Saint Pelagia the Penitent

Virgin and Martyr

Feast Day: October 8

Also known as: Saint Pelagia of Antioch, also Pelagia the Penitent, the Beardless Hermit, Marina. Margaret.

Saint Pelagia was of noble birth and had received from God a natural beauty in body and soul. She was a Christian virgin of fifteen years. In some stories about her, she is called Margaret, after the pearls she wore (Margareta comes from the Greek word for pearl).

She was suddenly converted when she was deeply moved by a sermon of Saint Nonnatus of Edessa. She gave away all her belongings and went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There she lived as a penitent dressed as a man. It was only after her death that it was discovered that she was a woman.

Soldiers were looking for her, apparently during Diocletian's persecution, to force her to make a pagan sacrifice in public. She was alone in the house and there was no one to help her. She came to the soldiers who had been sent to her, and when she heard the order that they should carry out, she asked permission to re-enter the house to change clothes. This was granted to her. The virgin, who probably knew what lay ahead of her, was unwilling to expose herself to the danger of being dishonored. So she went to the roof of the house and threw herself into the sea. Thus she died, as St. Chrysostom says, a virgin and martyr. It was only after her death that it was discovered that she was a woman.

She died in 457 in her hermitage on the Mount of Olives in Antioch-Jerusalem. Her relics are in Jouarre in France. She was canonized soon after her death. Pelagia is one of the 140 saints immortalized on the colonnade. of St. Peter's in Vatican City.

She is the patron saint of actresses.