JiscMail Logo
Email discussion lists for the UK Education and Research communities
















By Topic:










By Author:











Proportional Font








Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


FEAST - A Saint for the Day (April 1): St. Mary of Egypt REVISED


John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>


medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>


Sat, 30 Apr 2016 16:00:40 +0000





text/plain (1 lines)

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

The earliest known form of the story of Mary of Egypt occurs in Cyril of Scythopolis' sixth-century Bios of St. Cyriacus (BHG 463).  There Mary is presented as a former singer in a church in Jerusalem who withdrew into the Judean desert to avoid being an incitement to men's lusts, who subsisted there for eighteen years on some water and some legumes that she had taken with her, who was then discovered by the monk John, to whom she told her story, and who was dead when John revisited her.  John buried her in the cave in which she had lived.  A similar version in which the female desert solitary is instead an unnamed former nun of Jerusalem occurs in the early seventh-century _Leimon_ of John Moschus.

The standard account (BHG 1042) also dates from the seventh century and is attributed in some witnesses to St. Sophronius, the earlier seventh-century patriarch of Jerusalem (and friend and traveling companion of John Moschus).  In it Mary is presented as a former sex-crazed prostitute from Alexandria who, having traveled to Jerusalem, underwent a religious conversion.  Having first taken communion at the monastery of St. John the Forerunner on the west bank of the Jordan, she became a solitary in the Judean desert.  There she lived in extreme asceticism for forty-seven years, elevating while at prayer, sustained physically only by morcels of two and a half loaves of bread that she had purchased before crossing the Jordan and that soon desiccated, and not meeting anyone else until she was found by a monk named Zosimas (in Latin texts usually Zosimus) who had been wandering in the desert on a Lenten retreat.  Covering Mary's nakedness with his own garment, Zosimas heard her story, prayed with her, and promised to bring her the Eucharist annually.  Which he did.  On his second return he found Mary dead.  Zosimas buried her with the miraculous assistance of a lion who seems to many to have wandered in from St. Jerome's Vita of Paul of Thebes.

Mary has an extremely rich dossier in many languages.  Sophronius' (or pseudo-Sophronius') Bios was translated into Latin by, among others, the Neapolitan Paul the Deacon (BHL 5415; later ninth-century); later highlights include a metrical Vita by Hildebert of Le Mans (BHL 5419-5420) and an account in Jacopo da Varazze's _Legenda aurea_.  1. April is her feast day in the Synaxary of Constantinople (Zosimas is celebrated in the same entry) and in the latter's modern descendants in Byzantine-rite churches (which latter, when they celebrate Zosimas as a saint, tend to do so on 4. April).  It is also her day of commemoration in the Roman Martyrology.

Mary's former church in Rome (Santa Maria Egiziaca) is first recorded under this dedication in 1492.  Consecrated in 872, it was previously known, after its donor, as Santa Maria Secundicerii.  Deconsecrated in the 1920s, it is now better known as the Temple of Portunus or as the Temple of Fortuna Virilis.  Picky classicists, the sort who like to refer to the Colosseum as the Flavian Amphitheatre (in Rome), recognize the iffiness of such identifications and prefer to call this building "the oblong temple in the Foro Boario" (there's a circular temple there as well).  Herewith a page of views of this structure in different states of its modern existence, including several eighteenth-century engravings showing Santa Maria Egiziaca before modern restorations returned the building to a greater approximation of its ancient appearance:


Some period-pertinent images of St. Mary of Egypt:

a) as depicted, seemingly, (at right; at left, perh. St. Anthony of Egypt) in a later ninth-century fresco (betw. 872 and 882) in Rome's chiesa di Santa Maria Antiqua:


b) as depicted, seemingly, (at right; at left, Zosimas?) in a later ninth-century fresco (betw. 872 and 882) in Rome's ex-chiesa di Santa Maria Egiziaca (grayscale image):


c) as depicted (receiving the Eucharist from Zosimas) in a tenth- or eleventh-century fresco in the rupestrian eremo di Santa Maria della Stella in Pazzano (RC) in Calabria:



d) as depicted (receiving from Zosimas a cloak to hide her nakedness) in the later eleventh-century Theodore Psalter (1066; of Constantinopolitan origin; London, BL, MS Add. 19352, fol. 68r):


e) as depicted (receiving the Eucharist from Zosimas) in a twelfth-century copy of her Bios (Paris, BnF, ms. Supplément grec 1276, fol. 95r):


f) as depicted in an early twelfth-century fresco (1105-1106) in the church of the Panagia Phorbiotissa at Asinou (Nicosia prefecture) in the Republic of Cyprus (grayscale image):


