A Garner of Saints – Saint Mary of Egypt

statue of Saint Mary of Egypt by Luis Salvador Carmona, date unknown; National Museum of Sculpture, Valladolid, Spain; photographed on 28 July 2015 by Luis Fernández García; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

(French: La Gipesienne or la Jussienne; Italian: Maria Egiziaca): Born in Egypt and at the age of twelve she fled to Alexandria and for seventeen years led a life of unbridled vice. One day she noticed some men who were going to adore the Holy Cross at Jerusalem; she entered the ship with them, continuing her evil practices and offering her favours to the sailors as the price of her passage. When they arrived at Jerusalem she went to the church with the others to adore the cross, but could not enter. Although she tried many times, she felt herself repulsed by an invisible force and could never get beyond the threshold. Returning home, she thought of her past life and was torn by remorse, weeping and beating her breast. And she went and prayed for pardon before the image of the Virgin, begging to be allowed to adore the cross and promising to renounce the world and live in chastity. The next time she entered the church without difiiculty and adored the sacred relic, and she bought three loaves with three coins given her as an alms. And she heard a voice telling her that if she would cross the Jordan, she should be saved. Accordingly she did so and entered the desert, living there for forty-seven years without seeing man or beast. The three loaves sufficed her for seventeen years, but her garments rotted on her and she went naked, while her skin became quite black. For seventeen years she suffered from terrible temptations, but having overcome them all, she lived for thirty years without food, with a celestial light shining round about her. At the end of that time the Abbot Zozimos was the head of a monastery near the Jordan, and being warned of God he entered the desert to find a servant of the Lord who was hiding there. After journeying for twenty days he saw a person whose skin was burned black by the sun. When it saw him it took to flight and he followed after. Then calling him by name Mary (for it was she) asked him why he was pursuing her and besought him to bring her a cloak, for she was naked, in order that she might speak openly with him. When Zozimos heard his own name he was amazed, and after throwing a cloak to her he flung himself on the ground and besought her to bless him, but she asked a blessing of him, because he was a priest. And as they prayed he saw her raised a cubit from the earth, and he wondered whether she were a spirit, but she assured him that she was a woman. After she had related her history to him she asked him to retum to the monastery, and to come back at the end of the year, bringing the sacrament with him so that they might take it together. Accordingly at the end of the year he returned, and seeing her on the other side of the Jordan he wondered how he might pass over to her; but she, making the sign of the cross, walked over the water to him. And after they had taken the sacrament together she asked him to retum again in the following year. But when, on the expiration of that time he came to the place where he had first seen her, he found her dead. And he wept much, but feared to touch her, until he read letters written on the sand asking him to bury her and to pray for her soul. As he wondered how he should fulfil this request, for he had nothing to dig with, two lions came gently up, and at his command they dug the grave. After Zozimos had buried the body he returned to his monastery glorifying God. 2nd April.


  • Naked and covered by her long hair, sometimes the lion is shown beside her.

MLA Citation

  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Saint Mary of Egypt”. A Garner of Saints, 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 April 2017. Web. 19 July 2018. <>