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Great Martyr Euphemia
Martyrdom of St. Euphemia.jpg
Mural depitcting the martyrdom of St. Euphemia (Basilica of Saint Euphemia, Rovinj, Croatia)
Virgin, Martyr
Died c. 307 A.D.
Chalcedon, Bithynia
Honored in Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Protestant Churches
Major shrine Orthodox Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George, Istanbul, Saint Euphemia's basilica, Rovinj, Croatia
Feast September 16 (martyrdom)
July 11 (miracle)
Attributes Clothed as a pious woman with her head covered, surrounded by one or a few lions, often holding a wheel or a cross

The Great Martyr Euphemia (Greek: Ευφημία), known as the All-praised in the Orthodox Church is a Christian saint, who was martyred for her faith at Chalcedon, c. 304-307 AD.

Euphemia was from Chalcedon, where she was arrested for refusing to offer sacrifices to Ares. After suffering various tortures, she died in the arena from wounds sustained from a bear. Her tomb became a site of pilgrimages. She is commemorated on September 16.


St. Euphemia lived on the cusp of the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. She was the daughter of a senator named Philophronos and his wife Theodosia in Chalcedon, located across the Bosporus from the city of Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul).[1] From her youth she was consecrated to virginity.

The governor of Chalcedon, Priscus, had made a decree that all of the inhabitants of the city take part in sacrifices to the deity Ares. Euphemia was discovered with forty-nine other Christians hiding in a house and worshiping the Christian God, in defiance of the governor's orders.[1] Because of their refusal to sacrifice, they were tortured for a number of days, and then handed over to the Emperor for further torture. Euphemia, the youngest among them, was separated from her companions and subjected to particularly harsh torments, including the wheel, in hopes of breaking her spirit. She was placed in the arena where Lions were sent out to kill her but they refused, and, instead just licked her wounds. It is believed that she died of wounds from a wild bear in the arena.[1]

Eventually, a cathedral was built in Chalcedon over her grave.

Miracle during the Council of Chalcedon[edit]

The Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church, took place in the city of Chalcedon in the year 451. It repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism, and set forth the Chalcedonian Definition, which describes the "full humanity and full divinity" of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

The council sat in the cathedral consecrated in her name. Present at the council were 630 representatives from all the local Christian Churches. Both the Monophysite and Orthodox parties were well represented at the council, so the meetings were quite contentious, and no decisive consensus could be reached. Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople suggested that the council submit the decision to the Holy Spirit, acting through Saint Euphemia.

Both parties wrote a confession of their faith and placed them in the tomb of the saint Euphemia which was sealed in the presence of the emperor Marcian (450-457), who placed the imperial seal on it and set a guard to watch over it for three days. During these days both sides fasted and prayed. After three days the tomb was opened and the scroll with the Orthodox confession was seen in the right hand of St Euphemia while the scroll of the Monophysites lay at her feet.

This miracle is attested by a letter sent by the council to Pope Leo I:

"For it was God who worked, and the triumphant Euphemia who crowned the meeting as for a bridal, and who, taking our definition of the Faith as her own confession, presented it to her Bridegroom by our most religious Emperor and Christ-loving Empress, appeasing all the tumult of opponents and establishing our confession of the Truth as acceptable to Him, and with hand and tongue setting her seal to the votes of us all in proclamation thereof." [2]


Sarcophagus containing some of the relics of Saint Euphemia in Rovinj, Croatia.

When the persecution of Diocletian ended, the Christians laid Saint Euphemia’s relics in a golden sarcophagus, placed within a church that was dedicated to her. Her relics attracted crowds of pilgrims for centuries.

Russian-made reliquary of Saint Euphemia in the Church of St. George in Istanbul.

Around the year 620, in the wake of the conquest of Chalcedon by the Persians under Khosrau I in the year 617, the relics of Saint Euphemia were transferred to a new church in Constantinople. There, during the persecutions of the Iconoclasts, her reliquary was said to have been thrown into the sea, from which it was recovered by the ship-owning brothers Sergius and Sergonos, who belonged to the Orthodox party, and who gave it over to the local bishop who hid them in a secret crypt. The relics were afterwards taken to the Island of Lemnos, and in 796 they were returned to Constantinople. The majority of her relics are still in the Patriarchal Church of St. George, in Istanbul.

Feast Days[edit]

The primary feast day of Saint Euphemia, celebrated by both Eastern and Western Christians is September 16 in commemoration of her martyrdom. Additionally, Eastern Orthodox Christians commemorate her miracle at the Council of Chalcedon on July 11.

Popular culture[edit]

St. Euphemia is a widely-venerated saint among all Eastern Orthodox Christians, not only for her virginity and martyrdom, but also for her strengthening of the Orthodox Faith, and her feast days are celebrated with special solemnity. Churches in her honor have been erected all over the Christian world.

Euphemia (typically abbreviated to "Effie") was a common baptismal name.

The anime Code Geass has a character named Euphemia (abbreviated as "Euphie"). She is an idealistic princess from the imperial family of the Holy Britannian Empire.

A Gaijin-Rock band called Area 11 made and released a song called "Euphemia", which is believed to widely based on the afore mentioned anime character.

In Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the protagonist suggests to his wife that they name their newly acquired "real" goat Euphemia.


There's a minor planet named Euphemia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "St. Euphemia the All-Praised", Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
  2. ^ Knight, Kevin (ed.), "Letter from the Synod of Chalcedon to Leo (Letter 98)", Letters of Leo the Great, New Advent, retrieved 2007-12-09 

External links[edit]