Faith, Hope and Charity

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Saints Faith, Hope, and Charity
Sophia the Martyr.jpg
Saints Faith, Hope, and Charity with their mother Sophia the Martyr
Virgin Martyrs
Born 2nd Century AD
Died 2nd Century AD
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion[citation needed]
Feast 1 August (previous editions of Roman Martyrology)
30 September (Eastern Orthodox Church)

Saints Faith, Hope and Charity (Latin: Fides, Spes et Caritas, New Testament Greek: Πίστις, Ἐλπίς καὶ Ἀγάπη Pistis, Elpis, and Agape, Church Slavonic: Вѣра, Надежда, Любовь Věra, Nadežda, Ljubov) are a group of Christian martyred saints. Their mother is said to have been Sophia (Greek for Wisdom); Sapientia (Latin for Wisdom) is also mentioned in some accounts, though not as their mother. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, these were, in fact, two groups bearing the same names. The names are also the words designating the three key Christian virtues mentioned in Apostle Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:13).

In the Eastern Orthodox Church the feast of these saints is kept on September 30.

A 1685 icon by Karp Zolotaryov

Although earlier editions of the Roman Martyrology commemorated Saints Faith, Hope and Charity on 1 August and their mother Sophia on 30 September,[1] the present text of this official but professedly incomplete catalogue of saints of the Roman Catholic Church has no feast dedicated to the three saints or their mother: the only Sophia included is an early Christian virgin martyr of Picenum in Italy, commemorated with her companion Vissia on 12 April; another early Christian martyr, Saint Faith (Fides), of Aquitania (southern France), is celebrated on 6 October, a Saint Hope (Spes), an abbot of Nursia who died in about 517, is commemorated on 23 May, and no saint Charity (Caritas) is included, although saints with somewhat similar names, Carissa and Carissima, are given, respectively under 16 April and 7 September.[2] Their feast day of August 1 was not entered in the General Roman Calendar, and they have since been removed from the Roman Martyrology.

Accurate historical data about the saints is minimal. The cult is very ancient, and the names are found not only in the various early martyrologies of the Western Church, but also in the Menaia and Menologies of the Ancient Greeks. In the preserved documents, there are two groups of references. On the one hand, they mention a band of martyrs, mother and daughters, whose names are always given in Greek, and who are buried on the Aurelian Way. On the other hand, the documents speak of four martyrs, interred on the Via Appia, whose relationship is not indicated and whose names, though the same as those of the martyrs of the Aurelian Way, are yet always given in Latin. This can be interpreted as pointing to distinct groups.

Setting aside the clearly legendary accounts that have come down to us[unreliable source?] (see Migne, P.G. CXV, 497; Mombritius, Vitae Sanctorum, II, 204), the stories go as follows. In the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian (2nd century AD), a matron Sophia (Wisdom), with her three youthful daughters, Pistis, Elpis, and Agape (Greek for Faith, Hope and Charity), became martyrs, and all three were interred on the Aurelian Way. Their tomb in a crypt beneath the church afterwards erected to Saint Pancratius was long a place of resort for pilgrims, as detailed in various documents of the seventh century, such as an Itinerarium (or guide to the holy places of Rome compiled for the use of pilgrims) still preserved at Salzburg, the list, preserved in the cathedral archives of Monza, of the oils gathered from the tombs of the martyrs and sent to Queen Theodelinda in the time of Gregory the Great, etc.

Later surely than the reign of Hadrian, but at what time is uncertain, a presumably separate band of martyrs, Sapientia (Wisdom) and her three companions, Spes, Fides and Caritas (Latin for Hope, Faith and Charity), suffered death and were buried near the tomb of St Cecilia in the cemetery of St. Callistus on the Appian Way.

The coincidence in names can be explained by the fact that the early Christians often (according to Italian archaeologist Giovanni Battista De Rossi) took in baptism mystical names indicative of Christian virtues, etc. Thus Sophia, Sapientia, Fides and the like are common names in early Christian inscriptions and martyrologies.

The names are translated into different languages as follows:

  • Breton - Feiz, Esperañs ha Karitez and their mother Sofia
  • Bulgarian - Св. мъченици Вяра, Надежда и Любов (Sv. muchenitzi Vyara, Nadezhda i Lyubov i tyahnata maika Sofia)
  • Finnish - Usko, Toivo and Lempi and their mother Sofia.
  • French - Foi, Espérance and Charité and their mother Sophie.
  • German - Glaube, Hoffnung and Liebe and their mother Sophia.
  • Italian - Fede, Speranza, and Carità and their mother Sofia.
  • Polish - Wiara, Nadzieja i Miłość and their mother Zofia
  • Portuguese - Fé,Esperança e Caridade e sua mãe Sofia
  • Russian - Вера, Надежда, Любовь и их мать София (Vera, Nadezhda, Lyubov i ikh mat' Sofia)
  • Spanish - Fe, Esperanza, Caridad y su madre Sofía
  • Ukrainian - Vira, Nadiya i Liubov and their mother Sofiya

 One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Sts. Faith, Hope and Charity". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 

Subsequent meanings[edit]


  1. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Sts. Faith, Hope & Charity
  2. ^ Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  3. ^

See also[edit]