Saint Andrew of Crete (ca. 660 – 740 AD), the Archbishop of Crete, was a hymnographer, rhetor and homilist, the author of the Great Penitential Canon and many sermons, canons and troparions.

Accounts of St. Andrew of Crete’s life survived only in the hagiographic literature. Soon after his death a brief text was compiled in his memory dedicated to the saint’s death on July 4th. A fuller version of his Life was compiled by patrician Necetas not later than 843 AD. There are also other versions of his life written by other authors. The commemoration text and Life in patrician Necetas’ redaction were included in the Great Menaion Reader by Metropolitan Macarius.

According to account, St. Andrew of Crete was born in Damascus into a family of pious Christians George and Georgia. The child was a mute from birth until the age of seven. He was miraculously cured after receiving the Holy Communion. Having finished elementary school in Damascus, the pious youth went to the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem where he was tonsured by the patriarch Theodor of Jerusalem who noted his “humbleness and great fear of the Lord” and appointed him secretary and later an accountant.

In 685, St. Andrew, in company with two other monks, headed for Constantinople taking with him the rulings of the Sixth Ecumenical Council that had been approved by the Church of Jerusalem. In Byzantium he was appointed Archdeacon of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia where he served for twenty years overseeing an orphanage. In about 710, St. Andrew of Crete was appointed to the metropolitan see of Gortyna in Crete. During his ministry St. Andrew became famous for many miracles. Through his prayers the residents of Crete were saved from the Saracene invasion, deceases and droughts. The saint built a church in honor of the Holy Virgin in commemoration of the Church of Blacheranae in Constantinople and other churches. He made several trips to Constantinople. Andrew of Crete died on Lesbos while returning from Constantinople and was buried on the island.

In Byzantine and Russian art St. Andrew of Crete is depicted as an old man with gray hair and a middle-sized bear wearing clerical vestments – a phelonion and omophorion – holding a Gospel or a scroll in the hand, such as on a mid-14th century small sakkos of the Metropolitan Photius of Moscow.

St. Andrew of Crete is commemorated on July 17 (July 4, 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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