Archangel Michael is an important figure in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism, he doubles as a saint. He’s the reason the name Michael (in all its many linguistic variations) has been so historically popular.
Michael appears thrice in the Book of Daniel, where he’s identified as the Jewish people’s protector, and a figure who’ll arise during the projected end of the world. He’s also mentioned in the Book of Jude, and is traditionally identified with an unnamed archangel in 1 Thessalonians.
In Revelations, Michael defeats Satan during a war.
Michael is one of two archangels named in the Koran, the other being Jibrail (Gabriel). Some Muslims believe Michael was one of the three angels who visited Avraham.
Michael has a very long history in Jewish tradition as our advocate and protector. He has a long-running enmity with the accusing Archangel Samael. In the ancient world, there were several prayers to Michael, in spite of the rabbinic prohibition against appealing to angels as intercessors.
In the Midrash (rabbinic commentary and stories filling in the blanks in the Torah), Michael is depicted as rescuing the Patriarchs and Matriarchs during perilous times in their lives. Another Jewish tradition says he destroyed the Assyrian King Sennacherib’s army.
Bradford Cathedral, West Yorkshire, England, Copyright Storye book
Early Christian tradition cast Michael as a healer. His earliest and most famous sanctuary in the ancient Near East, the Michaelion of Chalcedon in present-day Turkey, was associated with healing waters.
Other common Christian imagery depicts Michael as slaying a dragon, a serpent, or Satan. He was eventually named as the highest of all angels, and held up as a model of spiritual warfare against the temptation of evil.
In Catholic tradition, another of Michael’s roles is angel of death, carrying the souls of the deceased to the other world and descending at the hour of death to give the dying one last chance to redeem oneself.
Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Michael and Jesus are one and the same.
Drawn by Muhammad ibn Muhammad Shakir Ruzmah-‘i Nathani for scientist and proto-sci-fi writer Zakariya al-Qazwini; Source Walters Art Museum
In Islam, Michael (or Mikail) is responsible for the forces of Nature (esp. thunder and rain), and gives nourishment to souls and bodies. He’s often depicted as the archangel of mercy, and thus very friendly towards humans. In the Ahmadiyya denomination, Michael is among the Mala’ikah, spiritual beings who obey Allah’s commands.
Michael has remained extraordinarily popular in these three faiths. In Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism, he’s celebrated on Michaelmas, 29 September. In Eastern Orthodoxy, his feast day is 8/21 November (depending on whether the church uses the Julian or Gregorian calendar).
In the Truro, Cornwall diocese of the Church of England, Michael’s feast day is 8 May.
Countless churches have been dedicated to him over the centuries. He’s also the patron saint of Brussels, Kyiv, Dumfries (Scotland), Germany, Cornwall, cops, fire fighters, the military and warriors, paramedics, chivalry, German-speaking regions formerly part of the Holy Roman Empire, the sick and suffering, mariners, and mountains.
The Russian city of Arkhangelsk is named for Michael.
Scapular of St. Michael the Archangel, formally approved 1878; Copyright Michael Tav
Before she leaves for a year abroad in a Parisian lycée in August 1939, my character Darya Koneva is given an ikon of Archangel Michael by her parents. That ikon becomes particularly dear to her after she and her best friend Oliivia Kalvik, who’s studying abroad with her, are trapped in occupied Europe and become Nazi prisoners.
Darya keeps that ikon safe all during her ordeal as a slave, and constantly prays to Michael to protect her and her friends. Her big brother Fedya later gives her a miniature of the statue outside Vienna’s Michaelerkirche, and her newlywed husband Andrey hangs a Byzantine style painting of him over their bed.
Darya will name her future only son Mikhail, after her special protector.
Vienna’s Michaelerkirche, Copyright Gryffindor