of St. Verena, virgin, of Zurzach in Switzerland
Feast: Sept. 1
long after the martyrdom of Victor and Ursus, there came to Solothurn a
Theban girl, a relative of one of the slain legionnaires. She had left
her native Egypt for Italy where she heard news of the slaughter, and
made her way to Switzerland in search of the relics of her martyred
Theban brethren. After praying on the spot of their martyric exploit,
she proceeded to Octodurum, but the local pagans forced her departure,
and so she went to Solothurn where one surviving legionnaire was still
living. There the young woman, Verena, settled in a cave and began
leading a solitary life of prayer.
Verena had one companion, an elderly woman who was a secret Christian
and who provided her with food and in general looked after her needs.
The recluse began to attract the local populace and converted members
of the Almani tribes who, in turn, asked that she take charge of their
daughters and educate them. And so it developed that St, Verena became
a kind of abbess of a small community of women.
the pagan governor Hirtacus was not pleased by the Saint's activity,
and he had her imprisoned. One night St. Maurice appeared to St. Verena
in her prison cell and comforted her, giving her courage to remain firm
in her faith. That same night Hirtacus was struck by a violent fever
which doctors were unable to relieve. Knowing St. Verena's reputation,
he asked her to pray for him. Cured through the holy virgin's prayers,
Hirtacus freed her to resume her pious activities.
great veneration which the people had for the Saint gave her no rest.
She decided to leave Solcthurn and went first to Coblenz and then to an
island on the Rhine. It was infested with snakes which she chased out
by' her prayers. She did not stay on the island, however, but went to
Zurzach. After spending some time near a church dedicated to the Mother
of God, she resumed her solitary life in a cell. A church was built
there after her repose, and miracles continued to manifest the grace of
God which St. Verena had acquired during her earthly sojourn.
"From St. Gregory of Tour’s Vita Patrium
(Life of the Fathers--serialized in "The Orthodox Word") and other
early sources, we know that in the 5th century the monastic centers of
Gaul, notably Lerins and Lyons, spilled their influence north and east
into the Jura Mountains. There, alpine clefts and forested ravines
provided a suitable 'desert' for monastic lovers of solitude whose
severe asceticism was styled after that of the Egyptian Fathers. As
their number increased a more established form of cenoebitic
monasticism was introduced as, for example, at Agaunum. In the Jura,
disciples of the brother Saints Romanus and Lupicinus spread out to
found a whole series of monasteries. There also the Saints' sister Yole
governed what was perhaps the first wilderness monastic community for
women in the West, known as "La Balme."
despite the successful rooting of the monastic tradition in Swiss soil,
the missionary field was in need of Still more laborers. The warring
Franks and Burgundians presented just the challenge for those
indomitable missionaries par excellence--the Irish monks." - from Orthodox
Holy Mother Verena, pray to
God for us!
Top Icon from St. Ann's
Workshop in Swizterland.
Next Icon of Coptic origin,
apparently from France.