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Vita de S. Maria Aegyptiaca




Vita de S. Maria Aegyptiaca

Name of the Portuguese translation

Vida de Santa Maria Egipcíaca

Uida de Sancta Maria egipcia


Sofrónio de Jerusalém


Latin (the original text is in Greek).


Hagiographic text written by Sophronius. He based himself in two texts: St. Jerome’s Life of St. Paul and the life of Mary of Jerusalem (from the book Atos do Monge Ciríaco, written by St. Cyril of Scythopolis). It narrates the sinful life of Mary of Egypt that became a Christian after not being able to enter the Basilica of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. She then went to the desert where she remained for decades, with little food and suffering temptations. One day she meets Zosimus, a monk who hears her story and gives her the Holy Communion. Later he returns to give her the Holy Communion again, but only finds her corpse and, with the help of a lion, buries her body.

Sophronius of Jerusalem wrote the life of St. Mary of Egypt in Greek. His text was translated in the ninth century into Latin by Paul, deacon of Naples, at the request of Charles the Bald. After this, there were written several other versions, on different languages.


Seventh century A.D.



Extant witnesses

We have today four witnesses in Latin of this text (Faccon 1998: 83-84):

a)     a translation in prose of the ninth century, probably written by Paul, deacon of Naples and dedicated to the Emperor Charles the Bald. It was included in the Vitae Patrum of 1478. This text circulated mainly in France, England, the Netherlands and Germany (see Migne, Patrologia latina, 73, 671-690) and came to be edited later in the sixteenth century by Surio and, later, by Rosweyde.

b)     an anonymous translation in prose of the tenth century (manuscript a-II-9 from the El Escorial Library). In Portugal there is a witness of this version dated from the thirteenth century (Alc. 283/454). It is now at the National Library of Portugal.

c)     an anonymous translation in a)      prose of the eleventh century, that appears to be a copy of an older version of the seventh century. This will probably be the text referred by Nunes (1917: 183) when he mentions an anonymous translation of the eleventh-century that was published by the Benedictines in the Bibliotheca Casinensis III. Both this witness, like that of b), had a greater diffusion and served as a model to the main texts in vernacular languages, especially in the Iberian Peninsula;

d)     a translation in prose of the seventeenth century, published in 1675 in Acta Sanctorum - April 2, pages 68-90.

Finally, there are also poems and abbreviated versions in Latin, especially those included in Speculum Historiale by Vincenzo di Beauvais and in Legenda Áurea of Jacopo de Voragine.


Online database:

Arlima: http://www.arlima.net/uz/vie_de_sainte_marie_legyptienne.html;




ANTOLIN, Guillermo (1909), «Estudio de códices visigodos - códice a-II-9 de la Biblioteca de El Escorial», Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia, LIV, 294-313.

Bibliotheca Casinensis. III: Florilegium Casinense, Monte Cassino, 226-235.

FACCON, M. (1998), "Due traduzioni iberiche della Vida de Santa María Egipciaca. Fonti possibli", Revista de Literatura Medieval 10, 83-99.

FACCON, M. (1994) «Los manuscritos de la Vida de Santa María Egipciaca en la Península Ibérica: três traducciones del siglo xiv y sus fuentes posibles». Tese. Padova: Universitá degli Studi di Padova, Facoltá di Lettere e Filosofía.

MIGNE, Jean Paul (1879), «Vita Sanctae Mariae Aegyptiacae», Patrologia, Series Latina, LXXIIl, Paris, 671-690

NUNES, J. J. (1917), "Textos antigos portugueses VII. [Vida de Santa Maria Egipcia]", Revista Lusitana 20, 184-203.

PAPEBROCHIUS, Daniel (1675), Acta Sanctorum, Aprilis, I, 68-90 (76-83).

ROSWEYDE, Heribert (1615). Vitae Patrum, Antuerpiae, ex Officina Plantiniana.