Saint Eugenia: The Iconography

In Rome, in the Apronian cemetery, Saint Eugenia, Virgin and daughter of the blessed martyr Philippus. In the time of the Emperor Galienus she was renowned for her many virtues and brought many other virgins to Christ. Then under the Prefect Nicetius she suffered lengthy tortures and was finally put to the sword. – Roman Martyrology for December 25

According to the Golden Legend Eugenia was the daughter of a prominent Roman who was posted to Alexandria in the third century.

In Alexandria she became an accomplished student of pagan philosophy, which she studied with two companions named Protus and Hyacinthus. However, she was also looking into the writings of St. Paul when one day she and her companions heard Christians singing a hymn to the one Creator. This led the three to convert to Christianity, and Eugenia subsequently entered a monastery – presenting herself as a man because women were not allowed.

Some years later she was brought on charges before the prefect of Alexandria, her own father, who had thought she was dead. The discovery led to the old man's conversion, eventual selection as bishop of Alexandria, and finally his martyrdom.

Eugenia then traveled to Rome and converted many. During the persecution of Valerian she was tied to a great stone and cast into the Tiber. This did not work, so the executioners put her into a roaring fire. Failing that, they shut her up in a dark cell without food, but Christ illuminated the cell and brought her a shining white loaf. At last she was beheaded on the feast of the Nativity, December 25.

The recovery of a lost daughter and the voyages between famous places, added to the usual miraculous escapes from death, are characteristic of the genre of "hagiographic romance" (Stouck 517 et seq.), but there is some basis for believing that Eugenia was "an authentic Roman martyr" (Butler, IV, 612).

Eugenia's Wikipedia page has an Orthodox icon in which she holds a cross and a scroll, but these are so common in Orthodox images that they cannot be considered attributes of this particular saint. Nor do attributes appear in the few Western images I have found.

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University, revised 2015-10-30.


11th-century manuscript illustration from the Menologion of Basil – see the description page.


In a 6th-century mosaic in Ravenna – See the description page


  • December 25 for Roman Catholics, December 24 for Orthodox.
  • Eugenia died in 256.


  • 8th century: John of Stylite's vita, in Select Narratives, 1-35.
  • 13th century: Golden Legend #136 (Protus and Hyacinth): html or pdf.