Saints of the Day – Menna of Egypt

detail of an ivory pyxis carved with an image of Saint Menas, 6th century, Alexandria Egypt; swiped off the British Museum web siteArticle

(also known as Menas, Mennas)

Died c.295 or 303? Mennas was probably born in Egypt and martyred there. All the earliest representations of him agree in showing him accompanied by two camels, so he may well have been a camel- driver before he enlisted in the Roman army. He was also a Christian. When his legion reached Phrygia the persecutions under Diocletian began. Mennas deserted his post in order to escape death and hid in a mountain cave.

But as more and more Christians were put to death under Diocletian’s edicts, Mennas decided he too ought to make a public profession of his faith. He carefully chose his time. During the annual games in the arena at Cotyaeum in Phrygia, Mennas suddenly appeared before the spectators and announced that he was a Christian. He was tortured and beaten, but would not recant, and so he was put to death by beheading. After his death Saint Mennas’s body was taken back to Egypt for burial.

This basic story has been expanded and embellished with preposterous marvels and the fame of the hero as one of the so- called soldier-saints grew in proportion: the little terracotta bottles (ampullae) for water from his shrine, brought away by pilgrims, have been found in all countries bordering the Mediterranean.

That shrine was at Karm Abu Mina, southwest of Alexandria and Lake Mareotis, on the edge of the Libyan desert, where the ruins of the church and ancillary buildings have been laid bare, and many tokens of the cultus of Saint Mennas found. He has been popularly looked on as one of the great saints of Egypt down to today (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia).

Saint Mennas is portrayed as a young knight with a halberd. A 6th century ivory includes two camels in the piece. Sometimes he is shown with his hands cut off and eyes plucked out. He was greatly venerated in the Middle Ages. Patron of wandering peddlers and those falsely accused (Roeder).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 11 August 2020. Web. 3 December 2020. <>