Marina the Monk

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Saint Marina the Monk
Marina the monk.jpg
Marina (in red) being brought to a monastery by her father Eugenius. 14th century French manuscript.
Confessor and Wonderworker
BornFifth[1] or eighth[2] century
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Maronite Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church[3]
Coptic Orthodox Church
FeastJune 18[4]
July 17[5][6]
Mesra 15[7]
ControversyWoman joins monastery, falsely accused of fathering a child

Marina, distinguished as Marina the Monk and also known as Marinos, Pelagia and Mary of Alexandria (Coptic: Ϯⲁⲅⲓⲁ Ⲙⲁⲣⲓⲛⲁ ⲛ̅ⲁⲥⲕⲏⲧⲏⲥ), was a Christian saint from part of Asian Byzantium, variously said to be Syria or Lebanon.[8] Details of the saint's life vary.[a]

Marina probably lived in the 5th century, and the first biographical account was probably written sometime between 525 and 650; it is preserved in several manuscripts, including one from the tenth century.[9][10]


Marina (in some Western traditions, or Mary[9] or Mariam in other manuscript traditions) was the child of wealthy Christian parents. Her mother died when Marina was very young, so Marina was raised as a devout Christian by her father Eugenius. As Marina approached marriageable age, her father intended to find his child a husband and then retire to the Monastery of Qannoubine in the Kadisha Valley of Lebanon. When Marina learned of his plan, she asked why he intended to save his own soul "and destroy mine." When asked by her father, "What shall I do with you? You are a woman", Marina answered that she would live as a monk with him: she then shaved her head and changed into men's clothes. Eugenius, seeing his child's strong determination, gave all his possessions to the poor and traveled with Marina to the Kadisha Valley to live in monastic community life, where they shared a cell. She took the name Marinos. The other monks attributed his soft voice to long periods of prayer, or else believed their new brother was a male eunuch.[7][8][11][12]

After ten years of prayer, fasting and worship together, Eugenius died. Now alone, Marina became only more intently ascetic and continued to conceal her sex. One day, the abbot of the monastery sent her with three other monks to attend to some business for the monastery. As the journey was long, they were forced to spend the night at an inn. Also lodging there was a soldier of the eastern Roman front. Upon seeing the beauty of the inn keeper's daughter, who was working there, the soldier seduced her and defiled her virginity, instructing her to say, "it was the monk, Father Marinos, who has done this to me" should she conceive a child.[7][8]

After some time, it was discovered that the inn keeper's daughter was pregnant and, as was agreed, she told her father that Marinos (Marina) was to blame. On hearing the story, the man went furiously to the abbot of the monastery. The abbot calmed the man and told him that he would see to the matter. He called for Marina and reprimanded her severely. When Marina realized what was happening she fell to her knees and wept, confessing her sinfulness (without explicitly stating how she had sinned) and asking forgiveness. The fact that there was no attempt to deny the fault made the abbot so furious that he told Marina to leave the monastery. She left at once and remained outside the gates as a beggar for several years. When the inn keeper's daughter gave birth, he took the child and gave him to Marina. So Marina raised the child. She fed the child with sheep's milk, provided by the local shepherds, and remained caring for him outside the monastery for ten years. Finally the monks convinced the abbot to allow Marina to return; he accepted but he also imposed heavy penalties upon Marina, who was to perform hard labour in cooking, cleaning and carrying water in addition to regular monastic duties and caring for the child.[7][8][11]

At the age of forty, Marina became ill. Three days later she died from the illness. The abbot ordered that Marina's body be cleaned, her clothes changed and that she be transferred to the church for funeral prayers. While fulfilling these tasks, the monks discovered that she was, in fact, born a woman. This made them very distressed. The monks informed the abbot, who came to Marina's side and wept bitterly for the wrongs done. The abbot then called for the inn keeper and informed him that Marina was born a woman. The inn keeper went to where the body lay and also wept for the pain and suffering which he had unjustly brought upon Marina. During the funeral prayers, one of the monks, who was blind in one eye, is said to have received full sight again after he touched the body. It was also believed that God allowed a devil to torment the inn keeper's daughter and the soldier, and that this caused them to travel to where the saint was buried, where they confessed their iniquity in front of everyone and asked for forgiveness.[7][8]

Today, Coptic Orthodox Christians say that Marina's body is kept at Saint Mary Church and has not decomposed. It is displayed to the public on Marina's feast day, on Mesra 15.[13][14]


Marina is venerated in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches[15][3][16] and the Coptic Orthodox Church.


  1. ^ "The availability of Marina’s story in Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Arabic, Ethiopic, French, High German, Greek, and Armenian made them known to believers in the East as well as in the West. Their local cult was transformed through these translations into a universal one and Marina’s hometown or country of origin became that of each of the towns or countries that adopted their venerable story. ... These manuscripts are silent about the place of Marina’s birth and life. However, Clugnet believes that the only origin of Saint Marina must be the one known to us according to tradition. According to Clugnet, since the only tradition about this saint is found among the Maronites of Lebanon, then Lebanon is to be considered the land of Marina’s birth. ... As to the century in which this saint has lived...Clugnet believes that it must have been the fifth century". (Hourani, p. 19-21)


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Venerable Mary (who was called Marinus)". Orthodox Church in America.
  4. ^ Roman Martyrology: "At Alexandria, the passion of St. Marina, virgin."
  5. ^ Synaxarion: "Saint Marina the nun of Qannoubeen (North of Lebanon)"
  6. ^ Martyrology: "At Venice, the translation of St. Marina, virgin." (See also: Church of San Marina, Venice (in Italian))
  7. ^ a b c d e Coptic Synexarium: "The Commemoration of the Departure of St. Mary Known as Marina, the Ascetic"
  8. ^ a b c d e Hourani, Guita (2013). "The Vita of Saint Marina in the Maronite Tradition". Notre Dame University (Lebanon). Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  9. ^ a b Stavroula Constantinou, Female Corporeal Performances (2005, ISBN 9155462928), page 95
  10. ^ Alice-Mary Talbot, Holy Women of Byzantium: Ten Saints' Lives in English Translation (1996, ISBN 088402248X), page 2
  11. ^ a b G. G. Bolich, Crossdressing in Context, vol. 4: Transgender & Religion (2009, ISBN 0615253563, pp. 86-87
  12. ^ Roland Betancourt, Transgender Lives in the Middle Agesthrough Art, Literature, and Medicine
  13. ^ (in Arabic)
  14. ^كنيسة-السيدة-العذراء-المغيثة-بحارة-ال/161308/ (in Arabic)
  15. ^ Robert Elsie, A Dictionary of Albanian Religion, Mythology, and Folk Culture (ISBN 0-8147-2214-8)
  16. ^ "Orthodox Calendar -- Saturday February 25, 2017 / February 12, 2017". Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church.

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