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Saint Stephen the Younger

Martyred for defending sacred images


© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro | CC BY-SA 4.0

Martyr (d. 764)

His life

+ Stephen was born in Constantinople. When he was fifteen, his parents placed him a monastery where his daily task was to gather together the food and supplies needed by the monks.

+ Following his father’s death, he returned home and sold his family’s estate, giving the proceeds to the poor. After providing for his mother and sister, he became a monk in Bithynia.

+ When he was thirty, Stephen became abbot of his monastery, serving his community for twelve years. After his resignation, he became a hermit.

+ At this time, the iconoclast emperor, Constantine V Copronymus, was targeting monasteries in his efforts to abolish the use of icons and sacred images. He tried to enlist Stephen’s support in his war on images, but Stephen refused.

+ The emperor had Stephen dragged from his hermit’s cell and he tried to discredit the holy man through a campaign of slander and lies. Stephen remained firm and was subsequently exiled to an island in the Sea of Marmara.

+ Two years later he was again imprisoned and brought before the emperor. Following their meeting, Stephen was condemned and, after being dragged through the streets, he was beaten to death. His martyrdom occurred in the year 764 and the Roman Martyrology states that there were other monks who died with him, although their names have been lost to history.

For prayer and reflection

if the Son of God had come into the world of visible realities—his humanity building a bridge between the visible and the invisible— then, by analogy, a representation of the mystery could be used, within the logic of signs, as a sensory evocation of the mystery. The icon is venerated not for its own sake, but points beyond to the subject which it represents.”—Pope Saint John Paul II, Letter to Artists


Almighty and merciful God, who brought your Martyr blessed Stephen to overcome the torments of his passion, grant that we, who celebrate the day of his triumph, may remain invincible under your protection against the snares of the enemy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal: Common of Martyrs—For One Martyr)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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