Saint Foy: The Iconography
OCTOBER 6
In the legends Saint Faith was a very young Christian born in the city of Agen, in Roman Gaul, in the third century. When a judge named Dacian arrived in the city the people rejoiced that he would vindicate the power of the pagan gods by forcing the Christians to recant or die. Foy was the first Christian brought before him, and he tried to persuade her to save her life by sacrificing to Diana. When she refused he had her stretched out on a gridiron over a roaring fire and applied "an uncountable number of wicked punishments" (Sheingorn, "Passion," 35).

The other Christians had gone into hiding under a rock shelter just outside the city. But they could see what was happening to Foy, and their leader Caprasius had a vision while praying for her. He saw a dove descend from Heaven with a jeweled crown that it placed on the young girl's head.

This vision inspired Caprasius and two companions to go forth from hiding and declare their faith before the judge. Dacian again tried to persuade them to save their lives by recanting, but when they refused he had the attendants "rend his flesh without pity" (ibid., 36). Finally, since neither they nor Foy would yield, he had them all decapitated.

This story provides four attributes that can be used in images of St. Foy: a gridiron, a dove, a crown, and a sword. (Plus, of course, the palm branch signifying martyrdom.) The statuette at right has all of these except the dove. This modern stained-glass window has just the dove and the crown.

Prepared in 2013 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

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Statuette in the church treasury, Conques (See the description page)

The Martyrdom of St. Foy
Source: Wikimedia Commons

DATES

  • Foy's death is variously reported as occurring in 287 or 303 (at age 12, according to the "Song of Sainte Foy").
  • Unusually, her feast is celebrated not on the day of her martyrdom but on her birthday, October 6.

NAMES

  • In French, Sainte Foy or Sainte Foi
  • In the U.K., St Faith
  • In Spanish, Santa Fe
  • In Latin texts, Sancta Fides

OTHER IMAGES (Click for full image and description):


Statue in Aveyron, France
St. Foy in the west tympanum at Conques

HAGIOGRAPHY

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