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St. Zenon -- (in Greek: Ζηνών) 
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There are several saints named Zeno (or Zenon), but only one of them is associated with philately and postal administration.  

Referring to a stamp issued by Greece in 1969, Australian Stamp News published in January 1971 a cartoon created by the well-known Australian cartoonist Monty Wedd, illustrating St. Zeno's story. The cartoon is shown immediately below. The first image top left shows the Greek stamp shown here. St. Zeno was a postal administrator ["Tabellari"] to Flavius Valens, emperor of the East Roman Empire. Zeno belonged to a rich and aristocratic family in Asia Minor. On the Emperor's death, in 378 AD, Zeno resigned his post to live as a hermit, near Antioch. He gave up his entire wealth to charity, for the benefit of mankind. He died in 417 AD. 

Greece 1969. St. Zeno.

The beautiful purple colour of St. Zeno's frock on the stamp comes from the gastropod "Murex Triremus", a sea snail of the Muridiciae family, that secretes a yellowish fluid which, when boiled and treated, makes a permanent purple dye. After the fall of the Roman Empire, this dye was used in the Christian Church, and gave rise to the official colours of cardinals. 

This shell appears on a set from the Maldive Islands 1975, Scott # 534 (SG 545). There are a number of stamps world wide featuring this species, all viewable on this gallery. Search the site in the species-field by using the key words "murex pecten". 

  • Greece 1969. St. Zeno with his purple frock. 

Monty Wedd's Cartoon about the story of St. Zeno. Copyighted by Australian Stamp News.

  • Australian Stamp News, January 1971. The story of St. Zeno, illustrated by the Australian cartoonist Monty Wedd. 

In celebration of Stamp Day VIII, Portugal issued in 1962 a commemorative set of three stamps dedicated to St. Zeno. 

The design of Martins da Costa, shows St. Zeno "The Courier" with his arms.  The stamps were printed in off-set on smooth, good-quality paper by the Casa da Moeda (Portugal's National Mint) in sheets of 50 and perforated 13½.  There were 6 million stamps issued of 1 escudo (yellow-brown, green and black), 1 million copies of 2 escudos (greyish-blue, green and black), and 1 million copies of 3.50 escudos (olive green and black).  The official date of issue was December 1, 1962.

Portugal 1962. St. Zeno, 1 Escudo. Portugal 1962. St. Zenon. 2 Escudos. Portugal 1962. St. Zenon. 2.80 Escudos.
  • Portugal 1962. St.Zenon. Scott 898-900. 

St. Zenon "The Courier": Born in the province of Ponto in Asia Minor of noble and rich parents, St. Zenon (from the Greek Ζηνών) was a gentleman with vast holdings in Capadocia, a province neighbouring Ponto and also part of the eastern territories of the Roman Empire.  In spite of this good fortune, he enlisted in the army as a special courier of Flavio Valente, governor of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. 

The constant relocation with the Governor, made necessary by war, and the continuous transmission of imperial messages requiring at times non-stop gallops across dangerous routes - from the Bosphorus where Flavio Valente held his court to the frontiers of Mesopotamia, Arabia Petres, Egypt, Armenia, etc. - were Zenon's responsibility; both unenviable and completely incomprehensible in light of this young man's vast fortunes.  When looked upon from a different perspective, however, other than blind devotion to the Governor that is, it is possible to visualize Zenon following some religious determination, which resulted perhaps in the fact that Flavio Valente converted to Christianity and sought baptism in the year 386. 

A fact emerges that testifies to this devotion and friendship: not long after the death of the Governor on the battlefield on August 9, 378, Zenon resigned his postal and military duties and devoted himself entirely to God.  He retired to a life of prayer in a cave in the hills of Antioch where he subsisted the last years of his life on bread brought to him by a friend, and spring water which he himself went and got from quite a distance. It appears that Zenon died in 417 and for the virtues and godliness he exhibited till the end, the Christian church elevated him to sainthood. 

Stamp Day has been celebrated in Portugal since 1955 and is intended to attract new members to philately. See the original Portuguese text here. (Translated from Portuguese by Tony Vella, Canada). 

Sources and links: 

Many thanks to Rodney Cork (Australia), Pierre Courtiade (France), and Tony Vella (Canada), for all help and research.  


Revised 02 nov 2006 
Copyright © by Ann Mette Heindorff
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