Theodore was born at Sykeon in Galatia, the son of Maria. Maria with her mother and sister kept an inn in the town, all three working also as prostitutes. His father may have been a circus artist, but he was not involved at all in his son’s upbringing. Baptised Theodore (gift of God), when he was six his mother made him a gold belt and expensive clothes, hoping he would go into the service of the emperor at Constantinople. But Theodore disliked being at an inn and used to go off to stay overnight at a nearby chapel of St George. Here he felt more at home and developed an insight into the world of holiness as well as a devotion to St George which he kept up all his life.
Hermit, ascetic and exorcist
As an adolescent, Theodore became a hermit. His grandmother would bring him fruit and vegetables, which he ate sparingly. He seemed to have developed a gift of exorcising demons and perhaps because of this or because of his asceticism, he was given the nickname “Iron Eater”. He wore an iron girdle around his body.
To Jerusalem and back
Theodore was ordained a priest at the youthful age of eighteen. He then went off to Jerusalem to visit the holy places. While he was there, he received the monk’s habit and came home to resume his ascetic practices and exorcisms. His mother meanwhile had married a businessman of Ancyra and his aunt and sister became nuns.
Bishop of Anastasiopolis
When the bishop of the city of Anastasiopolis died, the residents asked archbishop Paul of Ancyra to appoint Theodore in his place. Theodore at first declined, but later accepted. He became famous as a miracle-worker, but after ten years decided to leave administrative tasks to return to his life of contemplation as a monk. At this time he was invited by the emperor and the patriarch to visit Constantinople where he miraculously cured the emperor’s son of elephantiasis.
Death and Life
Theodore returned to Sykeon where he died on May 5, 613. A long Life was written by one of his disciples, mostly a record of many healings and amazing miracles. He delivered farms from pests, and helped reconcile many married couples.