Saint of the Day – 16 September – Saint Euphemia (c 290-c 305) Virgen Martyr. Her name means “the well-spoken [of].” Patronages – Alba Adriatica, Italy, Rovinj, Croatia. Also known as – Euphemia of Chalcedon.
The Roman Martyrology states of her today: “At Chalcedon, the birthday of St Euphemia, Virgin and Martyr, under the Emperor Diocletian and the Proconsul Priscus. For faith in Our Lord, she was subjected to tortues, imprisonment, blows, the torment of the wheel, fire, the crushing weight of stones, the teeth of beasts, scourging with rods, the cutting of sharp saws, burning pans, all of which she survived. But when she was again exposed to the beasts in the amphitheatre, praying to Our Lord to receive her spirit, one of the animals, having inflicted a bite on her sacred body, whilst the rest licked her feet, she yielded her unspotted soul to God.”
St. Euphemia lived on the cusp of the 3rd and 4th centuries. According to tradition, she was the daughter of a senator named Philophronos and his wife Theodosia in Chalcedon, located across the Bosporus from the City of Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul). From her youth she consecrated her virginity to God.
The governor of Chalcedon, Priscus, had published a decree that all of the inhabitants of the City take part in sacrifices to the deity Ares. Euphemia was discovered, with forty-nine other Christians, hiding in a house and worshipping God, in defiance of the governor’s orders. Because of their refusal to sacrifice, they were tortured for a number of days,and then, all but Euphemia, were sent to the Emperor for trial. Euphemia, the youngest among them, was separated from her companions and subjected to particularly harsh torments, including the wheel, in hopes of breaking her spirit. She was placed in the arena, where lions were sent out to kill her,but they instead licked her wounds. She eventually died of wounds from a wild bear in the arena.
The Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council, took place in the City of Chalcedon in the year 451. It repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism and set forth the Chalcedonian Definition, which describes the “full humanity and full divinity” of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Present at the Council were 630 representatives from all the local Christian Churches. The meetings were quite contentious and no decisive consensus could be reached.
According to the Synaxarion of Constantinople, a collection of hagiographies,, both parties wrote a confession of their faith and placed them on the breast of Saint Euphemia within her tomb. After three days the tomb was opened and the scroll with the confession of the true faith, was seen in the right hand of St Euphemia, while the scroll of the Monophysites lay at her feet.
When the persecution of Diocletian ended, the Christians laid Saint Euphemia’s relics in a golden sarcophagus, placed within a Church that was dedicated to her. Her relics attracted crowds of pilgrims for centuries.
Around the year 620, in the wake of the conquest of Chalcedon by the Persians in the year 617, Saint Euphemia’s relics were transferred to a new Church in Constantinople. There, during the persecutions of the Iconoclasts, her reliquary was said to have been thrown into the sea, from which it was recovered by the ship-owning brothers, Sergios and Sergonos, who belonged to the Church and who gave it to the local Bishop who hid them in a secret crypt. The relics were afterwards taken to the Island of Lemnos and in 796 they were returned to Constantinople. The majority of her relics are still in the Patriarchal Church of St. George, in Istanbul and others are in Rovini, Croatia.