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Sabbas the Goth

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Sabbas the Goth
Born 334, Buzău river valley, Romania
Died 372, Buzău river valley, Romania
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church
Feast 12 April 1234567890

Sabbas (Sava, Saba, or Savva) the Goth is a martyr and Christian saint.

He was born in 334 to Christian parents in a village in the Buzău river valley and lived in what is now the Wallachia region in Romania. His Act of Martyrdom states that he was a Goth by race and may have been a cantor or a reader to the religious community there.

He was martyred during the reign of Valentinian and Valens. In the year 371, a Gothic nobleman began the suppression of Christianity in Sabbas' area. When his agents came to the village where Sabbas lived they forced the villagers to eat pagan sacrificial meat. According to the tale, non-Christian villagers wanting to help their Christian neighbours tricked the authorities by exchanging the sacrificial meat for meat that had not been sacrificed. However, Sabbas made a conspicuous show of rejecting the defiled meat altogether. His fellow villagers exiled him but after a while he was allowed to return. When the Gothic noble returned and asked if there were any Christians in the village, Sabbas stepped forward and proclaimed, “'Let no-one swear an oath on my behalf. I am a Christian.” Sabbas' neighbours then said that he was a poor man of no account. The leader dismissed him, saying, “This one can do us neither good nor harm.”

The next year (372),[1] Sabbas celebrated Easter with the priest Sansalas. Someone reported this and three days after Easter Athanaric, the son of the Gothic king Rothesteus, arrived in the village to arrest Sansalas and present him to the higher authorities. However Sabbas was instead tortured on the spot, without any trial. He was dragged naked through thorn bushes, bound, alongside the parish priest, to trees and forced to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols. Both men refused to consume the meat.

The pagan Gothic prince Athanaric, at war with Emperor Valens of Rome,[dubious ] sentenced Sabbas to death and as he went with the soldiers he praised God the whole way, denouncing the pagan and idolatrous ways of his captors. The commander ordered Sabbas thrown in the river Musæus, a tributary of the Danube[1], tying a rock around his neck and binding his body to a wooden pole.

His relics were taken by St Sansala and hidden by the Christians until they could be sent for safe keeping to the Roman Empire. Here they were received by Bishop Ascholius of Thessalonica.

Basil the Great requeste that the ruler of Scythia Minor, Junius Soranus, send him the relics of saints and the Dacian priests sent the relics of Sabbas to him in Caesarea, Cappadocia, in 373 or 374 accompanied by a letter, the 'Epistle of the Church of God in Gothia to the Church of God located in Cappadocia and to all the Local Churches of the Holy Universal Church'. This letter was written in Greek, possibly by St Vetranion of Tomis.

In response, Basil replied with two letters to Bishop Ascholius where he extolled the virtues of Sabbas calling him an 'athlete of Christ' and 'Martyr for the Truth'.

Sabbas' feast day is on the date of his martyrdom, 12 April in the Roman Martyrology and 15 April in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates him as "the holy, glorious, and right-victorious Great-martyr Sabbas."

See also


  1. According to the Passion, in the consulate of Modestus and Arintheus.
    Heather, Peter, and Matthews, John, Goths in the Fourth Century, p. 109, n. 38.
  • The Passion of St. Saba the Goth.
  • Sava the Goth from OrthodoxWiki
  • (Italian) San Saba il Goto
  • Commentary in Heather & Matthews, Goths in the Fourth Century, pp. 102–103.
ro:Sava Gotul

sr:Сава Готски sv:Sankt Sava av Rumänien uk:Сава Готський

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