Once again it’s the feast day of St Mary of Egypt – subject of my postgrad research.
I’ve written about her here before – links at the end – and about the events in her life. She was one of a popular medieval hagiographical type: the penitent sinner. Her legend has much in common with that of Mary Magdalene, with whom she’s easily confused in iconographical representations. Both tend to be depicted in the Western tradition naked or half-clothed, with long flowing hair. Eastern images (usually Greek or Russian) are more faithful to the way she’s described in the original Greek Life by Sophronius: when she’s first encountered in the desert by Zosimus, she’s said to look old and haggard, with short white hair. Interesting that in the West the image is more glamorous and erotically charged.
Egyptian Mary’s distinctive attribute is the three loaves she holds, bought (according to the legend) as she left Jerusalem after her epiphany and repentance at the porch of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, prior to her entering the desert. There she wandered for 47 years, eating nothing else, until she was discovered by the monk Zosimus.
He returned at her request the following year to administer communion. When he returned the year after, he found her dead body. He buried her with the help of a passing lion.
In most calendars her festival is recorded as 2 April, but in some it’s the 1st or 9th.
Links to previous posts on Mary:
19 Feb. this year: stained glass image in the V&A Museum
7 March, 2016: Summary of her Life, with various images. Here I promised to write a post some time about the various English versions of her life; maybe I will…some time.
27 Feb, 2016: stained glass window at Bredon church
Unless otherwise stated, images are my own photos of plates in my 1993 thesis