Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Mary, Martyr

main article for Saint Mary the SlaveArticle

God, who, in the distribution of his graces makes no distinction of condition amongst men, raised an humble female slave to the dignity of martyrdom: and, in the proud capital of the world, the boasted triumphs of its deified conquerors and heroes were all eclipsed by the admirable courage and virtue of a weak woman. Mary was slave to Tertullus, a Roman senator, a Christian from her cradle, though the only person in that great family who was favoured with that grace. She prayed much and fasted frequently, especially on all the idolatrous festivals. This devotion displeased her superstitious mistress; but her fidelity, diligence, and approved probity endeared her to her master. Dioclesian’s bloody edicts against the Christians filling all places with terror, Tertullus privately made use of every artifice to engage Mary to renounce her faith. But neither the caresses and promises of an indulgent master, nor the apprehension of his indignation and chastisements, could shake her constancy. The senator fearing to lose her if she fell into the hands of the prefect, out of a barbarous compassion, in hopes of making her change her resolution, caused her to be unmercifully whipped, and then to be locked up in a dark cellar for thirty days, where no other sustenance was allowed her but bread and water. Prayer, in the mean time, was her comfort and strength, and it was her joy to lose all the favour she could promise to herself in this world, and to suffer torments for Christ. The matter at length taking wind, the judge made it a crime in Tertullus, that he had concealed a Christian in his house, and the slave was forthwith delivered up to him. At her examination her answers were firm, but modest. The mob in the court hearing her confess the name of Christ, demanded with loud clamours that she should be burnt alive. The martyr stood praying secretly that God would give her constancy, and said to the judge: “God, whom I serve, is with me; and I fear not your torments, which can only take away a life which I desire to lay down for Jesus Christ.” The judge commanded her to be tormented; which was executed with such cruelty, that the inconstant giddy mob tumultuously cried out that they were not able, any longer to bear so horrible a spectacle, and entreated that she might be released. The judge, to appease the commotion, ordered the lictors to take her from the rack, and committed her to the custody of a soldier. The virgin, fearing chiefly for her chastity, found means to escape out of her keeper’s hands, and fled to the mountains. She finished her course by a happy death, though not by the sword. She is styled a martyr in the Roman and other Martyrologies, that title being usually given by Saint Cyprian in his epistles, and by other ancient writers to all who had suffered torments with constancy and perseverance for Christ. See her genuine acts published by Baluze, Miscel. Also the Martyrologies of Bede, Ado, Usuard, etc.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Mary, Martyr”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 November 2016. Web. 25 September 2018. <>