Saint Romanos the Melodist, Mary's Poet († c. 560)

Romanus the Melodist, Mary’s Poet

Romanos was born to a Jewish family around the end of the 5th century in Emesa (modern-day Homs) or perhaps in Damascus, Syria. He was baptized as a child, but it is unknown whether or not his parents also converted to Christianity.

The Akathist Hymn is attributed to Saint Romanos the Melodist

He was a deacon when he moved to Constantinople during the reign of Emperor Anastasius I (491-518). It was there, in the Church of Panagia of Blachernæ, that the Theotokos (Greek for "Mother of God") appeared to Romanos in a dream. Legend tells us that during the apparition the Virgin Mary gave him a scroll and told him to eat it, as a sign that he was given a gift. From that moment on Romanos had a beautiful, melodic voice and the gift of poetic talent. Tradition attributes to him the composition of a 6th-century hymn, the Akathist to the Theotokos, on an honorary basis. This hymn is divided into four parts and sung daily in some Orthodox monasteries, along with the "Salutations to the Theotokos" that are sung during Lent.

Romanos probably died between 555 and 565

His poetry expresses the compassion of the deacon accustomed to serving the poor. In the case of Romanos' Kontakia (hymns), it is the compassion for Mary standing by cross, for Adam awaiting his liberation, and for the victims of Herod's violence.

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Adapted from an article by Fr. Angelo Gila