The icon’s shape is characteristic for the miniature illustrations, known in Russian as “drobnitsa”, which used to be painted on metal plates and attached to the salaries of the Gospels or icons in the 14th – 15th centuries. On the front one can see a waist-length image of the Holy Unmercenary Healer St. Panteleimon. He is holding a small box with medicine or panarium (πανάριον) in his left hand, and a spoon in his right. The saint’s name is inscribed along the periphery of the icon.
The Great Martyr and Unmercenary Healer St. Panteleimon (in Greek, Παντελεήμων means “all-merciful”) was born in Nicomedia to a wealthy noble pagan and a secret Christian. At birth, he was named Pantoleon (Παντελέων is Greek for “a lion in every respect”). He studied the art of healing with the renowned physician Euphrosynus and displayed a remarkable talent and skill. After he was baptized by bishop Hermolaus, he began to receive divine assistance from Jesus Christ, the true “doctor of souls and bodies”. Upon seeing that his son’s prayer had healed a blind man, his father agreed to be baptized along with the patient. When his father died, St. Panteleimon inherited a wealthy estate and began to help the poor, the widowed and the orphaned; he treated patients for free and converted many of them to Christianity.
The success of the holy healer evoked fierce envy in pagan physicians, who informed Emperor Maximian that Panteleimon was a Christian and was spreading the Christian faith. The saint was arrested and subjected to unspeakable torture: his body was ripped with nails, he was submerged in a cauldron filled with molten tin, drowned in water or tossed to wild animals, but no torture could take his life, so the holy martyr was beheaded. This occurred in 305 A.D. .
Saint Panteleimon is one of the most beloved and venerated saints in the whole of the Christian Church. In the West he is revered as the patron saint of doctors, while the Eastern Orthodox call upon him in special prayers during the anointing of the sick and the consecration of water, or when they pray for the sick and the infirm.
The memory of the Great Martyr and Saint Panteleimon is celebrated on 9 August (27 July).
The reverse of the icon contains the final part of the prayer, which is read on behalf of the sick person: Ўг0дниче б9ій! Ўмоли2 хrтA бGа, да предстaтельствомъ твои1мъ дaруетъ здрaвіе тёлу моемY и3 сп7сeніе души2 моeй (“O servant of God! Pray to God, that He may grant health to my body and salvation to my soul through your intercession.”).