably in 1011, since a canticle about the translation speaks of "invasions of the Scythians," a phrase that must have been written before the abolition of the state of the Bulgar sovereign Samuel. Furthermore, the inauguration of the new Church of the Panagia probably took place in 1011 and that of the katholikon under Constantine Monomachos (1042–1055), as this is attested by the fifteenth-century traveler Kyriacos of Ancona. Therefore on the third of May, most probably in 1011, the translation took place, when a new church was inaugurated in the monastery, the katholikon or the new Church of the Panagia/Saint Barbara.

Original Crypt of Hosios Loukas