Theophanes the Branded

Saint Theophanes
the Branded (Graptus)
Born 775
Palestine, Bilad al-Sham (Abbasid Caliphate)
Died 845
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast October 11
Attributes Hymnographer
See also article about him and his brother Theodorus at Theodorus and Theophanes

Theophanes the Branded also called Theophanes Graptus or Theophanes of Nicaea (775 - 845) was a Byzantine monk and hymnographer.

Next to Joseph the Hymnographer, Theophanes is the major contributor to the Orthodox liturgical book called the Parakletike.


His Vita prima was recorded in the Life of Michael the Synkellos.[1] Theophanes and his brother Theodore were born in Palestine near the end of the eighth century, sons of the Venerable Jonah the Presbyter. Both grew up in Jerusalem, entered the Monastery of Mar Sabba near Bethlehem together, and became disciples of St. Michael the Synkellos. In 813 Michael and his two disciples left Jerusalem originally on a journey to Rome. They had been sent by the Patriarch of Jerusalem to support the Pope in his stand against the Franks over the question of the filioque, which some Benedictines from the West had recently introduced to Jerusalem.

In the course of their journey, they landed in Constantinople. Known for their support of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which had condemned Iconoclasm as a heresy, they were detained, interrogated, beaten and imprisoned by order of the Emperor Leo V (the Armenian) in 815. During the whole of the second iconoclast period—nearly thirty years—they suffered at various times exile, imprisonment and torture. The Emperor Theophilus beat them with his own hand and ordered that they be branded on their faces with twelve lines of ‘badly composed’— the emperor’s own words —, if metrically correct, quantitative iambic verses. The ordeal took two days.

They were thrown into prison in the town of Apamea in Bithynia, where Theodore died in prison of his wounds in 841. Michael and his brother Theophanes survived to see Orthodoxy triumph over Iconoclasm. Theophanes was consecrated as Metropolitan of Nicaea by Patriarch Methodius, and Michael was made abbot of the Monastery of Chora, where he died, just two months after Theophanes, in January 846.


As a hymnographer, Theophanes belongs to the tradition of the Lavra of Mar Sabbas, which includes many of the greatest writers of canons, including St Andrew of Crete, St Kosmas of Maïouma and St John of Damascus.

His contribution to the Parakletike consists of sets of canons in all Eight Tones for the Angels, and the Departed. He is sometimes said also to have written a set for the Apostles, but those in Tones 7 and 8 are ascribed to Joseph in the Paraklitiki, that in Tone 7 being ‘signed’ acrostically in the Ninth Ode. Not all of these are ‘signed’ in the acrostic, but that for the Angels in Tone 1 has as its acrostic the following, ‘The first hymn of Theophanes for the Angels’, while that for the departed in Tone 5 has, ‘The fifth canon of Theophanes for the dead’. Unfortunately none of these texts has been critically edited and the printed service books often differ widely in their ascriptions.

See also


  1. Dr. Mary Cunningham, The Life of Michael the Synkellos (Belfast Byzantine Texts and Translations, 1991), ISBN 978-0-85389-369-1.
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