After I posted the photos, yesterday, of the Feast of SS Medici, of 1942, which was located on the 400 block of East 117th St. in East Harlem, I began to think about these saints, and what they meant to all of these people who gathered to venerate them. I googled them, and found lots of interesting information.! Here’s the scoop:

First, they were born in what is now known as Syria, in 260 A.D., and died in Syria, as martyrs circa 303, AD. They were excellent medical doctors, that never accepted monetary payment for their services. Their feast day occured on the 27th of September, at that time. Also, how they died is unbelieveable! (It’s worse than watching an episode of “The Blacklist.”) I found some interesting facts, on an Italian website, which describes how they were tortured on 5 separate occasions. On the 5th try, they were beheaded and finally died. Here is the excerpt, which is not for the faint of heart. Lol:

…After arrest and trial, the Saints were subjected to a series of cruel tortures, in the vain hope of making them withdraw from their firm resolve. As a first punishment, the flogging was imposed on them. Since the executioners were unable to apostatize them, tied hands and feet they were thrown into the sea by a high ravine with a large boulder hanging from the neck, to facilitate their sinking. Miraculously, however, the ties melted and the holy brothers surfaced on the surface safely, welcomed to the shore by a crowd of festive faithful, thanking God for the extraordinary event. Arrested again, they underwent other painful trials. Led before a burning furnace, they were immersed in the fire tied with sturdy chains. The flames, however, did not consume those holy limbs, that they came out once again unscathed and the fear of the soldiers in custody was such as to force them to flee precipitously. The book of the “Martyrology” informs us that “Saints Cosma and Damiano were martyred five times”. In fact, they went through the tests of drowning, of the burning furnace, of stoning, of flagellation, to end their earthly days with martyrdom in the year 303.

Here’s another interesting excerpt from Italy Magazine:

They might be two of the lesser-known saints of the Roman Catholic Church, but “I Santi Medici,” the Doctor Saints Cosma and Damiano are two of the most celebrated within the Bel Paese. On 26 September, places such as Gaeta (south of Rome), Taranto (Puglia), and Sferracavallo (outside of Palermo) hold various celebrations for these patron saints of doctors, pharmacists and surgeons.

The twin brothers were born in present-day Syria and quickly became known for their healing ways for which they accepted no payment; for this refusal, they are often called the “Silverless” or “Moneyless.” While practicing medicine, they also shared their Catholic faith with patients and gained a wide following.

Just like San Gennaro of Naples, Sts. Cosmas and Damian became martyrs during Diocletian’s persecution of Christians around 300 A.D. The twins, though subjected to torture using fire and water and were even placed on crosses, wouldn’t recant their faith. When the two remained miraculously uninjured through the ordeals, Diocletian ordered their beheadings.

Their remains were buried in Syria, and churches in their honor were built in their home country as well as in Jerusalem, Egypt, Mesopotamia and in Rome by Pope Felix IV; the sixth-century Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano holds several valuable mosaics, and the twin doctor saints are still revered throughout Italy and the world.

Isn’t this fascinating stuff? I’m so grateful to Michael, one of my readers, who so graciously shared these wonderful vintage photos with me, and the rest of my readership! As the old saying goes, “every picture tells a story”. Well, in my opinion, the photos of the twin saints have so very much to tell! For instance, I wonder if the people that lived on East 117th Street, were primarily from the region of Puglia? I’m curious because, I read that these saints are venerated within that region of Italy. There are shrines for these saints in Madrid, Rome, and Bari, Italy. So, perhaps, there was a large population of East 117th Street, that immigrated from Bitonto, Bari, Puglia, Italy. Also, now I know the probable date of the East Harlem feast photos. We know the year, 1942, but now we know the date as well. It was Sunday, September 27th, which was the official feast date, according to the General Roman Calendar, pre-1970. Any thoughts?


  1. Arnold Maggi says:

    My Grandfather finished making the Statues of “The Two Brothers” the day before the Feast was to start and every year they would carry the Statues to the front of our house,310 Pleasant Ave. with the Band playing songs in honor of my Grandfather.


    • Peter Bruno says:

      My name is Peter Bruno- I lived at 434 E. 117 St. Directly across the Street from the home that sponsored the feast. That family had a special devotion to the “Twin Saints”. Arnold Maggi and I have been the best of friends since we were in grade school at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. We both went to St. Francis College. I and my family moved to Colorado after my second year. After seeing this site, I remembered that Arnold’s grandfather had sculptured the statues.Great honor and respect to the Maggi family.


  2. Katherine Di Lorenzo Squillante says:

    This brought back wonderful memories. First, my dad was born in Casanova province de Caserta. Each year a society to the Saints held a dance in the Bronx. Not sure if I remember that correctly. He always managed to sell the most tickets and as such I would have to go on stage to receive the First Place award. It usually was an inexpensive piece. of jewelry. My mother who was a dressmaker would make me a beautiful gown to wear That was in the 1940’s through the early 1950s. A lifetime ago for me. Thank you for sharing the history of the Saints


  3. says:

    I did a little research about them my self when I found the photos my cousin Lou Paruolo was an altar boy back then he remembers that feast but also two feast were never held at the same time SS MEDICI AND OUR LADY OF MT CARMEL Two different feast I think July and then Medici later check on that I would like to know my self for sure. 


  4. I have wondered about this feast for years–I have beautiful memories of this procession when two saints were carried through the streets of East Harlem


  5. Mary Morea says:

    I grew up with my family being very involved with the Saints. Both sets of Grandparents were from Bari,Italy.


  6. Mary says:

    The life size statues of saints Cosmo and Damien that are in the picture are in the church h of Our Lady Of Mt Carmel on East 115th st entrance now on 116th st


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