Saint Savina of Troyes

Circa 1510-20
Limestone with paint
Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the Middle Ages Savina was a popular saint in the Champagne region, according to the museum label accompanying this statue. According to the vita in the Acta Sanctorum, she and her brother Savinianus lived as pagans in Samos, Greece, but the brother learned of the Christian faith from an angel and was told to leave by his outraged father. Savina stayed at home and continued to worship her family's idols, but one day while she was doing so an angel told her to turn to Christ and leave her parents.1

She did so, and thus began her lifelong pilgrimage. ("Forsaking her country, she traveled steep, uncharted, and bitter ways."2) Eventually she came to Rome, where she visited the tomb of Peter, was baptized, and through prayer brought about the cure of a group of men who were variously sick, blind, and lame. Then the angel came again and told her she must continue her pilgrimage and meet up with her brother Savinianus in Troyes A city in the Champagne region of France . Along the way she passed through Ravenna and met a woman who was ill and dying. This woman, too, was cured through Savina's prayers. When she finally reached Troyes, she learned that her brother had just recently been martyred for the faith. At that, she herself gave up the ghost. The people of Troyes buried her with honors, and her remains lay in a monastery in nearby Montier-la-Celle.

The monastery's martyrology listed Savina for January 29, the date of her brother's death, as "St. Savina the Virgin, who for the love of Christ undertook a most difficult pilgrimage and died peacefully, glorious for her virtues and miracles."3 The "most difficult pilgrimage" is referenced by the statue's staff and leather bag.

The palm branch, however, is incorrect. All the medieval records list her as a "Virgin," that is, an unmarried woman saint who is not a martyr. The palm may result from a confusion with her martyred brother or with the martyrs Savina of Rome (August 29) and Savina of Avila (October 27).

View the left and right photographs in full resolution

Photographed at the museum by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

1 Acta Sanctorum, January vol. 2, 944-46.
2 Ibid., 944.
3 Ibid., 938.