Saint of the Day – 10 December – Saint Eulalia of Mérida (Died 304) Virgin Martyr. Born c 290 in Spain and died by being tortured and burned alive in c 304 in Merida, Spain. Eulalia was a devout Christian virgin, aged 12–14, whose mother sequestered her in the countryside because all citizens were required to avow faith in the Roman gods. Also known as Aulaire, Aulazie, Olalla. Patronages – Mérida, Spain; Oviedo, Spain; runaways, torture victims, widows, inclement weather.
St Eulalia was a native of Merida, in Spain. She was but twelve years old when the bloody edicts of Diocletian were issued. Eulalia ran away from her safe home in the countryside and presented herself at the law court of the cruel Governor Dacian at Emerita. She professed herself a Christian, reproached him for attempting to destroy souls by compelling them to renounce the only true God. She insulted the pagan gods and emperor Maximian and challenged the authorities to martyr her.
The Governor commanded her to be seized and at first tried to win her over by flattery but failing in this, he had recourse to threats and caused the most dreadful instruments of torture to be placed before her eyes, saying to her: “All this you shall escape if you will but touch a little salt and frankincense with the tip of your finger.”
Provoked at these seducing flatteries, our Saint threw down the idol and trampled upon the cake which was laid for the sacrifice. At the judge’s order, two executioners tore her tender sides with iron hooks, so as to leave the very bones bare. Next lighted torches were applied to her breasts and sides; under which torment, instead of groans, nothing was heard from her mouth but thanksgivings. The fire at length catching her hair, surrounded her head and face and the Saint was stifled by the smoke and flame. As she expired a dove flew out of her mouth. This frightened away the soldiers and allowed a miraculous snow to cover her nakedness, its whiteness indicating her purity and Sainthood.
A shrine over Eulalia’s tomb was soon erected. Veneration of Eulalia was already popular with Christians by 350. The Roman poet Prudentius of the fifth century, who devoted book 3 of his Peristephanon (“About martyrs”) to Eulalia, increased her fame and her relics were distributed through Iberia. Bishop Fidelis of Mérida rebuilt a Basilica in her honour around 560. Her shrine was the most popular in Spain. Around 780 her body was transferred to Oviedo by King Silo. It lies in a sarcophagus of Arab silver donated by Alfonso VI in 1075. In 1639, she was made co-patron Saint of Oviedo.
Between 30 November and 10 December, Totana a town of Mérida, celebrates its annual fiesta in honour of Santa Eulalia, the figure of whom spends most of the year in the sanctuary of La Santa high above Totana in the mountains of Sierra Espuña (a glorious location with an extraordinary church!) but is carried down into Totana on 8 December for the festive season. Most of the events of the fiestas occur around that date. On her feast day, 10 December, the Eucharist is celebrated at the church of Santiago and thereafter, the Statue is processed through the streets of the town. St Eulalia will then not return to her sanctuary until 7 January.