July 25 – Olympias the Deaconess; Eurosia of Jaca

Olympias the Deaconess (d. 408) came from an illustrious family. Time prohibits listing them all but I will mention Eulalios and Flavius Blabius, because they’re great names. Like her contemporary Macrina the Younger (Jul 19), she lost her fiancé before they could tie the knot (they just didn’t make sturdy fiancés in those days), and she committed her life to husbandlessness. She inherited great wealth (“Wow!” she said, “this wealth is great!”) from her parents, which she gave generously to the needy. Patriarch Nectarios deaconified her, and she served him and his successor John Chrysostom (Sep 13) faithfully.

When Chrysostom was exiled, he bade Olympias and her fellow deaconesses, Pentadia, Proklia, and Salbina, to continue their good work. His successor supported Olympias at first, then turned on her because of her devotion to Chrysostom. When the latter’s church was torched and a large part of the city burned down, suspicion fell upon his followers, and Olympias was convicted of the deed and banished to Nicomedia, about 100 km. WSW on the O–4. During their respective exiles Chrysostom wrote Olympias many beautiful letters, encouraging her in her hardship and praising her for her fortitude. Upon her death she was, in accordance with her wishes, placed in a coffin upon the sea and buried where it washed ashore, which happened to be Vrochthoi, which one scholar places in or near Thessaloniki (by himself or with help of machinery, I cannot say).

Eurosia of Jaca (d. 714 or 880) has not just one but two life stories, so today we get three saints for the price of two (please pay on your way out). In the short version, she was a Spanish noblewoman who got promised to a Moor (Muslim) in marriage. Being a Christian and all, she thought this less than 100% optimal, and fled her ancestral home to live in a cave. Sadly she was not on the raw diet, and smoke from her fire gave her away, leading to her capture, being dragged by the hair (goes with the cave theme, one supposes), and martyred.

In the longer version, she was born into a noble family in Bohemia and named Dobroslava (“eastern European resonator guitar”). Orphaned, she was adopted by her father’s successor, raised Christian, and given the name Eurosia (“eloquent”). Eventually she was promised in marriage to the Infant* of Pamplona, Prince Fortún (“twice two tuna”). As they crossed the Pyrenees into Spain, her party was ambushed by Aben Lupo, a Moorish captain who planned to disrupt the intended nuptials for his own, um, ends. Her guard proved the stronger, and she managed to escape into the mountains, but was eventually discovered (via campfire smoke? this version doesn’t say). As the Moors dragged her away (by the hair? again this version is schtum), she prayed a mighty prayer, and a lightning bolt smote the ground near her captors. Unhappy about his, they dismembered and beheaded her. Following this a mighty storm brewed up, frightening them away.

So. In the eleventh century the Virgin Mary appeared to a shepherd and directed him to Eurosia’s bones. The head was left there in a shrine, and her body carried back to Jaca, and upon its entrance, all the bells of the city pealed of their own accord (or Civic). The route of the Camino Aragonés, one of the ways feeding into the Camino de Santiago (see Apr 30), was rerouted to pass through Jaca so the pilgrims could venerate Eurosia’s relics (and, let’s be honest, spend some dosh in town). She is the patron saint of Jaca, and of protection against inclement weather. Her annual procession is a very colorful affair, with many dressing in their native costumes, and Roma women, for some reason, going barefoot. A special ceremony for the demonically possessed was dropped from the festival in 1947. Which hardly seems fair to them.