A Female Martyr Cult in the Nile Delta

Febe Armanios

in Coptic Christianity in Ottoman Egypt

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199744848
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894963 | DOI:
A Female Martyr Cult in the Nile Delta

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The third chapter examines the popularity of a supposedly ancient female martyr, St. Dimyana, whose cult, according to seventeenth and eighteenth century sources, was centered on springtime festivities in the Nile Delta. Her written martyrology, which was commonly commissioned by archons and performed at her festival and at local churches, infused discourses of women and gender within the communal consciousness. Echoing earlier discussions of Coptic lay-clerical interchange, a study of this cult reveals complex conceptions of female sainthood and hints at varying notions of gender within Coptic practices. An idealized version of Dimyana as an erudite virgin and vocal devotee was promoted in her hagiography and fostered by the clergy, although it would be often eclipsed by a more popular image of the saint as a beneficent miracle-giver. Dimyana’s cult also provides valuable insight into the intersection of religious patronage and communal beliefs during this period.

Keywords: festival; Nile Delta; women; gender; female sainthood; virgin; miracle; religious patronage; communal beliefs

Chapter.  11876 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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