Online Encyclopedia

ST PELAGIA

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 62 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ST

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PELAGIA  . An Antiochene saint of this name, a virgin of fifteen years, who chose
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death by a leap from the housetop rather than dishonour, is mentioned by Ambrose (De virg. iii . 7, 33; Ep.
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xxxvii. ad Simplic.), and is the subject of two sermons by
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Chrysostom . Her festival was celebrated on the 8th of
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October (Wright's
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Syriac
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Martyrology) . In the Greek synaxariathe same day is assigned to two other saints of the name of Pelagia—one, also of
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Antioch, and sometimes called Margarito and also " the. sinner "; the other, known as
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Pelagia of Tarsus, in
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Cilicia . The legend of the former of these two is famous . She was a celebrated dancer and courtesan, who, in the full flower of her beauty and guilty
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sovereignty over the youth of Antioch, was suddenly converted by the influence of the
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holy bishop Nonnus, whom she had heard preaching in front of a church which she was passing with her gay train of attendants and admirers . Seeking out Nonnus, she overcame his canonical scruples by her tears of genuine penitence, was baptized, and, disguising herself in the garb of a male penitent, retired to a grotto on the Mount of Olives, where she died after three years of strict penance . This story seems to combine with the name of the older Pelagia some traits from an actual
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history referred to by Chrysostom (Horn. in Matth. lxvii . 3) . In associating St Pelagia with St Marina, St Margaret (q.v.), and others, of whom either the name or the legend recalls Pelagia, Hermann Usener has endeavoured to show by a series of subtle deductions that this saint is only a Christian travesty of
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Aphrodite . But there is no doubt of the existence of the first Pelagia of Antioch, the Pelagia of Ambrose and Chrysostom .

The legends which have subsequently become connected with her name are the result of a very

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common development in
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literary history . See Acta sanctorum, October, iv . 248 seq . ; H . Usener . Legenden der heiligen Pelagia (
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Bonn, 1879) ; H . Delehaye, The Legends of the Saints (
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London, 1907), pp . 197-205 . (H .

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