Marina the Monk
|Saint Marina the Monk|
Marina (in red) being brought to a monastery by her father Eugenius. 14th century French manuscript.
|Born||Fifth or Eighth century|
|Venerated in||Maronite Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Coptic Orthodox Church
|Controversy||Woman falsely accused of fathering a child|
Marina, distinguished as Marina the Monk and also known as Pelagia, St. Mary and as Mary of Alexandria, was a Christian saint of Byzantine Syria, in the area now part of Lebanon. Details of her life vary.[note 1]
Marina, born Mariam, was the daughter of wealthy Christian parents. Marina's mother died when she was very young and she was raised in devout Christian life by her father Eugenius. As her age of marriage drew near her father wished to retire to the Monastery of Qannoubine in the Kadisha Valley of Lebanon after he had found her a husband. When Marina learned of her father's 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 renounce women's clothing and live as a monk, in the body she was supposed to take. She then immediately shaved the hair from her head and changed her clothes. Her father, seeing his daughter's strong determination, gave all his possessions to the poor and traveled with her to the Kadisha Valley to live in monastic community life, sharing a cell with her under the name Marinos.
After ten years of prayer, fasting and worship together her father died, leaving her alone. Marina increased her level of asceticism and continued to conceal the fact that she was a woman. The other monks attributed her soft voice to long periods of prayer and strict ascetic life. 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 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 child.
After some time, it was discovered that the inn keeper's daughter was pregnant and, as was agreed, she told her father that 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 she 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 her to leave the monastery. She left at once and remained outside the gates as a beggar for quite a long time. When the inn keeper's daughter gave birth, he took the child and gave him to Marina. 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 her. She was to perform hard labour in cooking, cleaning and carrying water in addition to her regular monastic duties.
At the age of forty, Marina became ill. Three days later she died. The abbot ordered that her body be cleaned, her cloths changed and that she be transferred to the church for funeral prayers. While fulfilling these tasks, the monks discovered that she was in fact, a woman! This made them very distressed. The monks informed the abbot, who came to her side and wept bitterly for the wrongs he had done. The abbot then called for the inn keeper and informed him that Marina was actually 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 her. During the funeral prayers, one of the monks, who was blind in one eye, received full sight again after he touched the body. God also allowed a devil to torment the inn keeper's daughter and the soldier. This caused them to travel to where the saint was buried. There they both confessed their iniquity in front of everyone and asked for forgiveness.
In terms of how gendered St. Mary's behavior was, it is evident that her behavior was extremely atypical. One way in which she has defied gender roles, other than posing as the opposite gender, is that she refused to submit to her father’s will when he told her that she could not join him in his journey to become a monk and save his sole. Instead of dutifully obeying, she responded stating, “Father, do you wish to save your own soul and see mine destroyed? Do you not know what the Lord says? That the good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep?” Her display of intellect in this instance also defies gender norms, as women were not traditionally viewed as intelligent as men. Her discipline and self control also goes against the assumption of what is typical female behavior, for when she was accused of fathering a child (after years of staying in the monastery, long after her father died) she did not break down and tell the truth, as many would assume, but instead took responsibility for the child that was not hers. St. Mary’s life was most definitely recorded due to her atypical lifestyle, as described above. Her discipline and intelligence goes against all preconceived notions of what a woman should be. She defied gender roles so well that, her fellow monks never once suspected that Brother Marinos was a woman, as they attributed her lack of beard and high voice as a result of pious asceticism. The life of St. Mary/Marinos provides insight into gender roles of the Middle Ages, particularly in regards to monasteries. What I found most interesting about St. Mary’s story is that once her fellow monks discovered that she was a women, none of them react negatively. Their respect and admiration of Marinos never faltered, and their only response to the revelation of her true gender was to ask for forgiveness for wrongfully accusing and condemning her.
- Saint Margaret the Virgin and Saint Pelagia, both of whom are sometimes confused or conflated with Marina
- "Venerable Mary (who was called Marinus)". Orthodox Church in America.
- Roman Martyrology: "At Alexandria, the passion of St. Marina, virgin."
- Synaxarion: "Saint Marina the nun of Qannoubeen (North of Lebanon)"
- Martyrology: "At Venice, the translation of St. Marina, virgin." (See also: Church of San Marina, Venice (Italian))
- The Commemoration of the Departure of St. Mary Known as Marina, the Ascetic
- Hourani, Guita (2013). "The Vita of Saint Marina in the Maronite Tradition". Notre Dame University (Lebanon). Academia.edu. p. 22. Retrieved 2016-11-03.
- Talbot, Alice-Mary (6 Feb. 2017). "Holy Women of Byzatium: Ten Saints' Lives in English Translation.". Web: Dumbarton Oaks. p. 7. Check date values in:
- Robert Elsie, A Dictionary of Albanian Religion, Mythology, and Folk Culture (ISBN 0-8147-2214-8)
- "Orthodox Calendar -- Saturday February 25, 2017 / February 12, 2017". Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church.
- "The availability of her story in Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Arabic, Ethiopic, French, High German, Greek, and Armenian made her known to believers in the East as well as in the West. Her local cult was transformed through these translations into a universal one and her hometown or country of origin became that of each of the towns or countries that adopted her 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 him, since the only tradition about this saint is found among the Maronites of Lebanon, then Lebanon is to be considered the land of her 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)