It is easy to think of the Church as a well-organized monolith that only really suffered a communication break down at the time of the Orthodox Diaspora (or in the West, shortly after the Great Schism and just before the Reformation), but the fact is that lots of pieces of history and praxis have fallen through the cracks of time.

St. Phanorious

St.Phanourios

A good example of this is St.Phanourios.

Literally nothing is known about him except that at one time someone painted an icon of him, and that — at least according to the somewhat gruesome side panels on his icon — he was tortured. In fact, we don’t even know when he lived, only that his lost icon was discovered circa 1500.

Apparently some Arabic raiders had decided that Rhodes was too pretty looking, and so they decided to go through smashing churches, houses, etc. At one of the churches they decided to smash, the raiders found a group of ancient icons that had been theretofore hidden, perhaps within a wall.

Most of the icons were in a sad state, but one — which bore the name “Phanourious” —  still held the appearance of being freshly painted despite being hidden for centuries. The raiders didn’t think too much of this, really, and went on their way.

The monks who were hiding nearby, however, thought a good deal of it, and once the raiders were gone they rushed out and picked up this icon that had miraculously survived the years.

The Church of St.Phanourios in Rhodes

Except when they picked it up, they had no idea who Phanourios was.

After finding none of the other ancient icons in such good shape, the monks decided to investigate just who Phanourious was. No such luck was to be had — there was nothing in the local civil or ecclesiastical libraries.

To this day, the only things we know about this saint come from the miraculously preserved icon. Apparently his martyrdom include being stoned, placed on the rack, slashing, being tied to a frame, being burned with candles, tied to a stake, crushed by a boulder, being forced to hold hot coals and being thrown to wild animals.

The Archbishop of Rhodes, Milos, came to believe that the miraculous preservation of the icon and the icon’s testimony of Phanourious apparent indestructibility were evidence of his sainthood. The Patriarch convened a synod,Phanourios was proclaimed a saint and a cathedral was built to enshrine his icon.

His feast day is August 27, and he’s considered the patron of lost things, since, you know, he was lost for a while.

There’s even a pie named after him.