(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 St. Sampson, whose account is found in Volume 2 of the series.)
Saint Sampson the Glorious Innkeeper and Physician
It comes as no surprise that scientific skill of a sixth-century physician could be combined with the devout worship of a zealous Christian with the result that he became a venerated saint of the Church. Sampson, who came to be known as the “Glorious Innkeeper and Physician,” was such a man. His title is curious only until something is known about this rare man whose life was crowded with glorious accomplishments in the name of the Lord and for the benefit of mankind.
For a number of reasons, chief among which the persecution of Christians was fast becoming a thing of the past during the late sixth century, St. Sampson’s life deviated
from the pattern of the mutilated and martyred saint. He was therefore allowed to see a fulfillment of his efforts in God’s work to the end of his days. There have been those who become saints principally because they were willing to lay down their lives for Christ, otherwise they might live on in oblivion.
Such was not the case with the energetic and resolute Sampson, whose entire life was a long dedication to Jesus Christ and who served man and God with such high honor that he more than deserved to be designated a saint for his unswerving devotion to the Savior in his ceaseless efforts to improve the general and spiritual welfare of man on earth.
Sampson, a native of Rome, was descended from royalty through his father’s kinship with the lineage of Emperor Constantine. His birthright assured him a life of comfort and glamour, but instead he chose to pledge himself to the service of God and mankind. The demands of his tasks were never too much to bear and he took great delight in them.
Following the customary liberal and fine arts education, he applied himself exclusively to the study of physical medicine and spiritual philosophy, for which he exhibited a remarkable skill and insight. He acquired an enviable reputation as physician and man of faith when, with the passing on of his parents, he transformed the family estate into a clinic and hostel for the physically incapacitated and the spiritually distressed. Within a short time, the word of his healing power of body and mind attracted so many people seeking both his physical and spiritual healing that he found it necessary to hire a staff to care for the ever-increasing numbers. All his benevolence was at his own personal expense. When he was satisfied that his refuge was adequately staffed, he endowed the hostel with the total wealth willed to him, content to live in poverty. He then set out for Constantinople, the city he had for so many years yearned to see.
Sampson’s reputation preceded him to Constantinople, and although he had hoped to live in relative obscurity, devoting the remainder of his days to asceticism, he found as much need for his services in this Byzantine paradise as there had been in Rome. Lacking the facilities which had been at his disposal in Rome, he settled in modest ceremony and set about waging a one-man war against disease and despair.
Sampson’s holy work did not go unknown to Patriarch Menas of Constantinople. When Emperor Justinian fell ill and failed to get relief from his physicians, the Patriarch Menas suggested that the suffering emperor summon the physician Sampson. The weary Justinian nodded assent; Sampson was rushed to his bedside. The physician’s skill was equal to the occasion and the grateful ruler rewarded his healer with the establishment of a medical center that far exceeded what he had left in Rome.
Emperor Justinian is remembered as the man responsible for the erection of the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Although Sampson’s medical center was not as grand as the Cathedral, it was as noble in purpose. There Sampson continued to serve God and man until his death, which came peacefully on June 27, 598.