The Mists of the martyr: the legend of Saint Eulalia

The Mists of the martyr: the legend of Saint Eulalia

by Aitana Martos, 09/01/2015

During the martyrdom of St. Eulalia by the Roman governor Dacian, in Mérida, her torturers intend to make her walk naked in Merida streets to humiliate her, but then a dense fog falls on Merida to prevent her from being seen. After her death, miraculously snow covers her body and the surrounding soil for several days. Since then, on each anniversary of her martyrdom, mists flood Merida for several days.

Eulalia was a devout Christian virgin, aged 12–14, whose mother sequestered her in the countryside in AD 304 because all citizens were required to avow faith in the Roman gods. Eulalia ran away to the law court of the governor Dacian at Emerita, professed herself a Christian, insulted the pagan gods and emperor Maximian, and challenged the authorities to martyr her. The judge’s attempts at flattery and bribery failed. According to the Spanish-Roman poet Prudentius of the fifth century, who devoted book 3 of his Peristephanon (“About martyrs”) to Eulalia, she said:

Isis Apollo Venus nihil est,

Maximianus et ipse nihil:

illa nihil, quia facta manu;

hic, manuum quia facta colit

(Isis, Apollo and Venus are naught,

Nor is Maximian anything more;

Nothing are they, for by hand they were wrought,

He, for of hands he the work doth adore)

She was then stripped by the soldiers, tortured with hooks and torches, and burnt at the stake, suffocating from smoke inhalation. She taunted her torturers all the while, and as she expired a dove flew out of her mouth. This frightened away the soldiers and allowed a miraculous snow to cover her nakedness, its whiteness indicating her sainthood. For this reason she is regarded among Catholic school children and teachers alike as the patron saint of snow (inclement weather) days.

Another legend says that before dying, she was condemned to parade naked through the streets of Emerita Augusta, for her being humiliated, but God held an extensive fog so no one could see her. Since then, from her martyrdom anniversary until Epiphany’s date, the Guadiana mass evaporates and causes freshwater inland, fog; the mists of Saint Eulalia, the mists of the Martyr.

 

Relation with water: mists, snow, water-based miracles, especially related to weather. It can also be connected to hagiographies (saint life stories and martyrdoms).

Location:

Mérida, Extremadura, Spain