St Florus and St Laurus were twin brothers who were martyred in the Balkans in the second century. In their final prayers before being put to death, they allegedly promised to multiply and protect the stock of all those who brought their first-born child to be baptised in the church which they had built.
St Florus and St Laurus were worshipped in the Byzantine Empire as holy healers and in Russia as the patron saints of horses. The Russian Orthodox Church commemorates the two brothers on 18/31 August, when horses were traditionally decorated with garlands of flowers and even blessed in special church services held in their honour.
St Florus and St Laurus were revered by the common people from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, particularly in the northern domains of Novgorod. Icons depict the miracle of St Michael the Archangel, when the angel teaches the two brothers how to control horses and understand their language.
The traditional composition depicts the Archangel Michael handing the reins of horses to St Florus and St Laurus, while the three Cappadocian grooms Speusippus, Eleusippus and Meleusippus drive a herd out to pasture. In other versions, the twins are depicted on horseback, rather than standing on mounds. They hold crosses symbolising their martyrdom. The identical poses and physical appearances of the two brothers underline their blood and spiritual ties.