Columba of Sens
Saint Columba of Sens
Main altar of Église Saint-Colombe, Hattstatt, France. The statue on top depicts Columba of Sens (click on picture to enlarge).
|Venerated in||Roman Catholicism|
|Attributes||Portrayed as a crowned maiden in chains. At times she may have a dog or bear on a chain, hold a book and a peacock's feather, be with an angel on a funeral pyre, or be beheaded|
It is reported that her name may have originally been Eporita and came from a noble pagan family of Saragossa. At the age of 16, she fled Spain for Vienne, where she was baptized and given the name Columba. Emperor Aurelian wanted her to marry his son, and when she refused he had her imprisoned in a brothel at the amphitheatre. While she was in prison, one of the gaolers tried to rape her. A she-bear that was being held at the nearby amphitheatre attacked the guard and saved her.
Aurelian wanted both Columba and the she-bear burnt alive, but the bear escaped and rain put out the fire, so he had her beheaded, near a fountain called d'Azon. A man who had recovered his sight after praying for her intercession, saw to her burial. A chapel was built at the grave, followed later by the Abbey of Sens.
Although her story is not historical, her cult spread. Other churches in France have borne her name.
Saint Columba is portrayed as a crowned maiden in chains. At times she may have a dog or bear on a chain, hold a book and a peacock's feather, be with an angel on a funeral pyre, or be beheaded.
Veneration of "Saint Comba" in Galicia dates from the Middle Ages; her cult, according to Allyson M. Poska, was "probably a combination of the cults of two virgin martyrs." These were Columba of Sens and Columba of Spain.
A Galician legend held that before becoming a virtuous virgin martyr, Comba was a witch. This legend relates that one day, the witch Comba, encountering Jesus Christ on a Galician road, changed her life after Christ remarked, “Go ahead and be the witch, but you will not enter my kingdom.” The tale states that Comba converted to Christianity and was martyred for her faith after refusing to deny it, or after refusing the sexual advances of men. She became the patron saint of witches in Galicia, acting both as an intercessor on behalf of witches and as an intercessor against witches.
At Coimbra, according to one 19th century travel guide, there was a small chapel that was said to mark the spot where Comba suffered martyrdom, and that "towards the close of the spring, the young girls of Coimbra deck her shrine with wreaths of roses in remembrance of the rosy crown of martyrdom they believe she won."
- Lanzi, Fernando and Lnazi, Gioia. "Columba of Sens", Saints and Their Symbols, Liturgical Press, 2004 ISBN 9780814629703
- Capes, Florence. "St. Columba of Sens." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 1 April 2015
- Allyson M. Poska, Women and Authority in Early Modern Spain: The Peasants of Galicia (Oxford University Press, 2005), 224.
- Allyson M. Poska, Women and Authority in Early Modern Spain: The Peasants of Galicia (Oxford University Press, 2005), 224-25.
- A C Smith, A Handbook for Travellers in Portugal (J. Murray, 1875), 101.