Patriarch of Antioch & All the East (459-538)


An old wall painting portraying of Mor Sevarious (Larger figure),

at the church of St.Sergis & St.Bacchus in Sadad.

Source:- The Hidden Pearl

Patriarch St. Severious, widely known as “crown of the Syrians", is one of the greatest dignitary of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch.  He was the pride of the Patriarchs of Antioch, the luminary of scholars, an outstanding authority and the unique erudite of his generation. He was also a great theologian, a profound and prolific writer and an eloquent orator who had a great control of the pulpit. To him flocked eminent jurists and men of good conscience seeking solution to problems and interpretation of complex matters.  He was one who built up and upheld the edifice of religion, and supported and explained the authority of the Orthodox faith. He was pure in heart, soul and character, a possessor of the keys of wisdom and decisions.

Mor Severious was born at Sozopolis in the province of Psidis around the year 459 A.D. His grandfather (on his father’s side) was one of the bishops who attended the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431 A.D). At Alexandria, he studied grammar and rhetoric in both Greek and Latin, and jurisprudence and philosophy at the school of Roman jurisprudence in Beirut. He was baptized at the church of Tripoli in 488. Later he chose the way of asceticism and became monk in the monastery of St.Romanus in the city of Mayoma in Palestine and was ordained a priest by Bishop Epiphanius. Then, he built a monastery and remained there for twenty-four years, worshipping God and practicing the virtues of asceticism and studying the Holy Bible and the writings of theologians. He began to write to support Orthodox doctrine and his fame spread.

In 508, he journeyed with two hundred monks to Constantinople to defend the doctrine and remained there about three years until 511. A year and a few more months later, Flavian II, patriarch of Antioch, was deposed, and Severious was elected by the Holy Spirit to succeed him to the Apostolic See. He was consecrated a Patriarch in Antioch on the 6th of November, 512, after which he opened the treasures of his knowledge in preaching and explaining the realities of faith and morals. During his leadership as a patriarch he never deviated from the path of his asceticism and abstinence. So, he removed luxurious living from the patriarchal palace, while devoting his energy to reform and the dispensation of church affairs by visiting the neighboring dioceses and monasteries in person or by letter. When Justin I, the Chalcedonian, succeeded Anastasias in 518, he banished a group of our Orthodox bishops, antagonizing Severious who left for Egypt on the 25th of September and remained there for twenty-four years. In Egypt, Severious administered the church through his deputies or his letters. With indefatigable energy, he wrote book after book against heresies and deceivers, answered letters and gave personal opinions on legal matters. When he faced a difficult problem, he searched for light in the Holy Bible or turned to the resolutions of councils for assistance. In 535, he went to Constantinople in answer to the invitation of Justinian I, in pursuit of unity. At the capital, he won Anthimus, patriarch of Constantinople, to his side, but the gap between parties remained wide. Then he returned to Egypt where he died at the city of Sakha on the 8th of February, 538. He was crowned by the Church as the Great Doctor of the catholic Church. The Church also commemorates him on the day of his death. His life was written by four eloquent writers who are Zachariah Rhetor, John, abbot of the Monastery of Bar Aphtonya, Athanasius I, patriarch of Antioch, and an anonymous author.

The writings of Severious cover polemics, rituals, commentaries, homilies and letters. They enjoy the highest respect. The polemics numbers fourteen.  Among the ritual writings there is a magnificent book containing the maniths, splendid anthems or hymns which he composed. The maniths begin with a verse from the Holy Bible and continue with an elegant style which inspires awe and the love of God. These maniths number two hundred and ninety-five. Of the third type of his writings, namely commentaries, are a commentary on the Gospel of St.Luke, a commentary on the apocalypse of Ezekiel, as well as Biblical topics and verses which may be found in his homilies and letters referred to by Bar Salibi in his commentary on the Gospels and by Bar Hebraeus in his book “The Storehouse of Secrets.”

Link to the Anaphora of St. Sevarious of Antioch:

Among his homilies, there are one hundred and twenty-five holies called “Homiliae Cathedral’s,” preserved in three large volumes at the Vatican and at the British Museum.  Three homilies are in the library of the Zafran monastery and at the library of the church at Homs. Fifty one of these homilies were translated into French and published in three volumes.  There are also innumerable letters written by him, estimated at three thousand and eight hundred, a number no other church father is known to have written. These letters were collected in older times in thirty two volumes, of which four were written before his elevation to the patriarchate, then during his patriarchate (512-518) and nine during his exile (518-538). Of these, only two large volumes survived, one of which is entitled The Sixth Book of the Selected Letters of Mor Severious of Antioch, translated by the priest Athanasius of Nisbis in 669.A D. Among this, some were translated in to English in the 20th century.  All of these letters are splendid and full of abundant theological, legal, historical and administrative information, which reflect the light of that great and noble soul.  The works of this great dignitary and his comprehension of the principles and branches of sciences testify that he was not only unique in his generation, but also unequaled among the patriarchs of Antioch who preceded or succeeded him.

The Syrian Orthodox Church in its fifth Tubden (Diptych) remembers this great Patriarch St. Severious as the crown of Syrians, the eloquent mouth, the pillar and the doctor of the Holy Church of God as a whole, the meadow abounding in blossom and who preached all the time that Mary was undoubtedly the God-bearer.


Main Source:-  

        The History of Syriac Literature and Sciencesby Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum

                (published in 1943 and translated into English by Matti Moosa in 2000)




Two Syriac icons of our father Patriarch St. Severious