16 September – St Euphemia, Martyr 303, Chalcedon


Greek Orthodox Church
dedicated to St Ephermia,
Kadikoy, Istanbul.
St Euphemia was martyred on 16 September 303, during the reign of Emperor Diacletian.  She died in Chalcedon[1], just across the water from what was then Constantinople.
Euphemia was the daughter of a senator named Philophronos and his wife Theodosia who lived in Chalcedon.  In the year 303 Priscus, the governor of Chalcedon, made a decree that all those who lived in the city should take part in sacrifices to the god Ares.  Euphemia was discovered, with forty-nine other Christians hiding in a house and worshiping God and in defiance of the governor’s decree.  They were tortured for a number of days and then all but Euphemia were sent to the Emperor for trial.  Euphemia was apparently the youngest in the group and she was separated from the group, tortured harshly, including use of the wheel, in order to break her spirit and cause her to renounce her faith.  She was put into an arena with lions.  Rather than kill her they licked her wounds.  It is said that she was fatally wounded by a wild bear in the same arena. 
In June or July 384 Egeria, a nun from Galicia states in her record of her journey to Turkey that she “reached Chalcedon, and I stayed there because it contains the renowned martyrium of Holy Euphemia, long known to me”[2]  So just over eighty years after Euphemia’s martyrdom the church dedicated to her and containing her remains was a place of pilgrimage. 
A large basilica was built over the site where she was buried and it was in that church that the Council of Chalcedon was held in 451 attended by five hundred and twenty bishops.  “Pulcheria selected her martyr shrine because it was large enough to contain so numerous a gathering, but also because she trusted that this powerful female saint would protect the council and bring it to a salutary conclusion.”[3] 
The Church where the Council of Chalcedon was held is probably nearer to the now defunct Haydarpaşa Station rather than on the site of the present Greek Orthodox Church dedicated to St Euphemia in the market area of Kadıköy.   The relics of the martyr Euphemia are in the Greek Patriarchate, Istanbul.
The Greek Orthodox Church also holds a special celebration on 11 July when they remember the part that the martyr Euphemia played in the decision making process of the Council of Chalcedon.  The two factions -the Monophysites and the Orthodox believers put their written statements of belief about the nature of Christ into Euphemia’s coffin.  Later they came to see what had happened to the two statements and found that the Monophysite statement was at the Martyr’s feet and the Orthodox belief as embodied in the Nicene Creed was in Euphemia’s hands.  
Euphemia is an example of a brave young woman who resisted the pressure on her to worship a pagan god.  Despite the torture she remained faithful to her Lord.  The involvement of the martyr Euphemia in the Council of Chalcedon is an indication of how the saints were part of the daily life of Christians and were relied on to be part of the ordinary lives of later citizens of Chalcedon and to answer their prayers. 


[1]Now known as Kadıköy, a suburb of Istanbul.
[2] Wilkinson, John Egeria’s Travels (Aris & Phillips, Warminster, UK 2002) p.142.We will look separately at the travels of this amazing woman.
[3] Holum K Theodosian Empresses (University of California Press, USA, 1982) p. 213

Copyright © 2018 Rev Ros Wilkinson