St. Eugenia, while cross-dressing as a monk, is accused of rape

Pocket Bard’s notes: This is actually the third time in The Golden Legend we’ve encountered a woman cross-dressing as a monk who’s accused of rape. (The other two, so far, are St. Marina and St. Theodora.) The reason I include this one also is because Eugenia does what I really wish the other two would have done: refutes the person who accused her by revealing that she is, in fact, a woman. Marina and Theodora just sort of suffer quietly for years, which I think is ridiculous. But maybe that’s because I’m a child of the 21st century.

Incidentally, there is a whole paragraph at the end that I omitted because it’s just about Eugenia’s martyrdom, and doesn’t really add anything to the story. I do like that the prefect she’s brought to in this case happens to be her father. Adds a nice layer of complexity, though I admit I’d probably be a bit weirded out revealing my breasts to my parents. (Though if it meant avoiding death at the hands of wild beasts, I’d probably go for it.)

St. Eugenia, while cross-dressing as a monk, is accused of rape
The Golden Legend, Volume II, trans. William Granger Ryan, p.166-167

[Eugenia, the daughter of the prefect Philip, becomes a Christian, secretly runs away from home, joins a monastery as “Brother Eugene”, and eventually becomes abbot.]

At this time there was in Alexandria a rich and noble woman named Melancia. Brother Eugene had cured her of the quartan fever by anointing her with oil in the name of Jesus Christ. In return for this favor Melancia sent many gifts, which were not accepted. The lady took for granted that Brother Eugene was a man and visited him often, and, seeing how elegantly youthful and personally attractive he was, fell heatedly in love with him. Losing no time, she devised a plan whereby she could get him to lie with her. She pretended to be ill and sent word to him, asking that he deign to come and pay her a visit. He went, and she let him know how ardently she loved him and wanted him, begged him to come to her, then grasped him and kissed him, urging him to join her in bed. Brother Eugene was horrified and said: “You are well called Melancia, for the name says that you are filled with black perfidy and are the dark daughter of darkness, friend of the devil, leader of pollution, fuel of lust, sister of perpetual torment, and daughter of eternal death!”

Melancia, thwarted and afraid that word of her crime might get abroad, decided to be the first to accuse and cried out that Eugene was trying to violate her. Then she went to Philip the prefect and issued a complaint, saying: “A certain treacherous young man, a Christian, came in under pretext of remedying my illness, but set upon me shamelessly and was about to ravish me, and would have satisfied his lust upon me had not one maid, who was in the room, come to my rescue.” The prefect, incensed at what he heard, sent a troop to bring in Eugene and the other servants of Christ bound in chains, and set a date on which all of them were to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena. He summoned them before him and said to Eugene: “Tell us, you basest of criminals, is that what your Christ taught you—to do the works of corruption, and madly and shamelessly to assault our women?” Eugenia, lowering her head so as not to be recognized, answered: “Our Lord taught chastity, and to those who guarded their integrity he promised eternal life. We can show that this Melancia is a false witness, but it is better that we suffer than that she, once convicted, be punished and we lose the reward of our patience. In any case, have the maid who, she says, witnessed the crime, come in and testify, so that from her mouth her mistress’s lies may be refuted.”

The maid was brought in, but, being instructed by Melancia, she stoutly maintained that the man had tried to take his pleasure with his mistress; and all the other servants, likewise corrupted, told the same story. At this, Eugenia said: “The time for silence is past, it is now time to speak. I will not allow this wanton woman to impute crime to the servants of Christ and boast of her deception. To make sure that truth shall prevail over mendacity and wisdom conquer malice, I will show the truth, not out of personal pride but for the glory of God!” So saying, she opened her robe from the top to the waist, and was seen to be a woman. She said to the prefect: “You are my father, Claudia is my mother, the two who are sitting with you, Avitus and Sergius, are my brothers, I am your daughter Eugenia, and these two are Protus and Hyacinthus.”

When her father heard this and gradually recognized his daughter, he and her mother rushed to embrace her, and many tears were shed. They clothed Eugenia in cloth of gold and raised her on high, and fire came down from heaven and consumed Melancia and her coconspirators. Thus Eugenia converted her father, mother, brothers, and the whole household to the faith of Christ. Her father was dismissed from the prefecture but was ordained bishop by the Christians, and, persevering in faith and prayer, was put to death by pagans.


1 Comment

  1. August 13, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    […] women saints also present false accusations of rape and false attributions of paternity. In the Life of Eugenia, Eugenia dressed as Brother Eugene is falsely accused of raping Melancia. The lives of Saint […]

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