Icon of the Holy Unmercenary Physicians Sts. Hermione, Philonella & Zenaida - (1UP10)

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Sts. Zenaida & Philonella

A strong tradition in the Orthodox Christian world was that of the Holy Unmercenary physicians.  This category of saint was made up of trained physicians who, being Christian, added not only the holistic dimension to their practice, but treated the poor and disadvantaged without charge for their services. They combined clinical medicine with prayer, never disdaining pharmaceuticals or traditional medical practices. 

Interestingly, this tradition was founded by three women - the first in the long series of "unmercinary physicians."  So far as we know, the first of these great "unmercinary physicians" were women.  The sisters, Zenaida and Philonella were born in the district of Tarsus early in the first century.  They were cousins of Apostle Paul and sisters of the first Christian bishop of Tarsus, Jason.  They were born into a highly educated Jewish family.  Both sisters entered the famous school at Tarsus to study philosophy but were especially attracted to the lectures of the medical theorists.  They were converted to Chrisitanity by their brother Jason and were very much attracted by the love and compassion of Christ.  After their baptism, the two gave themselves over more fully to the study of medicine and began to apply Christian principles and ideas to medical philosophy.  Orthodox Christianity taught that salvation is a healing process. The two sisters were deeply impressed with the realization that Christ tied the healing of the whole person, spiritual and physical with the presence of the Heavenly Kingdom.

When Zenaida and Philonella competed their studies, they moved to Thessaly, where there were many medicinal mineral springs flowing in the numerous caverns of the Felion Mountains.  The sisters purchased one of these medicinal springs and built a small dwelling and clinic in its cavern.

Philonella was a patient and careful scholar who was determined to separate medicine from ideas of magic and astrology.  She was also much interested in women's health problems and became a pioneer of gynecology.  Zenaida, who was more of a contemplative, was keenly interested in the suffring of children and worked to develop pediatric care. Toward the end of her life, Zenaida became interested in what we would now call "psychiatric medicine."  Many of those who came to their hospital suffered from severe depression and other psychiatric illnesses.  Zenaida had the wisdom to recognize these as actual illnesses and concerned herself with their causes and cure.  In the Orthodox Church, the two sisters are known as "the friends of peace." 

St. Hermione

The other pioneer of the holy unmercenary tradition was Hermione, a daughter of Philip the Deacon (Acts chapter 6). She was born in Caesarea of Palestine early in the first century.  Joined by her sister Eukhidia, Saint Hermione bought a house and founded a medical clinic devoted to the treatment of the poor and the homeless.  Rooms were added for poor travelers who were ill.  In this way, Hermione started the tradition of Christian hospital-hostels or "xenodokhia", which would become so much a part of the function of the early Orthodox Christian dioceses.

Source: https://owhm.org/saints.html

11 Reviews Hide Reviews Show Reviews

  • 5

    Posted by DM on 26th Apr 2023

    Arrived quickly and packaged well. Beautiful quality.

  • 5

    Posted by Mat. Gail on 17th Dec 2022

    Beautiful icon! Looking forward to having it our icon corner.

  • 4
    Purchased icons.

    Posted by Kristine Woolley on 1st Nov 2021

    The Icons are beautifully done. I ordered 2 of this particular icon. Unfortunately one of them has a paper interruption that makes the boarder look unsightly. I will be returning one of them for a replacement. I do love the free St. Cosmas icon included in my order. Thank you so much. It is beautiful too.

  • 5
    Beautiful Icon!

    Posted by Alexander on 16th Sep 2021

    Lovely icon of these three amazing saints, which I purchased for my wife, who is a physician. I pray they pray to help bring her comfort and skill in her service to her patients.

  • 5
    The Holy Unmercenary Women

    Posted by Rachel Horton on 26th Aug 2021


  • 5
    Holy Unmercenary Physicians

    Posted by Paul Simmons on 24th Jul 2020

    Absolutely beautiful and well made!

  • 5
    Beautiful icon

    Posted by Michel Accad on 15th May 2020

    A lovely piece now hanging in my medical office to inspire and strengthen me. Thank you!

  • 5
    Icon of Holy Unmercenary Women

    Posted by Esmee La Fleur on 1st Aug 2019

    My goddaughter decided to be baptized under Saint Philonella. I was very familiar with the more well-known Unmercenary male saints, but I was totally unfamiliar with these female Unmercenaries. What a delightful discovery! I wanted to get an icon of Saint Philonella for my own prayer corner to help me remember to prayer for my newly illumined goddaughter. This was the only one I could find. I am very happy with the quality of the product and the price was reasonable. It arrived within a week of me placing the order.

  • 5

    Posted by Julia on 21st Jan 2019

    I am particularly fond of these saints - and wish they were better known! (These unmercenary healers predate the better known ones.) The icon is well done and attractive.