Saint Anastasia

Oct 08, 2021 / Written by: Tonia Long

Feast December 25

Virgin and Martyr, Patron of people suffering from poison, martyrs and weavers

St. Anastasia, also known as Anastasia of Sirmium and Anastasia the "Deliverer from Potions," is a Christian virgin and martyr who suffered for Christ during the time of Diocletian's Christian persecutions.

She is one of the seven women commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. The insertion of her name into the Roman Canon of the Mass towards the end of the fifth century indicates that she then occupied a unique position among the saints publicly venerated in Rome. The legend of Saint Anastasia relates a story that transports us to the days of the early Christian Martyrs.

Exterior of the Church of St. Anastasia
Exterior of the Church of St. Anastasia, Verona, Province of Verona, Region of Veneto, Italy.

Her father was a noble pagan named Praetextatus and her mother was St. Fausta of Sirmium. Fausta was a model mother having had the joys and challenges of raising a saintly daughter; she baptized her daughter secretly when still an infant and raised her with Christian values. St. Fausta is one of the 140 Colonnade saints which adorn St. Peter's Square. Her feast day is December 19.

Following the death of her mother, Anastasia's father gave her in marriage to the pagan Publius, but she preserved her virginity.

During the persecutions of Diocletian, Anastasia visited the prisons and cared for the confessors of faith. She would feed, doctor and ransom suffering captives. Little did she know she had an “informer” in her midst. Anastasia's servant informed Publius; he locked her up and beat her.

Anastasia began secretly corresponding with her adviser, St. Chrysogonus, who had gone to Aquileia. He told her to be brave, be patient and accept the Lord's will.

God’s will was in her favor; her abusive husband died while he was on embassy to Persia. Immediately upon receiving the news, St. Anastasia distributed her property to those less fortunate. She then set off to follow St. Chrysogonus to Aquileia.

Sketch of the martyrdom of St. Chrysogonus
Sketch of the martyrdom of St. Chrysogonus by Jacques Callot (c. 1592 – 1635), a baroque printmaker and draftsman from the Duchy of Lorraine.

Never renouncing his faith, Chrysogonus was personally interrogated by Diocletian, was then ordered to be beheaded and thrown into the sea.

After his death, Chrysogonus appeared to Zoilus and foretold the martyrdoms of three sisters named Agape, Chione and Irene. He asked Zoilus to send Anastasia to the three sisters as encouragement. Nine days later, Anastasia visited the sisters just before they were tortured. After they were martyred, Anastasia buried them.

Anastasia spent her time traveling from city to city caring for Christian prisoners. She healed their wounds and relieved their pain. She was given the title "Deliverer from Potions," because she would often heal many from the effects of poison.

Anastasia was arrested in Illyricum and taken to the prefect of the district for being Christian. He tried to persuade her to deny her faith and threatened her with torture. Anastasia could not be swayed, so she was given to the pagan priest Ulpian in Rome.

He presented her with the choice between riches or suffering, luxuries or torture devices. She chose torture. Enamored by her beauty, Ulpian decided he would defile her purity. However, God willed that this virgin remain spotless. Just as the filthy pagan touched her, he was struck blind and his head burst with extreme pain. On his way to his pagan temple, he fell and died.

Choir of Virgins, Choir of Martyrs.
Giovanni da Milano. Choir of Virgins, Choir of Martyrs.

St. Anastasia, now free, set out to continue caring for imprisoned Christians, along with Theodota, a pious young widow and faithful helper. After Theodota was martyred, Anastasia was caught once again. She was sentenced to death by starvation and was starved for 60 days. But Anastasia was not harmed! It is believed that the martyred Theodota visited her and fed her during this time.

The judge decided Anastasia and her fellow captives would be killed by drowning. They all entered a boat with holes in the base, but St. Theodota again appeared to them, steering the boat to shore. Once they landed, Anastasia and a fellow Christian baptized 120 men.

Finally, Anastasia was taken to the island of Palmaria. She was staked to the ground with her arms and legs stretched out and burned alive.

Nave of the Church of St. Anastasia
Nave of the Church of St. Anastasia, Verona, Province of Verona, Region of Veneto, Italy.

St. Anastasia's relics were taken to Constantinople, where a church was dedicated to her. According to tradition, St. Donatus of Zadar brought Anastasia's relics to Zadar from Constantinople, when he was there with the Venetian duke Beato. They had been ordered by Charlemagne to negotiate the border between the Byzantine Empire and the Croatian territories that were under the dominion of Charlemagne's Frankish Empire.

Commemoration of St. Anastasia occurs liturgically in the second Mass on Christmas Day, and is the last remnant of the former prominence enjoyed by this saint and her cult in the life of Christian Rome.