In 1532, Cosmas “The Lesser” and his wife Apollinaria, pious peasants in the Russian village of Dvina Verkola, had a son. They named him Artemius. Cosmas and Apollinaria raised their son to love and honor God with his life. Even from an early age, Artemius lived a virtuous Christian life. Some sources say that by the time he was five, Artemius didn’t want to do what other kids his age did. Instead, he loved to work and tried to help his parents however he could with the household chores. He happily obeyed his parents, and any free time he had left when chores were finished, he spent in church. If he couldn’t be in church, he’d sneak away to where no one could see him, and pray.
One day, when he was twelve, Artemius and Cosmas were working together on their farm work. They were out tilling their fields when a thunderstorm suddenly appeared overhead. Artemius couldn’t even run for cover before a lightning bolt struck him and killed him. It was June 23, 1545.
At that time, many people in the region were superstitious, and they believed that a sudden death like Artemius’ was a terrible thing. They thought that he died suddenly because God was judging Artemius for something bad that he had done. Because of this, the people wouldn’t bury him or even give him a proper funeral! Instead, his body was taken to a meadow, where a wooden shell was placed over it, and a fence was built around it.
Thirty-two years later, a deacon named Agafonik was out gathering berries when he saw a bright light shining right up into the air. As Agafonik came closer to the light, he saw the body of Artemius, covered with tree branches, lying in a clearing. The light was shining up into the air right above the boy’s body. The body was incorrupt – he had not decayed at all – in fact it looked to Agafonik like he was just sleeping there! The deacon ran to get the priest and the other villagers. Because his body was incorrupt after all of those years, the whole village knew that Artemius was very holy, so they brought his body back to the courtyard in front of St. Nicholas’ church. They placed it in a coffin covered in birch bark, and kept it in the courtyard of the church.
At that time, there was a terrible flu that was going through the village of Verkola, and many people were dying from it. One man, Kallinik, had a son who had this flu. Kallinik was afraid that his son would also die. He went to the church of St. Nicholas and prayed. He begged Christ to heal his son. He also asked the Theotokos, St. Nicholas, and even Artemius to pray for his son. Then he took a piece of birch bark from Artemius’ coffin back to his home, and placed it on his son’s chest. His son was immediately healed! Kallinik told others in the village what happened. Other villagers who took pieces of the bark from Artemius’ coffin to the sick people in their homes found that their loved ones were all healed, as well!
In the years since his incorrupt body was discovered, there have been other times when St.Artemius has healed people. Sometimes he appears to the people that he heals, and talks with them. For example, once there was a man from Kholmogor named Hilarion who went blind. He was very sad and didn’t feel like doing anything anymore because he couldn’t see. But on the feast of St. Nicholas, St. Artemius came to him. Artemius was holding a staff in his left hand and a cross in his right hand, and he told Hilarion, “Arise, Christ heals you by the hand of His servant Artemius. Go to Verkola, bow down before his coffin, and relate everything to the priest and the peasants.” As soon as St. Artemius finished speaking, Hilarion could see again!
In 1584, people who were grateful for St. Artemius’ help and prayers built a side chapel for him. They moved his body into that chapel from the courtyard where it had been ever since it was found. Years later, St. Artemius healed a military commander’s son. The commander was so thankful that he built a whole church dedicated to the saint! In 1619, St. Artemius’ relics were moved to that church. The church burned down thirty years later, but St. Artemius’ relics were found.
In 1648, more than a hundred years after Artemius died, Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich of Russia ordered that a monastery was built and named for St. Artemius, and placed under his protection. His relics were taken to the monastery with his name so that people could continue to venerate them and ask for his prayers. Over the centuries many miracles were attributed to these relics by people who have approached them with true faith in Christ. Besides healing people from illnesses and blindness, God has also healed lame and deaf people through the prayers of St. Artemius. He has interceded for men and women, old people and young people; and there are so many miracles that God has worked through this saint that one source said it would be impossible to write them all down. Glory to God for His work through this holy child saint!
In the summer of 1918, as the Bolsheviks began to terribly persecute the Orthodox Christian Church, St. Artemius’ relics were among those that were destroyed. Even though his earthly relics have been destroyed, we know that this holy saint is still alive with God, and that he continues to pray for those who ask him to do so! And he has not stopped appearing to people in visions.
An American iconographer, Philip Zimmerman, who was living near Johnstown, PA, had a waking vision of a child saint. The child saint asked him to “paint what he saw for the children at the Village.” Mr. Zimmerman pondered the vision and prayed about it, and finally about 5 years later, he painted what he had seen, the holy saint Artemius. After that, St. Artemius appeared to Mr. Zimmerman additional times, confirming what he had seen in the dream about the saint’s hagiography. At that time, Fr. John Namie was directing Antiochian Village. He coordinated the selection of a site and the building of a rock shrine for the icon on that site. The icon stands there in its shrine to this day, to the right of the entrance to the St. Ignatius Church, in the midst of Antiochian Village Camp. St. Artemius’ shrine stands watch over the huge fields of Antiochian Village, even as the saint watches over – and prays for – the children and adults who spend time there.
Through the prayers of St. Artemius the Righteous Child Wonderworker, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Here are some related links and discussion ideas that may be helpful to your family as you learn about St. Artemius:
This blog shares St. Artemius of Verkova’s story in detail, and includes several icons of him. https://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/10/saint-artemius-of-verkola-righteous.html
St. Artemius has a lot to teach Orthodox Christians of all ages about being faithful to God in all that we do!
Parents: what are we doing to live Godly, obedient lives? Do we run to help others or to go to Church, or to pray whenever possible, as St. Artemius did? Are we raising our children in godliness and modeling the faith for them?
Children: what are you doing to show your love for God? Do you obey your parents and try to help them with as many chores as you can, like St. Artemius did? Do you love to be in Church and to pray more than you love to play with your friends?
None of us is St. Artemius, so probably we have a lot of work to do in these areas, in order to become like him. We can’t change our hearts all at once, but we can BEGIN to change to be more godly. We can start with small steps. For example, whenever there’s a thunderstorm, perhaps we can let it remind us of St. Artemius’ faithfulness to God. When we remember his example of godliness, we can ask him to pray for us that we will grow to be holy and faithful, too.
Your family can learn St. Artemius’ troparion and chant it together on one of his commemoration days. Or maybe you’ll want to sing it whenever there’s a thunderstorm!
Troparion (tone 2)
By the command of the Most High, the sky was darkened with rain clouds,
lightning flashed, threat’ning thunder clashed,
and you gave up your soul into the hands of the Lord, O Artemius most wise.
Now as you stand before the Throne of the Lord of All,
you grant healing unfailingly to those who come to you with faith and love,
and you pray to Christ our God that our souls may be saved.
Together as a family, you can listen to St. Artemius’ story in Ancient Faith Radio’s podcast, “Tending the Garden of our Hearts”: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/tendingthegarden/st_artemius
What other wonderworking saints does your family know? Find a list of saints that are known to help by praying for specific needs here: http://www.saintbarbara.org/growing_in_christ/praying_to_the_saints
Can you find St. Artemius of Verkova in the list?
Iconographer Philip Zimmerman is still writing icons, and he even leads iconography classes! Check out his website here: https://www.philzicons.com/