Detail view (colour):


g) as depicted in a pen-and-ink drawing in an earlier twelfth-century copy of her Vita in Latin (ca. 1120; Vendôme, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 44, fol. 108v):


h) as portrayed in relief (several times) on an earlier twelfth-century double capital (ca. 1120-1140) in the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse:

1) Before (at right) and after (at left) crossing the Jordan:


2) Receiving the Eucharist from Zosimus; being buried by Zosimus and the lion:


3) Further views:


i) as portrayed in relief (very hirsute; receiving the Eucharist from Zosimus) on a mid-twelfth-century capital, from the abbey church of Alspach, in the Musée Unterlinden in Colmar:


j) as depicted in one of four panels of a full-page illumination in the late twelfth-century so-called Bible of Saint Bertin (ca. 1190-1200; Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 F 5, fol. 34v, sc. 2B):


The illumination as a whole:


k) as depicted (at center left, flanking the doorway; at center right, Zosimas offering her the Eucharist) in the late twelfth-century frescoes (1192) in the church of the Panagia tou Arakou in Lagoudera (Nicosia prefecture), Republic of Cyprus:


l) as depicted  (at far right, receiving the Eucharist from Zosimus) in a thirteenth(?)-century fresco in the crypt of the cattedrale di San Cataldo in Taranto:


Detail view:


m) as depicted (full-length portrait; scenes) in the early thirteenth-century St. Laumer and St. Mary of Egypt window in the cathédrale Notre-Dame in Chartres (Bay 142; ca. 1205-15):


n) as depicted (scenes) in the early thirteenth-century St. Mary of Egypt window in the cathédrale Saint-Étienne in Bourges (Bay 21; ca. 1210-15; photographs courtesy of Gordon Plumb):


o) as depicted (scenes) in the earlier to mid-thirteenth-century St. Mary of Egypt window (Bay 20, panels 7-15; ca. 1235-1250) in the cathédrale Saint-Étienne in Auxerre:


p) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Mary Magdalene) in a bas-de-page illumination in a copy of the Office for the Dead in a later thirteenth-century psalter and book of hours from Liège (Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 G 17, fol. 187v):


q) as depicted (receiving a hooded monastic cloak from Zosimas [so named in this text]) in a late thirteenth-century collection of saint's lives in French (1285; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 412, fol. 221r):


r) as twice depicted (in the right margin: receiving from Zosimas a cloak to hide her nakedness; receiving the Eucharist from Zosimas) in a late thirteenth- or early fourteenth-century marginal psalter (ca. 1300; Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, Walters Ms. W.733, fol. 99r):


s) as depicted (in the large panel at top, receiving the Eucharist from Zosimus) in an earlier fourteenth-century pictorial menologion from Thessaloniki (betw. 1322 and 1340; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Gr. th. f. 1, fol. 34r):


t) as depicted (holding her loaves of bread) in the earlier fourteenth-century Taymouth Hours (ca. 1326-1350; Sarum Use; London, BL, MS Yates Thompson 13, fol. 191v, at foot of page):


u) as depicted (receiving from Zosimus a cloak to hide her nakedness) in an earlier fourteenth-century French-language legendary of Parisian origin with illuminations attributed to the Fauvel Master (ca. 1327; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 183, fol. 69r):


v) as depicted (receiving the Eucharist from Zosimas) in an earlier fourteenth-century fresco (1330s) in the church of the Hodegetria at the Patriarchate of Peć at Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:


w) as twice depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century copy of books 9-16 of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language vision by Jean de Vignay (ca. 1335; Paris, BnF, ms. Arsenal 5080):

1) levitating while in prayer, Zosimas looking on (fol. 406v):


2) Recounting her story to Zosimas; the church of the Holy Sepulchre with its door closed to her (fol. 407r):


x) as depicted (receiving the Eucharist from Zosimas) in an earlier fourteenth-century fresco (betw. 1335-1350) in the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of recent events, the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's Kosovo province:


y) as depicted (receiving from Zosimus a cloak to hide her nakedness) in a mid-fourteenth-century copy, from the workshop of Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston, of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1348; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 96v):


z) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Mary Magdalene) in the Litanies section of a later fourteenth-century miscellany of mostly French-language devotional texts (betw. 1351 and 1400; Paris, BnF, Français 400 [Colbert 1432], fol. 35v):


aa) as depicted (partly covered in a sky-blue robe; conversing with  Zosimas [so named in this text]) in the later fourteenth-century Breviary of Charles V (ca. 1364-1370; Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 1052, fol. 355r):


bb) as depicted in a later fourteenth-century copy of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (ca. 1370-1380; Paris, BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition française 15939-15942, at 15942 [bks. 14-16], fols. 90v. 91v):

