Saint Mary of Egypt

painting of Saint Mary of Egypt by Jose de Ribera, 1651, Museo Civico Gaetano Filangieri, Naples, Italy; photographed on 28 July 2015 by Luis Fernández García; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsAlso known as

  • Maria Aegyptica



Beautiful, spoiled, cynical, disenchanted, rich child who was the center of her family’s pride, and who repaid them by running away at age 12. She ran to Alexandria, Egypt where she worked as a dancer, singer, and prostitute for 17 years. Around age 30, Mary took ship on a pilgrimage to Palestine, hoping to ply her trade among the pilgrims, and then in Jerusalem.

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross she moved with the crowds to the church, looking for customers. At the church door she found herself invisibliy repelled, unable to open the door; she was overcome with remorse for her life and exclusion from the Church. She repented, and asked for Our Lady‘s guidance; a voice told that to find rest, she should cross the Jordan River. The next day Mary crossed the river, wandered into the desert, and took up the life of a hermit for nearly 50 years as penance.

She lived on herbs, berries, and whatever came to hand. She met Saint Zosimus of Palestine. She once told him to come back exactly one year from that day; when he did, he found she had died. With the help of a lion, Zosimus dug her grave; he later wrote a biography of her, and her life was a popular story in the Middle Ages.






MLA Citation

  • “Saint Mary of Egypt“. CatholicSaints.Info. 19 June 2020. Web. 27 October 2021. <>