Orthodox icon | The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus | 24981


  • Russian icon
  • 17.3 x 13.4 cm | 6.8 x 5.3 in
  • 19th century


The Orthodox icon of the Seven Sleepers, also known as the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus” or the “Seven Holy Youths,” represents a legendary story from early Christian tradition. This story is based on a narrative of faith, divine protection, and the concept of God’s power to preserve and reward believers.

The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus were seven young Christian men (Maximilianus, Malchus, Martinianus, Constantinus, Dionysius, Johannes, and Serapion) who lived in the third century, a time when Christianity was persecuted in the Roman Empire. According to legend, these seven friends refused to renounce their Christian faith and sought refuge in a cave outside the city of Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey) to escape persecution. The iconic representation of the Seven Sleepers typically depicts the seven young men peacefully asleep within the cave, dressed in clothing typical of their era.

The story goes that the Seven Sleepers slept deeply for about 200 years, during which time Christianity became the state religion under Emperor Theodosius II. When the cave was eventually opened, the Seven Sleepers awoke and believed they had slept only a short while. They sent one of their group, a young man named Diocletian, into the city to purchase food and gather information about the state of the world.

The narrative of the Seven Sleepers is regarded as a symbol of divine protection and the resurrection of the dead. It emphasizes the idea that those who remain steadfast in their faith will be rewarded, even in the face of persecution and adversity. Orthodox Christians turn to the icon of the Seven Sleepers as a reminder of the power of faith and God’s providence. It serves as an inspiration for believers to remain steadfast in their beliefs and to trust in divine protection, even in challenging times.

On the side: a guardian angel and Saint Anna, the Prophetess (Febraury 3).

The feast day of the Seven Sleepers is celebrated on August 4.

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Orthodox icon | The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus | 24981
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