The Christian martyr Florus and Laurus were twin brothers who worked as stonemasons. They lived and suffered in Illyricum in the 2nd century AD. Likaion, the prefect of Illyricum, employed the brothers in the construction of the temple of Heracles but the brothers built a Holy Trinity church instead and demolished pagan idols. Likaion ordered that the brothers be subjected to cruel torture and buried alive in a deep well. Under the Emperor Constantine the Great their relics were found incorruptable and transferred to Constantinople. The saints’ shrine housed in the monastery built in their honor performed many healings. The Life of Sts. Florus and Laurus was translated into the Slavonic language not later than 15th century. It became famous from the 15th century when included in the Synaxarion of Metropolitan Macarius.

The subject matter of the Miracle of Florus and Laurus developed in the 15th century, the earliest icons of the sains are located in St. Petersburg’s Russian Museum and in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Vertically, the composition is diveded into two conditional parts. In the upper field is the full-length figure of the Archangel Michael holding two saddled horses on long reins. On either side of him, on the hills, stand saints Florus and Laurus. Some icons depict in the bottom margin three horsemen speeding horses to the river. These are three other martyr brothers - Spevsippus, Elesippus and Melevsippus (“speeding a horse’s race”, “galloping a horse” and “looking after a horse”). The composition is sometimes accompanied by inscription “Angel of the Lord entrusting Florus and Laurus with a herd.”

The literary source of the Miracle is unknown. One can suggest that this story reflected the veneration of the saints as protectors of horses. Special attitude towards the saints’ horses is emphasized in both Russian Mineons and painter’s guides that instructed iconographers to portray the saints “with horses.” While the brothers were twins, according to tradition, Florus is traditionally depicted as a middle-aged man, and Laurus is portrayed as a youth.

The martyrs Florus and Laurus are commemorated on August 31 (August 18, O.S.).

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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