Saint Pelagia

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This article is about the Antiochene saint. For other uses, see Saint Pelagia (disambiguation).
Saint Pelagia
Saint pelagia.jpg
Saint Pelagia amongst her courtesans. Saint Nonnus prays for her (14th-century manuscript).
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast 4 May (Roman Catholic)
8 October (Eastern Orthodox)

Saint Pelagia is an Antiochene saint, a virgin of fifteen years, who allegedly chose to suicide by leaping from the housetop rather than to risk dishonour from soldiers during the Diocletianic Persecution. She is mentioned by Ambrose (De virg. iii. 7, 33; Ep. xxxvii. ad Simplic.), and is the subject of two sermons by Chrysostom. Her festival was celebrated on 8 October (Wrights Syriac Martyrology), and the date of 5 October is associated with her at Naples.[1]

In the Greek synaxaria the same day is assigned to two other saints of the name of Pelagia, one also of Antioch; the other, known as Pelagia of Tarsus, in Cilicia.

The legend of the Saint Pelagia (sometimes called Margarito) who was a courtesan is famous. She was a celebrated dancer and courtesan, who, in the full flower of her beauty and guilty sovereignty over the youth of Antioch, was suddenly converted by the influence of the holy bishop Saint Nonnus, whom she had heard preaching in front of a church which she was passing with her attendants and admirers. Seeking out Nonnus, she overcame his canonical scruples by her tears of genuine penitence, was baptized, and, disguising herself in the garb of a male penitent, retired to a grotto on the Mount of Olives, where she died after three years of strict penance. This story seems to combine with the name of the older Pelagia some traits from an actual history referred to by Chrysostom (Horn. in Matth. lxvii. 3).

In associating St Pelagia with Saint Marina, St Margaret and others, of whom either the name or the legend recalls Pelagia, Hermann Usener has endeavoured to show by a series of subtle deductions that this saint is only a Christian travesty of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. But there is no doubt of the existence of the first Pelagia of Antioch, the Pelagia of Ambrose and Chrysostom. The legends which have subsequently become connected with her name are the result of a very common development in literary history.

St. Pelagia is also the name of another saint, the nun who found in 1822 the holy icon of Our Lady of Tinos at Tinos island in Greece.[2]

Sources and references[edit]

  1. ^ Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. 8 October; St. Pelagia, Penitent
  2. ^ Tinos.gr

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pelagia". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.