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Mary of Egypt, Saint

life repentance bread loaves

Accounts of the penitent Mary of Egypt first appear in the sixth and seventh centuries, providing the basis for further elaboration upon her widely popular biography. Episodes from her life, illustrated in both western and Byzantine art (*icons, frescoes, mosaics, sculpture, and stained glass) include her voyage from Alexandria to Jerusalem, for which passage she paid the sailors by her services as a prostitute, her being prevented by an *angel or an invisible force from entering the church of the *Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, her *prayer and vow of repentance before an icon (or statue) of the Virgin *Mary who directed her to pursue a solitary life in the desert, her retreat to the desert with three loaves of bread, her discovery after about fortyseven years by the priest Zosimus who heard her story and gave her communion (she miraculously walked across the Jordan river to meet him without getting wet), and Zosimus’s return the next year to find her dead; he then buried her with the assistance of a lion who dug her grave. As a dramatic example of the *virtue of repentance, the story of Mary of Egypt emphasizes the extreme contrasts of her life before and after her moment of conversion. She was a great sinner who became a person of even greater holiness than Zosimus—a man who had dedicated his whole life to a search for sanctity. She is usually depicted as wild, unkempt, and emaciated, covered with long hair, sometimes holding the three loaves of bread which are her attributes.
Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587) - BIOGRAPHY, MAJOR WORKS AND THEMES, CRITICAL RECEPTION [next] [back] Mary Magdalene, Saint

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