Saint Euphemia: The Iconography
According to the Golden Legend Euphemia was a woman of senatorial rank who died for her faith in Chalcedon in 280 during the reign of Diocletian. That reign, however, began only in 285. At some time during the persecutions of that era she brought her Christian faith to the attention of the judge Priscus, who ordered several attempts to put her to death (by fire, then by the sword, then pressed under great stones, then exposed to wild beasts). Finally a guard1 ran her through with a sword.


St. Euphemia appears in many early mosaics with other virgin martyrs, dressed as a noblewoman and without attributes (Archbishop's Chapel, Ravenna, Ravenna's Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Poreč, Croatia). In the mosaic from St. Mark's at right her attributes are a hand cross and a diadem. In this 18th-century fresco she has a book and the palm branch that signifies martyrdom.


So far, the only narrative images I have found are two 19th-century frescoes in the Basilica of St. Euphemia in Rovinj, Croatia (the second and third pictures at right). Euphemia's relics are preserved in the basilica there.2 One fresco has the arrival of the sarcophagus in Rovinj; the other gives a very confused rendering of the martyrdom.

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University, revised 2015-11-01.


A 13th-century mosaic of St. Euphemia in St. Mark's Basilica, Venice(See description page)

Oxen bring Euphemia's sarcophagus to Rovinj, Croatia (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

The martyrdom of St. Euphemia (Source: Wikimedia Commons)



1 Praeses in Graesse (618), "headman" in Ryan (II, 183), "butcher" in Caxton.

2 "Church of St. Euphemia."