This morning, children in Belgium found treats and presents in the shoes they put in front of the fireplace last night. 🍭🎁 It’s Sinterklaas who paid them a visit! He is a legendary figure in the Low Countries based on Saint Nicholas of Myra, whose name day we celebrate today. Such a famous saint is hardly an unexpected subject of Byzantine book epigrams.
One of these poems accompanies this beautiful illumination in Vat. Reg. gr. 1 (10th c., f. 3r), the so-called ‘Bible of Leo’, ordered by Leon Sakellarios, who donated it to a monastery of Saint Nicholas, founded by his own brother Konstantinos. ⛪️ The miniature depicts Saint Nicholas blessing two men in proskynesis at his feet: Makar, the abbot of the monastery, on the left and Konstantinos on the right.
The epigram, written around the miniature, is a prayer from Leon to Saint Nicholas on behalf of both supplicants. Note the pun on the saint’s name in the first two words!
✒️ Νῖκος λαοῦ μοχθηρᾶς τῆς κακουργίας
καὶ τῶν πονηρῶν πνευμάτων δίδου, μάκαρ,
τῷ τὴν μονήν σοι πρὸς μονὰς ζωῆς θέειν
ξενοτρόπως, αὖθις τε τῷ δειμαμένῳ
νέμων κατ᾽ ἄμφω τὴν χάριν – τῷ μὲν κράτος,
ἱλασμὸν ἔνθε τῷ δὲ τῶν ὀφλημάτων.
📖 [You who are] the victory of the people over wretched wrong-doing and evil spirits, grant O blessed one, to the [superior?] of your monastery to speed in wondrous fashion to the abodes of life, and likewise to its founder, as you dispense your grace to both – strength to the one, and to the other remission of his debts over here.