St. Artemius is a child saint of the Orthodox Church, often referred to as “the Righteous Child Wonderworker.” He was born in 1532 to Cosmas “the Lesser” and Apollinaria, peasants in the Russian village of Verkola (on the banks of Pinega River, Dvinsk District). Cosmas and Apollinaria raised their son within a life of Christian piety, and at the early age of five his behavior was already based on Christian virtues. By the time he was five years of age, he had begun to distance himself from childish habits: he did not enjoy playing games, was quiet, meek, God-fearing, and was obedient to his parents, assiduously helping his father at the farm as much as he could at his age.
On June 23, 1545 the twelve-year-old Artemius was helping his father at the farm as usual. Without warning, a clap of thunder and a lightning bold struck the boy, and the child Artemius fell dead. Superstition about the bad omen of such an untimely death kept Artemius from being granted a proper funeral and burial.
Thirty-three years after his tragic death in 1577, a local deacon Agafonik, was gathering wild berries ehwn he saw a light emanating from the boy’s resting place and supposedly discovered the boy’s body showed no sign of decay; it looked in fact, as if the boy were simply sleeping. Above the boy was a radiant light. The deacon hurried to the nearest village and told the priest and local peasants what he had discovered.
Miracles of healing happened to people who venerated the boy’s relics and he was proclaimed a saint. In the Orthodox church, the miracle of a person’s body not returning to dust is viewed as a one sign that the person lived a holy life in the sight of God.
In 1648, by order of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich of Russia was founded the St. Artemius of Verkola monastery, and relics of the saint was moved into it. His relics, as the earthly remains of a saint are referred to in official Church language, were enshrined there for veneration by the people. Over the centuries many miracles were attributed to these relics by people who have approached them with true faith in Christ.
Sadly, in the summer of 1918, as the Bolsheviks began their savage persecution of the Orthodox Christian Church, St. Artemius’ relics were among those destroyed. So though his earthly remains may have vanished, St. Artemius lives on eternally with God.
As a sign of this victory, Philip Zimmerman, an iconographer living in Johnstown, PA, was granted a vision of St. Artemius. Phil was told to paint his icon “for all children.” With the blessing of Fr. John Namie, the Director of the Antiochian Village at the time, a site was selected on which to build a rock shrine to house the finished icon. The shrine stands to the right of the entrance to the St. Ignatius Church.