1) Crossing the Jordan (fol. 90v):


2) Receiving the Eucharist from Zosimas (fol. 91v):


3) Lying dead as Zosimas gestures to the lion (instructs it to prepare her grave?; fol. 91v):


cc) as depicted (at left, receiving the Eucharist from Zosimas) in the late fourteenth-century frescoes (1389; restored in the early 1970s) of the monastery church of St. Andrew at Matka in Skopje's municipality of Karpoš:


dd) as depicted (being buried by Zosimus and the lion) in a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Rennes, Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole, ms. 266, fol. 103v):


ee) as depicted (with Zosimas) in an early fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay followed by the _Festes nouvelles_ attributed to Jean Golein (ca. 1401-1425; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 242, fol. 83v):


ff) as depicted (holding her loaves of bread) in an early to mid-fifteenth-century copy of the South English Legendary (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Tanner 17, fol. 85r):


gg) Mary of Egypt (left-hand column; very hirsute) as depicted in the early fifteenth-century Hours of René of Anjou (ca. 1405-1410; London, BL, Egerton MS 1070, fol. 89v):


hh) as depicted in an earlier fifteenth-century fresco (1430) in the church of the Pantanassa at Mistra:


ii) as depicted (receiving from Zosimus a cloak to hide her nakedness), in the earlier fifteenth-century Hours of Jean Dunois (betw. 1436 and 1450; London, BL, MS Yates Thompson 3, fol. 287r):


jj) as depicted (receiving from Zosimus a cloak to hide her nakedness) by Henri d'Orquevaulz in an earlier fifteenth-century book of hours for the Use of Metz (ca. 1440; Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 10533, fol. 132v):


kk) as portrayed (very hirsute and holding her loaves of bread) in a mid- or later fifteenth-century statue (ca. 1451-1464) in the Sainte-Chapelle of the château de Châteaudun:



ll) as depicted in two illuminations in a later fifteenth-century copy of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1463; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 51, fols. 198v and 200v):

1) Receiving from Zosimus a cloak to hide her nakedness (fol. 198v):


2) Preparing to cross the Jordan; receiving the Eucharist from Zosimus; being found dead by Zosimus; being buried by Zosimus and the lion (fol. 200v):


mm) as depicted (at right, holding her loaves of bread) by Hans Memling on a closed wing of his late fifteenth-century Triptych of Adriaan Reins (1480) in the Memlingmuseum, Sint-Janshospitaal, Bruges:


nn) as depicted (left margin at bottom) in a hand-colored woodcut in the Beloit College copy of Hartmann Schedel's late fifteenth-century _Weltchronik_ (_Nuremberg Chronicle_; 1493) at fol. CXXXIIIr:


oo) as portrayed (holding her loaves of bread) in an earlier sixteenth-century statue (betw. 1501 and 1525; _aliter_, ca. 1490) in the église Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois in Paris:



pp) as depicted (receiving the Eucharist from Zosimas; in two corresponding panels) in the early sixteenth-century frescoes (1502) by Dionisy and sons in the Virgin Nativity cathedral of the St. Ferapont Belozero (Ferapontov Belozersky) monastery at Ferapontovo in Russia's Vologda oblast:



qq) as depicted (praying, with her loaves before her) by Quentin Massys (Metsys) in an earlier sixteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1520-1530) in the Philadelphia Museum of Art:


That image is part of a matched pair with one of St. Mary Magdalene.  See:



John Dillon


To join the list, send the message: subscribe medieval-religion YOUR NAME

to: [log in to unmask]

To send a message to the list, address it to:

[log in to unmask]

To leave the list, send the message: unsubscribe medieval-religion

to: [log in to unmask]

In order to report problems or to contact the list's owners, write to:

[log in to unmask]

For further information, visit our web site:


Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

JiscMail Tools

RSS Feeds and Sharing

Advanced Options


September 2023
August 2023
July 2023
June 2023
May 2023
April 2023
March 2023
February 2023
January 2023
December 2022
November 2022
October 2022
September 2022
August 2022
July 2022
June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
April 1998
March 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997
November 1997
October 1997
September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997
December 1996
November 1996
October 1996
September 1996
August 1996
July 1996
June 1996
May 1996
April 1996

JiscMail is a Jisc service.

View our service policies at https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/policyandsecurity/ and Jisc's privacy policy at https://www.jisc.ac.uk/website/privacy-notice

For help and support help@jisc.ac.uk

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager