In May of 1802, excavators in the Catacomb of Saint Priscilla
in Rome discovered a well-preserved shelf tomb sealed with terra
cotta slabs in a manner usually reserved for nobility or martyrs.
There were three slabs, marked in red paint: LUMENA | PAXTE | CUMFI.
After some study, they decided that the tiles had been disarranged.
When they rearranged the tiles, a sentence could be made from the
string of letters: Pax tecum, Filumena ("Peace be with you,
Also inscribed on the tiles were symbols: a lily to indicate her
virginity, a palm to indicate her martyrdom, and three arrows,
two pointing in opposite directions and the other with a curved line
upon it, signifying fire. The arrows were thought to symbolize the
different torments she endured in testimony of her faith.
Inside the tomb, they discovered the remains of a girl twelve to
fourteen years of age. Her skull was crushed. They also found what
appeared to be a vial of dried blood. At the time, it was believed
that the presence of a vial of blood had been collected at the time of
her death as a symbol of martyrdom. The vial seemed to confirm what
the symbols on the outside of the tomb had suggested.
Since they assumed that Philomena was a martyr, they transferred her
remains to the Treasury of the Rare Collections of Christian
Antiquity in the Vatican, where they were soon forgotten by the
public. After all, no record existed of a virgin martyr named
Philomena. The relics remained in the Treasury, gathering dust, for
In 1805 Francesco di Lucia, a priest from Mugnano, a small town near
Naples, travelled to Rome with his newly appointed bishop. He wanted
very much to procure the relics of a martyr for his private chapel.
His bishop supported this goal, and they were allowed to visit the
Treasury of Relics. Pausing near the remains of Philomena, Francesco
was seized with a vast and inexplicable spiritual joy. He immediately
requested that he be allowed to enshrine Philomena. At first, his
request was denied. He was given the remains of another saint, and
reluctantly accepted them.
On his return to Mugnano, he became very ill. Francesco prayed to
Saint Philomena and was instantly cured. He renewed his attempts to
procure Philomena's relics, and this time he was successful. The
relics were encased in a statue of the saint, made specially for the
purpose, and then placed in a wooden casket and transported to
Immediately upon the official donation of her remains, miracles began to be granted through Philomena's intercession.
People were healed, a drought was ended. Soon she earned the title,
"Philomena, Powerful with God." Devotion to Philomena spread
rapidly. Among the people cured was Pauline Jaricot. The healing of
her heart disease in 1835 became known as "the Great Miracle of
Mugnano" and caused Pope Gregory XVI to begin the process of Philomena's canonization. Two years later,
her cultus was approved. The Pope, in his decree, called Philomena
"The Thaumaturga of the Nineteenth Century." With that
decree, she became the only person to be recognized as a saint by the
Roman Catholic Church solely on the basis of her miraculous
intercessions. Nothing historical was known of her, except her name
and the evidence of her martyrdom.
Devotees of Philomena began to pray for her to reveal the story of her
life and martyrdom. In 1863, three different people came forward with
similar stories, which had supposedly been revealed to them by the
saint herself. The Vatican did not guarantee the authenticity of
these purported revelations, but in 1883 gave its permission for the
tale to be repeated anyway.
According to the visions, Philomena was the daughter of Greek
royalty. Her parents had been unable to conceive a child until they
converted to Christianity. After their conversion, Philomena was
born. At some point, the family travelled to Rome, and when
Diocletian beheld Philomena he demanded that she marry him. But
Philomena had pledged her virginity to Jesus. She was tortured for
40 days, and then killed.
In 1961, due to lack of concrete evidence to support the stories of
her life and martyrdom, Philomena's feast was removed from the Church
calendar and her shrine dismantled. So much for Papal Infallibility. The Church no longer considers
her a saint, but she is still widely venerated as the patron saint
of babies, lost causes, infertility, poor people, priests,
and sick people. She is also considered to be especially powerful in
cases involving the conversion of sinners.
CatherineB says Someone's obviously gone to a lot of trouble with the first of those Phantom Philomenas.... weird. If it's any help, I've read quite a bit about Joan of Arc and never come across anything about another saint being born in Domrémy - I suspect such a coincidence would surely have been pointed out.
Gritchka says Interesting. When I C!'ed Selene Nyx's the other day I did a bit of investigating and decided she must be part of the Florian von Banier circle: but the stories are amusing fictions.
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