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Spectacular reliquary with a relic of St. Theodora of Alexandria, Desert Mother

Extremely rare  mid-19th-century ornate silver reliquary monstrance housing large and important relics Saint Theodora of Alexandria. The relics are arranged on the background of red silk and surrounded by gilt paper ornamentation and identified on two typeset paper cedulae labels as S. Theodorae A.M. (Saint Theodora of Alexandria, Mother). On the back, the monstrance is secured by a seal of red Spanish wax with an imprint of a coat of arms of Monsignor Jean-Marie Mioland, the Archbishop of Toulouse (1849-1859). On the base, the reliquary is stamped with a sterling silver hallmark of France and a maker's mark of Jean Baptiste Carnier (ca. 1850).

Theodora of Alexandria († the end of the 5th century) was a Christian ascetic and Egyptian venerable celebrated as a saint and a Desert Mother by the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Churches. Theodora, being a Christian, happily lived for some time with her rich husband in Alexandria, during the reign of Emperor Zeno. But then Theodora fell into adultery. Wanting to atone for her sin, she cut her hair short, put on men's clothes and went to the monastery for exploits, where she pretended to be a man, calling herself Theodore, because she was afraid that her husband would find her in the convent. For eight years, she carried out various difficult obediences, labored in prayers and all-night vigils, arousing the astonishment of the monks with her exploits. Theodora was sent by the abbot to Alexandria to buy bread. In case of a delay on the way, the abbot ordered Theodora to stop at the nearby Enat Monastery. At that time, the daughter of the abbot, who had come to visit her father, lived in the hotel of the Enat Monastery at that time. The daughter entered into a fornication with one person, became pregnant, gave birth to a child. When her father began to find out the paternity of the child, his daughter put the blame on Theodora (she thought she was a man). The baby was handed over to Theodora and with dishonor they drove her out of the monastery. Theodora resigned herself to a new test, seeing in it the atonement for her former sin. She settled with the child near the monastery in a hut. The shepherds, out of pity, gave milk for the baby, while Theodora herself ate only wild herbs. For seven years, Theodora was in exile, and then again, together with the boy, she was accepted by the abbot of the monastery where she had lived before. The Life describes a miracle performed by Theodora - during a drought, thanks to her prayers, water reappeared in a dried-up well. After living for some time in a monastery, Theodora died. Only after her death did the monks learn that a woman in a male form lived with them in the monastery.

Additional Info

  • ID#: 17-RSSR-18
  • Size: 15 inches (38 cm)
  • Age: ca. 1850
  • Origin: Toulise, France
  • Materials: silver, glass, silk
  • Price: Price upon request
  • Silver
  • Orthodox Cross
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