Chapter 139 of the Golden Legend by Jacobus Voragine (1275), translated by William Caxton, 1483

Eufemia was daughter of a senator, and saw christian men in the time of Diocletian so sore tormented and all to-rent torn to pieces by divers torments, that she came to the judge and confessed her to be christian. And she comforted strengthened by example the courages hearts of other men, and by her constancy. And when the judge slew the christian men, the one tofore another, and made others to be present because they should be afeard of that frightened because they saw the others so cruelly tormented and broken, and that they should sacrifice for dread and fear, and when Eufemia saw even thus tofore her the holy saints, she was the more constant by the steadfastness of the martyrs, and spoke to the judge, and said that she suffered wrong of him.

Then the judge was glad, weening believing, expecting that she would have consented to do sacrifice, and when he demanded of her what wrong he had done to her, she said to him: For sith since, because I am of noble lineage, why puttest thou tofore me the strangers and unknown, and makest them go to Christ tofore me? For it were my pleasure to go thither by martyrdom tofore them. And the judge said to her: I had supposed thou wouldst have returned in thy thought, and I was glad that thou haddest remembered thy noblesse.

Her Passion

And then she was inclosed in the prison, and the day following, without bonds, was brought tofore the judge. And then she complained right grievously why against the laws of the emperors she was alone spared for to be out of bonds. And then she was long beaten with fists, and after, sent again to prison, and the judge followed her, and would have taken her by force for to have accomplished his foul lust, but she defended her forcibly, and the virtue divine made the hands of the Judge to be lame.

And then the judge weened to have been thought he had been enchanted, and sent to her the provost of his house for to promise to her many things for to make her consent to him, but he might never open the prison which was shut, neither with key ne nor with axes, till he was ravished with seized and carried off by a devil, crying and treating himself, that unnethe with difficulty, barely he escaped.

And then she was drawn out and set upon a wheel full of burning coals. And the artillour, that was master of the torment, had given a token to them to turn it, that when he should make a sound, that they all should turn it, and the fire should spring out and all to-break and rend the body of the virgin; but by the ordinance of God the iron that the artillour and master had in his hand, fell to the earth, and made the sound. And they turned hastily so that the wheel burnt the master of the work and kept Eufemia without hurt, sitting upon the wheel. And the parents of the artillour wept and put the fire under the wheel and would have burnt wanted to burn Eufemia with the wheel, but the wheel was burnt, and Eufemia was unbounden by the angel of God, and was seen to stand all whole, unhurt, in a high place.

And then Apulius said to the judge: The virtue of christian people may not be overcome but by iron, therefore I counsel thee to do smite off her head. Then they set up ladders, and as one would have set hand on her, he was anon smitten with a palsy, and was borne thence half dead. And another named Sosthenes went up on high, but anon he was changed in his courage and repented him and required her humbly pardon, and when he had his sword drawn he cried to the judge that he had liefer rather slay himself than touch her whom the angels defended.

At the last, when she was taken thence, the judge said to his chancellor that he should send to her all the young men that were jolly, for to enforce and to make her do their will till she should fail and die. And then he entered in and saw with her many fair virgins praying with her, and she made him to be christened with her admonishments.

And then the provost did do take the virgin by the hair and hung her thereby, and she ever abode constant and immovable. And then he did do shut her in prison without meat food seven days, and pressed her there between four great stones as who should press olives, but she was every day fed with an angel. And when she was between those two hard stones she made her prayers, and the stones were converted into right soft ashes.

Then the provost was ashamed for to be vanquished of by a maid; and then he made her to be thrown into a pit whereas cruel beasts were, which devoured every man that came therein and swallowed them in. And anon they ran to this holy virgin in fawning her, and joined their tails together, and made of them a chair for her to sit on. And when the judge saw that, he was much confounded, so that almost he died for anguish and sorrow.

Then the butcher came for to avenge the injury of his lord and smote his sword into her side, and all to-hewed cut to pieces her and made her there the martyr of Jesu Christ our Lord. And the judge clad him with clothes of silk, and hung on him ouches brooches, jewelry items and brooches of gold, but when he should have issued out of the pit, he was ravished of the beasts, and all devoured anon. immediately, forthwith And then his people sought him long, and unnethe found they a little of his bones with his clothes of silk and his ouches of gold. And then the judge ate himself for madness, and so was found dead wretchedly.


And Eufemia was buried in Chalcedonia, and by her merits all the Jews and paynims of Chalcedonia believed in Jesu Christ. And she suffered death about the year of our Lord two hundred and eighty. And S. Ambrose saith of this virgin thus:
The holy virgin, triumphant in virginity, retaining the mitre, deserved to be clad with the crown, by whose merits the wicked enemy is vanquished, and Priscus, her adversary and judge, is overcome. The virgin is saved from the furnace of fire, hard stones be converted into powder, wild beasts be made meek and tame, and incline down their necks, and all manner of pains and torments by her orations and prayers be overcome. And at the last, smitten with a sword, she left the cloister of her flesh, and is joined to the celestial company, glad and joyous. And, blessed Lord, this blessed virgin commendeth to thee thy church, and, good Lord, let her pray to thee for us sinners, and this virgin, without corruption flourishing, get unto us that our desires may be granted of thee.

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St. Euphemia's attributes are a sword in her breast and a lion, as in this painting by Andrea Mantegna. (See the description page for ths image and the page explaining the iconography of images of this saint.)

Eufemia is said of eu, that is good, and of femme that is a woman, that is to wit a profitable, honest and delectable, for in this treble manner she is said good. She was profitable to others by conversation, honest by ordinance of manners, and delectable to God. Or Eufemia is said of euphoria as sweetness of sound. Sweet sound is made in three manners, that is to wit, by voice, as in singing, by touching, as in a harp, and by blowing as in pipes and organs. Thus was the blessed sweet sound to God in voice of predication, in touching of good works, and in blowing of devotion.

This text was taken from the Internet Medieval Source Book. E-text © by Paul Halsall. Annotations, formatting, and added rubrics by Richard Stracke. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the sources. No permission is granted for commercial use.