St. Sisoes is today well known for his depiction in an icon which became popular upon its appearance in Greek monasteries following the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 15th Century. This icon, the “Astonishment of Sisoes”, is a contemplation on death, but not only the death of a man, but of an earthly empire. The icon shows St. Sisoes over the dead bones in Alexander the Great’s open tomb…
(Lessons from a Monastery)
Google Alerts notified me of this very interesting blog post. Click on the link to see what Sisoes’ reaction to the tomb was.
I had not heard of St Sisoes before so I don’t know if he is a historical figure or a legendary one or – assuming that the former is the case – whether he really did visit Alexander’s tomb. If, as it appears, the icon was a direct reaction to the loss of the Byzantine empire, I imagine that the event depicted has no basis in reality but it really doesn’t matter either way – the icon’s messages is valid whichever way you look at it.
The icon of St Sisoes at Alexander’s tomb is the first iconic reference I have seen to Alexander in Orthodox Christianity. He is the second Orthodox Saint I have seen mention the Macedonian king. The first is St John Chrysostom who asked where the tomb was. Chrysostom aside, I wonder if any Catholic Saint ever mentioned or is depicted visiting the Soma in Alexandria?
I saw other icons on this subject, but this one struck me because there are some details that are different, ie. Alexander’s body isn’t a mummy but only a skull and some (leg) bones. On the contrary, there is a royal mantle and, outside the coffin, an helmet and a shield with a radiant head in the middle, so similar, strangely, to the Macedonian Sun. It means therefore that there are many traditions about St.Sisoes and his visit to Alexander tombs, and I wonder which of them is more credible and whether there is one of these traditions credible.