St. Euphemia, Virgin and Martyr
THE CITY of Chalcedon was the theatre of her glorious martyrdom; she suffered in the persecution continued by the successors of Dioclesian, about the year 307. The eminent sanctity of this holy virgin, loaded with the fruits of all Christian virtues, excited the rage of the devil, and of his instruments, the persecutors; but all the efforts of their malice only rendered her virtue the more triumphant and glorious. Having embraced the holy state of virginity, she, by the black or dark-coloured garments which she wore, declared to all men her steady purpose of taking no share in the earthly pleasures and amusements which fill the hearts, set an edge on the passions, and take up the most precious part of the time of worldlings.
The exercises of penance and religion were the serious occupations to which she totally devoted herself; and as the love of God reigned in her heart, it was her constant study to walk always before him, to labour in all her actions to please him, and, by the humility of her heart and whole deportment, by the mortification of her senses, by the constancy and fervour of her devotion, by the heavenliness of her conversation, and activity of her zeal and charity, to make continually higher advances towards heaven. Whatever was not God appeared to her empty and contemptible; she found no pleasure or delight but in what tended to unite her heart more and more to him here by love; and she thirsted after his presence and fruition in the kingdom of his glory, panting, and longing to be dismissed from the pilgrimage of this world, and from the corruptible tabernacle of the body. God was pleased to hear her sighs, and crown her humble desires. She was apprehended by the persecutors, and cruelly tortured by the command of an inhuman judge named Priscus. The torments she underwent were represented in the most moving manner, in a famous picture kept in the great church at Chalcedon, accurately described by St. Asterius. Whilst one soldier pulled her head back, another with a mallet beat out all her teeth, and bruised her mouth, so that her beautiful tender face, her hair and her clothes were covered with blood. After having suffered many other torments, she was laid in a dungeon, where prayer was her whole comfort, joy, and strength. Being at length condemned to be burnt alive, she ascended the pile with such an admirable cheerfulness in her countenance as bespoke the interior sweet joy of her soul going to eternal life. Thus she finished her course. 1
She is honoured as one of the chief martyrs of the Grecian church, and her festival is an holyday over almost all the east. Four churches in Constantinople formerly bore her name. One at Chalcedon was exceedingly spacious and famous, in which the fourth general council condemned Eutyches in 451. The fathers in it acknowledged the church much indebted to the intercession of this holy virgin for the happy issue of that affair. 1 Evagrius, the historian, testifies 2 that emperors, patriarchs, and all ranks of people resorted to Chalcedon to be made partakers of the blessings which God abundantly conferred on men through her patronage, and that manifest miracles were there wrought. 3 These relics were translated into the great church of Saint Sophia at Constantinople; and, above all other such holy treasures, excited the rage of Constantine Copronymus, as Theophanes, Zonaras, and Cedrenus relate. In what manner they were then concealed, and afterwards recovered, is recorded by Constantine, bishop of Tio, in Paphlagonia, in an oration on that subject. 4 The sacred remains of Saint Euphemia are now preserved at Syllebria, a metropolitical see, on the Propontic shore between Constantinople and Adrianople, as we are informed by Prince Cantemir 5 but a portion is possessed by the church of the Sorbonne at Paris, which was a present made by a great master of Rhodes. Saint Euphemia had a church at Rome in the time of St. Gregory the Great, probably the same that is now standing, and was repaired by Urban VIII. On St. Euphemia see Saint Paulinas, Saint Peter Chrysologus, and chiefly St. Asterius in his discourse quoted by the seventh general council. Her acts have not been here made use of. See Stilting, t. 5, Sept. p. 252. 2
Note 1. Conc. t. 4, p. 325.
Note 2. L. 2, c. 3.
Note 3. See Baronius ad an. 451, n. 54, an. 594, n. 101, et Not. in Martyr. Rom. 16. Sept.
Note 4. Ap. Metaphrast. 11 Julii, et Surium, t. 4.
Note 5. Hist. of the Othman Empire, b. 3, c. 1.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume IX: September.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.