Saint Cosmas of Maiuma, also called Cosmas Hagiopolites ("of the Holy City"), Cosmas of Jerusalem, or Cosmas the Melodist (d. 773 or 794), was a bishop and hymnographer (writer of hymns) of the Eastern Church.
Saint Cosmas (Κοσμας) was born in Jerusalem
, but was orphaned at a young age. He became the foster-brother of Saint John of Damascus
(ca. 676 – 749). The teacher of the two boys was an elderly Sicilian
monk, also named Cosmas (known as "Cosmas the Monk" to distinguish him), who had been freed from slavery to the Saracens
by St. John's father. John and Cosmas went from Damascus
, where both became monks in the Lavra
(monastery) of St. Sabbas the Sanctified
near that city. Together they helped defend the Church against the heresy of iconoclasm
Cosmas left the monastery in 743 when he was appointed Bishop of Maiuma, the port of ancient Gaza on the southern coast of Phoenicia. He outlived St. John by many years and died in great old age.
As a learned prose-author, Cosmas wrote commentaries, or scholia
, on the poems of St. Gregory of Nazianzus
. He is regarded with great admiration as a poet. St. Cosmas and St. John of Damascus are considered to be the best representatives of the later Greek classical hymnography
, the most characteristic examples of which are the artistic liturgical chants known as "canons
". They worked together on developing the Octoechos
Saint Cosmas has been called "a vessel of divine grace" and "the glory of the Church. He composed the solemn canons for Matins of Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, the Triodes (canons with only three Canticles) which are chanted during Holy Week, and the first canon of the Nativity (based on a Nativity sermon by St. Gregory the Theologian). Altogether, fourteen canons are attributed to him in the liturgical books of the Orthodox Church. His most well-known composition is "More honourable than the cherubim…" (which is included in the Axion Estin), sung regularly at Matins, the Divine Liturgy and other services.
The hymns of St. Cosmas were originally intended for the Divine Services of the Church of Jerusalem, but through the influence of Constantinople their use became universal in the Orthodox Church. It is not certain, however, that all the hymns ascribed to Cosmas in the liturgical books were really his compositions, especially as his teacher of the same name was also a hymn writer.
The Eastern Orthodox Church observes his feast on October 12 (for those Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian Calendar, October 12 falls on October 25 of the Gregorian Calendar).
- Collections of hymns, varying in number, are attributed to Cosmas, and may be found in Jacques-Paul Migne, Patrologia Graecae (P.G.), XCVIII, 459-524, and in Christ-Paranikas, Anthologia graeca carminum christianorum (Leipzig, 1871), 161-204.
- For the above-mentioned scholia on the poems of Gregory of Nazianzus, see Cardinal Angelo Mai, Spicilegium Romanum, II, Pt. II, 1-375, and Migne, P.G., XXXVIII, 339-679.
- In general, see Krumbacher, Gesch. der byzantinischen Literatur (2d ed., Munich, 1896), 674 sqq.