Holy Mothers of Orthodoxy


Eva Catafygiotu Topping

St Photeine, the Woman at Well

Infuriated by Photeine's missionary zeal, Nero did everything in his power to destroy Photeine and her faith. But, when he sent his daughter and her hundred maidservants to persuade the saint to abandon Christianity, the results did not please him. Photeine converted and baptized the imperial princess and her attendants.

The tyrant then resorted to punishments and tortures of all kinds. He sent his most powerful magician to poison the saint.But when she swallowed his most lethal poison. the magician became a Christian and was baptized by Photeine. On hearing this, Nero ordered his magician beheaded. All his attempts to break Photeine's faith had failed.

For three years Photeine remained imprisoned in Rome. While in jail, she transformed it into a "house of God." A marvelous bright light and sweet fragrance filled her prison. Romans came in crowds to see and to hear her talk about Christ. Many were converted by her into Christians, "children of light."

Finally when her five sisters had been put to death and Saint Photeine was left alone, Nero tried one last time to annihilate her. She was thrown into a very deep and dry well. When this cruel torture failed (as had all others), Photeine was returned to prison where she died peacefully.

Sad that she had not been "crowned with martyrdom" along with her sisters, Photeine had prayed for death. In answer to her prayers Christ appeared to the saint, blessing her with the sign of the cross. Some days later, while singing praises to God, Saint Photeine put her beautiful soul into the hands of the Savior.

The legend of Saint Photeine, the Samaritan woman, preserves the memory of Christianity's first valiant woman, who not only believed in the Word but also proclaimed it. In honoring Saint Photeine, the Orthodox Church pays homage to the first women apostles.

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