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(ca. 413 - 470) Egypt

Saint Euphrosyne

Saint - Feast day January 16


Her story belongs to that group of legends which relate how Christian virgins, in order the more successfully to lead the life of celibacy and asceticism to which they had dedicated themselves, put on male attire and passed for men.

Euphrosyne was the only daughter of a rich man of Alexandria, who, when she turned 18, wanted to marry her to a wealthy youth.

Secretly having accepted tonsure from a wandering monk, she left her father's house and decided to enter a monastery in order to lead her life in solitude and prayer. She feared, however, that in a women's monastery her father would find her. Calling herself the eunuch Smaragdus, she clothed herself as a man and went to that men's monastery, which since childhood she had visited with her father.

The monks did not recognise Euphrosyne dressed in men's garb, and so they accepted her into the monastery. In the monastery, it happened that she was lusted after by the monks who believed she was an handsome young brother... her beauty so distracted the other monks that the abbot ordered her to live as a recluse in her cell.

Here in a solitary cell, in works, fasting and prayer, Saint Euphrosyne spent 33 years and attained to high spiritual accomplishment. She soon attracted the attention of the abbot by the rapid strides which she made toward a perfect ascetic life.

This is one of the rare occasions when it happened that a woman's beauty was not destroyed but continued to act as a temptation to sin despite a male disguise.

Her feast is celebrated in the Greek Church on 25 September, in the Roman Church on 16 January (by the Carmelites on 11 February).


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