Martyred by the Romans: Eulalia of Spain

The Martyrs Mirror, like any good systematic German book, runs in chronological order. First it records the known deaths of the Ancient Christian martyrs under the dozen or so persecutions of the first three and a half centuries, and then it records the Medieval Anabaptist martyrs at the hands of the Catholics and stuffier Lutherans.

john_william_waterhouse_-_saint_eulalia_-_1885The first of the ancient martyrs to catch my eye was Eulalia of Spain. I say “Spain,” because this girl seems to be claimed by two different towns on opposite ends of the Iberian peninsula. The entry for Eulalia (isn’t that just the most musical name?) in the Martyrs Mirror tells the story of a girl from Meridia, but there is also a Barcelona saint of the same name with a similar story, who I found on Wikipedia. I’ll stick with the Meridian version.

I decided about two paragraphs into Eulalia’s entry that she was stark raving crazy. The spin is that she was so on fire for Jesus that her parents had to send her to the countryside to save her skin. Translation: She was nucking futs. Crazy Eulalia was 12 or 13 at the time (302 C.E.). Somehow, she got loose, walked into the court of the local judge and dared him to martyr her, kicking over his idol (spitting on it in some stories). The girl had a death wish, but I see echoes of Jesus’ temple craziness, which I’ve always admired.

Eulalia got her wish. They stripped her naked (a common, titillating theme in female martyrdom) and then cut, skewered and burned her. All the while she supposedly maintained a calm monologue:

Behold, Lord Jesus Christ! Thy name is being written on my body … Behold, my purple blood confesses Thy holy name.”

Bullfinch. If it’s true, then she was certainly a special kind of crazy. They obviously worked her over well. It only took smoke inhalation from the stake fire to kill her. Wikipedia recounts a few more miraculous details that the Mirror skips at the end. Supposedly, upon her death, a dove flew from her mouth, frightening the soldiers away. A snow then fell, which confirmed her sainthood.

What I find truly disturbing about Eulalia’s story is the message that the Mirror seems to be pushing. How was it admirable for her to throw her young life away? She provoked a confrontation with the Romans, not by preaching or helping the poor or refusing to obey an unholy order. She picked a suicidal fight. At least she only killed herself, a lesson a few radical muslims should learn.

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