Demons, Be Gone!

Driving out demons from well and tree
Detail: The Life & Miracles of Saint Nicholas
Artist: Alexander Boguslawski
St. Nicholas Center Collection

After becoming Bishop of Myra, Nicholas discovered that demons occupied many of the shrines to old idols. These demons caused disturbances among the people. So, whenever he found one of these shrines, he tore it down, driving away the demons, and restoring peace to the people.

The villagers of Plakoma asked Nicholas to rid a cypress tree of demons. To do so, Nicholas swung an axe, thereby frightening the demons away.

Hearing of this success, folk in the next village asked him to come and get rid of demons living in the village well. Again the demons fled, shrieking away.

These two accounts of demon banishment have frequently been combined into one iconographic scene.

These stories come from Simon the Metaphrast's life of Nicholas that confused Nicholas of Myra and Nicholas of Sion, adding common hagiographical conventions and blending events of the two saints lives into one. This account comes from Nicholas of Sion, though it has been passed down through the Nicholas of Myra tradition.

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The Real St. Nicholas, selections from The Life of Nicholas by Symeon the Metaphrast, ca 912

The vitae of St. Nicholas and His Hagiographical Icons in Russia, Vol. 2,doctoral dissertation by Alexander Boguslawski, University of Kansas, 1980, pp. 346-353.

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