Saint of the Day – 11 November – Saint Mennas (Died c 300) Martyr, Layman, Miracle-worker, Soldier, he may have been a camel driver and merchant, hermit. Born in Egypt and died by beheading in c 300 at Cotyaes, Phrygia, under Emperor Diocletian. He was one of the most popular saints in the early Eastern Church. Patronages – falsely accused people, physical ailments, peddlers, pilgrims, travelling merchants. Also known as – • Aba Mina• Menas of Egypt• Menas of Constantinople• Menas of Cotyaes• Menas of Cotyaeum• Menas of Kotyaeum• Menas of Mareotis• Menas the Martyr• Menas the Miracle Maker• Menas the Miracle Worker• Menas the Soldier• Menas the Wonder Worker• Mena, Mennas, Mina, Minas.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “At Cotyaeus, in Phrygia, during the persecution of Diocletian, the celebrated Martyrdome of St Mennas, Egyptian soldier, who cast off the military belt and obtained the grace of serving the King of Heaven, secretly, at first, in the desert. Afterwards, coming out publicly and freely declaring himself a Christian he was first subjected to dire torments and finally, kneeling in prayer and giving thanks to Our Lord Jesus Christ, he was struck with the sword. After his death, he was renowned for many miracles.”
Mennas, a Christian and an Egyptian by birth, served in the Roman army under the tribune Firmilian. When the army came to Cotyaeus in Phrygia, Menas hearing of the impious edicts issued against the Christians by the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, left the army in order to practise his faith in safety and retired to a solitude in the mountains and served God by fasting vigils and prayer.
During the celebration of a great pagan festival Mennas appeared in the midst of the populace in the circus and fearlessly professed his faith. He was led before the Prefect Pyrrhus, cruelly scourged, put to torture and finally beheaded.
His body was brought to Egypt and the Martyr was soon invoked in many needs and afflictions. The fame of the miracles wrought, spread far and wide and thousands of pilgrims came to the grave in the desert of Mareotis, between Alexandria and the valley of Natron.
For centuries Bumma was a national sanctuary and grew into a large city with costly temples a holy well and baths. A beautiful Basilica was erected by the Emperor Arcadius. The cult was spread into other countries, perhaps by travelling merchants who honoured him as their Patron.
As a result of various vicissitudes, the doctrinal disputes and the conquest of Egypt by the Arabians under Omar in 641 the sanctuary was neglected and ultimately forgotten.
During 1905 Msgr C M Kaufmann of Frankfort, led an expedition into Egypt which made excavations at Bumma. He found in a vast field of ruins, the grave, the well and thermae (public baths), the Basilica, the Monastery, numerous inscriptions on the walls, imploring aid through the intercession of the Saint and, thousands of little water pitchers and oil lamps. The rich findings are partly in the Museums of Alexandria and Cairo and partly in Frankfort and Berlin. The Monsignor published an official report of his expedition in 1908, (La découverte des Sanctuaires de Menas dans le désert de Mareotis).
St Mennas Feast is celebrated today, 11 November.