December 10 – Angelina of Serbia; Eulalia of Merida

Angelina of Serbia (ca. 1440–ca. 1520), one of the most beloved saints of that land, was the daughter of Albanian nobleman Gjergj (George) Arianti Komneni. Albania was at this time under the thumb of the Ottomans, which was horrid because they never cleaned under their nails. Serbian Despot (ruling prince) Đurađ (George) Branković’s daughter Mara was forced to become the sultan’s second wife, and her brother Stefan (Stephen) accompanied her to Bursa (the capital before the Ottomans took over Constantinople).

In 1441, Stefan and his brother Grgur (Gregory) were blinded for allegedly taking part in an insurrection. After ruling Serbia briefly (in 1458), Stefan was exiled to Albania, taken in by Arianiti, and given a nice room overlooking the—oh, who am I kidding? I have no idea what room he got. I do know that he and Angelina fell madly in love. They were both devout Christians from noble families, so there was no reason they shouldn’t get married, so they did. When the Ottomans overran the area, the Brokovićs were forced into exile in Italy. Stefan formed a government-in-exile, but he never again saw his native Serbia (you know what I mean). He died in either 1468 (two sources), 1476 (one source), or 1485 (one source). (I took the weighted average of these numbers and it came out to 1474.25, or about March 1, 1474, despite his recorded death date of October 9—hey, whom are you going to believe, a bunch of historians, or math?)

After Stefan’s death, Angelina devoted her life to serving the poor. She moved to Wallachia when her son became Archbishop there, and when he died, she retired to the Krušedol monastery[1] (in modern Serbia), having buried four of her three (or perhaps five) children. Her and Stefan’s wonderworking relics are also interred there.

Eulalia of Merida (ca. 290–ca. 304), a devout Christian girl of 12 (or 14), was hidden by her mother “in the countryside” (hole in the ground? manor house? Motel 6? the sources don’t say) outside of Merida (Spain) to protect her from the Diocletian (or, more likely, Maximian, see later) persecutions. The spunky Eulalia escaped and ran straight to the governor’s office, where she declared herself a Christian, blasphemed the pagan gods, insulted Emperor Maximian (see?), and dared the authorities to martyr her. (The sources do not say if it was a double-dog dare.) The authorities tried to persuade her not to throw her life away, but she wasn’t having any of it (you know how teenagers can be), so she was stripped and tortured with hooks and hot things. Through it all she taunted her tormentors mercilessly. Then one of two things happened: either her hair caught fire and she died of suffocation, or they tried to burn her but she wouldn’t burn so they beheaded her. At the moment of her death, a dove (which one source explicitly identifies with her soul, in case that wasn’t clear) flew out of her mouth and up to heaven. She was thrown naked into the street, but a snow soon fell to cover her with dignity (and frozen water). Later, her ashes were thrown into a field, and again snow fell upon them.

Her veneration was already widespread by 350, as were her relics, although most of them now lie in a coffin of “Arab silver” in Oviedo. She was eulogized by fifth century Spanish poet Prudentius, and again in the ninth-century “Sequence of Saint Eulalia,” which constitutes the oldest hagiography in the French language—or to be more precise, the langue d’oïl predecessor of modern French. Eulalia is the patroness of Mérida, Oviedo, and runaways.

[1] Which is shown on the 5 Dinar coin, in case you thought it wasn’t important.