(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today we commemorate Sts. Floros and Lavros, whose account is found in Volume 3 of the series.)
Saints Floros and Lavros
As common as it is for brothers to join in all forms of enterprise or expression, it is quite uncommon for two brothers to pool their talents not only in craftsmanship but in a joint service to the Lord as well, and to do so with such eminence as to attain sainthood. A pair of fourth-century brothers named Floros and Lavros lived, worked and died together for Jesus Christ, adding considerable luster to themselves and to the Christian community of their day and for all time.
Floros and Lavros were born in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, where they received their early education and where they were apprenticed to two men known as Proklos and Maximos, renowned as craftsmen, stonemasons and intellectuals of the highest order, taking only pupils who displayed the greatest talent. The teachers were also profoundly religious thinkers who imparted considerable theology and religious enthusiasm to their pupils along with their arts and crafts. When they had served their apprenticeship, the brothers had become not only master stonemasons but also deeply religious followers of Jesus Christ as well.
When a wave of persecutions caught up with Proklos and Maximos, the eminent teachers were put to death in a cruel fashion, an incident so horrifying to Floros and Lavros that they fled the city of their birth and took up their craft in a city of the Illyricum. There they met with such success that they were engaged by the prefect Lykon to erect a building for Licinius, the son of Empress Elpidia, an edifice which Licinius, himself a noted architect, was to design.
To their dismay the brothers found that the building to be erected was a pagan temple, and they were hesitant to accept the assignment until it had been agreed that they would be responsible for the building itself and not for any of its furnishings, which were certain to include pagan artifacts and idols. The brothers also pledged the considerable advance fee and subsequent earnings to the welfare of the poor, unbeknownst to Licinius, who might otherwise not have been so generous. When the temple was complete, even the Christians had to admire its beauty, but it soon fell into a state of neglect with pagan disinterest. After the death of the prefect, the handsome edifice was virtually abandoned. Not wishing to see their handiwork go to waste, Floros and Lavros led a contingent of Christians who removed all the pagan idols and furnishings from within the temple and replaced them with the altar and icons of Christianity, thus converting it into a beautiful cathedral.
Christianity seemed to flourish from that moment forward and converts were won in scores, to the extent that the indifferent pagans paid no heed to what had transpired and it was taken for granted that the church would continue in its service to the community. That was far from the case, however, because Licinius chanced to visit the city one day and was aghast at the conversion of his temple into a Christian church. He dismissed the incumbent prefect for malfeasance of office and called for the trial and punishment of those Christians responsible, particularly Floros and Lavros, who made no secret of their part in the transformation.
The cruel and calculating Licinius wanted to make an example of the two brothers and discourage further Christian conversions. To this end he ordered that the two be dragged through the streets in tow of chariots whose drivers were charged to punish the unfortunate prisoners just short of killing them. When this was done, they were propped upright in the public square and held up to ridicule and derision by the pagan rabble. Returned to Licinius, they were ordered to be thrown into a deep well and left there to die. No one dared to come forth and plead for the lives of the valiant brothers, who died in utter agony after days of suffering, neither giving up his faith in the Lord.
The remains of Floros and Lavros were taken up and removed to Constantinople, there to be enshrined near the base of the Church of St. Philip in the Monastery of the Omnipotent Christ (Pantokrator). Many churches have been dedicated to the memory of these magnificent brothers. The best known of these is the Church of Sts. Floros and Lavros in Messinia, where each year August 18 has added meaning.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikipedia.