Albert the Great vs. Theodora the Empress

Sure, Confusion Corner is a bit less confusing in the Saintly Sixteen, but it’s no less compelling. Today Albert the Great, who defeated Leo the Great, faces Theodora the Empress, who took down Theodora of Alexandria. Who will be victorious, the Great one or the Empress? That’s the question of the day.

Yesterday Arnulf of Metz kept the party going, as he bid farewell to Egeria 59% to 41% in what some prognosticators are calling a major upset.

If you missed this week’s Monday Madness, be sure to catch it here. It’s as thrilling as always. Now go vote!

Albert the Great
Albert the Great had a lot to say on a lot of subjects. Truth is, in all topics he knew what he was talking about.

Albert the Great was a 13th century highly educated scientist and a brilliant scholar who was also a German bishop and theologian. He was an expert in all the sciences from alchemy to zoology. A prolific writer, his wide-ranging books and treatises included a presentation of the works of Aristotle for the first time to a medieval European audience. In 1899, his assembled works filled 38 volumes.

He bridged the realms of science and faith. “We exist because God is good,” he stated, “and we are good insofar as we exist.”

His scientific explorations focused on understanding. “For it is [the task] of natural science not simply to accept what we are told but to inquire into the causes of natural things,” he believed

On the topic of friendship, Albert aligned with Aristotle, believing friendship is a virtue with levels of goodness: the useful, the pleasurable, and the authentic or unqualified good.

Albert is associated with two great legends. The first tells that in 1223 or thereabouts, Albert was visited by the Virgin Mary, which prompted his path to joining the Dominican Order, leading to ordination as a priest and bishop, and a lifelong study of theology.

The other legend concerns his ownership of the Philosopher’s Stone (or, the Sorcerer’s Stone in the Harry Potter books). The Philosopher’s Stone reputedly changed metals into gold, a powerful piece to alchemists. In Albert’s story, he owned the Philosopher’s Stone and at his death, he gave it to his student and friend Thomas Aquinas. Nonetheless, there is no proof of the stone’s existence let alone his ownership of it.

His widespread impact is seen through the centuries, both positive and no-so complementary.

In the Divine Comedy of 1320, Dante names Albert along with Thomas Aquinas as lovers of wisdom (Spiriti Sapienti) in the Heaven of the Sun.

In her 1818 novel, Mary Shelley named Albert as one of the three major educational influencers on her main character, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, especially the part about owning the Philosopher’s Stone.

English philosopher, friar, and fellow alchemist Roger Bacon honored his contemporary Albert by calling him “the most noted of Christian scholars.”

Conversely, 19th century Danish theologian and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said Albert “arrogantly boasted of his speculation before the deity and suddenly became stupid” in The Concept of Anxiety.

An expert in the sciences, a skillful writer, a leader in the church, a theologian of deep faith and thought, Albert is deserving of his title, The Great.

—Neva Rae Fox

Theodora the Empress

During Justinian I and Theodora’s reign, a rebellion rose up from the people. Rioters attacked everything around them. The mob burned down offices, public buildings, and Hagia Sophia. They started to destroy the palace. Their aim was clear: they wanted depose Justinian from his throne.

Meanwhile, Justinian gathered with his advisors, and as they looked at the crowd, they thought that running away would be the best solution.

Then Theodora counseled Justinian. She said that he should stand his ground. She argued that it would be better for him to die on his throne than to run. She reportedly stated this in different ways. She stood before his counsel and gave a speech:

I do not care whether or not it is proper for a woman to give brave counsel to frightened men; but in moments of extreme danger, conscience is the only guide. Every man who is born into the light of day must sooner or later die; and how can an Emperor ever allow himself to become a fugitive? If you, my Lord, wish to save your skin, you will have no difficulty in doing so. We are rich, there is the sea, there too are our ships. But consider first whether, when you reach safety, you will not regret that you did not choose death in preference. As for me, I stand by the ancient saying: royalty makes the best shroud.

In the same vein, Theodora said, “The Royal Purple is the Noblest Shroud.”

And, “For my own part, I adhere to the maxim of antiquity, that the throne is a glorious sepulchre.”

Even as the Empress, she never forgot her position as a woman. Yet, when the men around Justinian counseled them to flee, she could not help but balk against her expected role when she said, “I know it’s the belief that women should never show daring in front of men. Never be bold when men hesitate. I know flight is not the answer; even to save our lives.”

After Theodora’s resolute words, Justinian remained on his throne. Then, Justinian’s generals gathered the rioters into the Hippodrome and slaughtered them.

Although the Empress is well-known for her stirring speech, she also had a great sense of humor, which came out in her observation: “I suddenly realized I was a writer of wide reputation and most of it bad.”

–Carol Howard Merrit

Albert the Great vs. Theodora the Empress

  • Albert the Great (63%, 3,940 Votes)
  • Theodora the Empress (37%, 2,291 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,231

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Albert: Painting by Joos (Justus) van Gent, Urbino, c. 1475

111 Comments to "Albert the Great vs. Theodora the Empress"

  1. John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
    March 16, 2021 - 8:01 am | Permalink

    Though Albertus was both sage and prophet,
    Very seldom did he made income off it.
    His inquisitive mind
    Did once arsenic find —
    From which Agatha Christie did profit.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 16, 2021 - 11:39 am | Permalink

      Touché, John!

    • Howard Lincoln's Gravatar Howard Lincoln
      March 16, 2021 - 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Well said, Sir!

    • Michelle C's Gravatar Michelle C
      March 16, 2021 - 12:16 pm | Permalink

      “From which Agatha Christie did profit.” Hahaha. Thanks for the laugh, John.

    • Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
      March 16, 2021 - 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Brilliant! As a long-time fan of Agatha Christie, I love this!

      • andrea's Gravatar andrea
        March 16, 2021 - 7:17 pm | Permalink

        Me too!

  2. Linda Brown's Gravatar Linda Brown
    March 16, 2021 - 8:10 am | Permalink

    How odd ~ certainly one would argue from today’s perspective that the throne is not a” glorious sepulchre” and that slaughtering protesters is far from admirable. Theodora may have been a strong woman but it’s hard to think her strong counsel was just or righteous.

    • Laura Green's Gravatar Laura Green
      March 16, 2021 - 8:52 am | Permalink

      Just thinking that.

    • Susan Gage's Gravatar Susan Gage
      March 16, 2021 - 9:07 am | Permalink

      My sentiments exactly!

    • Bee Durban's Gravatar Bee Durban
      March 16, 2021 - 11:02 am | Permalink

      Exactly! I fail to understand why she is included with the saints at all. Surely Christ would have been with the people, rather than attempting to cling to ‘the purple’ of royalty.

      • March 17, 2021 - 12:38 am | Permalink

        Theodora supported and defended Christians. She didn’t want the anti-Christian mob to be killed, just controlled. Mob violence is rarely if ever to be condoned.

    • Betsy Amey's Gravatar Betsy Amey
      March 16, 2021 - 11:24 am | Permalink

      This discussion of Theodora is such a contrast to her description in round one — her champion of Christians and women’s rights . . . people are complicated, even saints!

      • Elizabeth Byrd's Gravatar Elizabeth Byrd
        March 16, 2021 - 6:42 pm | Permalink

        Thank you! I wish I had re-read the first article before I voted!

      • March 17, 2021 - 12:39 am | Permalink

        Theodora supported and defended Christians. She didn’t want the anti-Christian mob to be killed, just controlled. Mob violence is rarely if ever to be condoned.

    • Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
      March 16, 2021 - 12:30 pm | Permalink

      In re-reading the blurb, I didn’t see anything about Theodora encouraging the massacre of the protesters, just urging her husband to stand up for himself.

    • Adelaide Kent's Gravatar Adelaide Kent
      March 16, 2021 - 5:55 pm | Permalink

      This makes me think of the riot of January 6. Quite a different outcome. Theodora had more guts than the emperor and all his counsellors

    • Barbara Gay's Gravatar Barbara Gay
      March 16, 2021 - 8:30 pm | Permalink

      Not that I think protestors should be slaughtered. But after the rioting in our Capitol January 6, I have more sympathy for those who would stand up to a mob.

  3. Lee Greenawalt's Gravatar Lee Greenawalt
    March 16, 2021 - 8:15 am | Permalink

    Albertus is lesser known in the world, but more Christlike in spirit. Theodora showed great courage as a woman and an empress, the result of which was slaughter of her enemies. Albertus had enemies which he accepted, reasoned with where possible and when impossible, ignored, leaving to God to judge between them.

    • Simon Hartropp's Gravatar Simon Hartropp
      March 16, 2021 - 5:31 pm | Permalink

      I see elements of Esther in Theodora.

  4. March 16, 2021 - 8:15 am | Permalink

    very humorous. Thanks

  5. John Blackwood's Gravatar John Blackwood
    March 16, 2021 - 8:18 am | Permalink

    Some days I feel like we’re scraping the bottom for worthy contenders….

    • Gillian B's Gravatar Gillian B
      March 16, 2021 - 9:20 am | Permalink

      I agree… I was wondering this year if Lent Madness had used up all the diverting and inspiring stories.

      • Elaine Chilcote's Gravatar Elaine Chilcote
        March 16, 2021 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

        I have nominated a candidate, Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, whose life is full of diverting and inspiring stories, for several years in a row. This year I’m giving up. He is listed in the calendar of the Episcopal Church with a feast day in October. He gave his entire life and considerable energy in service to the poor and neglected people of Labrador and the northern peninsula of Newfoundland. He was a white male and a devout Christian in the muscular Victorian tradition of his time, which may render him unacceptable. Who knows. My other candidate, Fred Rogers, is supposedly unacceptable because he isn’t on a calendar of saints. Presbyterians don’t do that! But recently a council in the Pittsburgh area passed a resolution declaring that he was worthy of special remembrance on the date of his death. That’s as close to canonization as a Presbyterian can get, and it is the way saints were selected in the early church, by grassroots enthusiasm.

        • Constance Santana's Gravatar Constance Santana
          March 16, 2021 - 1:34 pm | Permalink

          My understanding is that a candidate must have been deceased for 50 yrs before being considered. Yes to Grenfield and no to Mr Rogers based on dates since death. I agree though this year has had some questionable candidates.

          • Elaine Chilcote's Gravatar Elaine Chilcote
            March 16, 2021 - 4:51 pm | Permalink

            However, Oscar Romero, who died in 1980, has a feast day of March 24 in the Episcopal Church list of A Great Cloud of Witnesses. Would this mean he would not be eligible for Lent Madness? I think that the Catholic Church usually requires 50 years to have passed before canonization of anyone. They made an exception for Pope John Paul II, which in hindsight appears to be an error. Regarding being on a list of saintly people, the Salvation Army and the Quakers don’t have such lists, and that hasn’t kept them from having candidates in Lent Madness.

          • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
            March 16, 2021 - 11:48 pm | Permalink

            In addition to what Elaine Chilcote wrote in reply about Oscar Romero, I would also point out that in The Book of Common Prayer 1979 on page 22 there is an entry in the Calendar section on the 4th of April for a certain previous Lent Madness contestant, “Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader, 1968” and I would point out that 1979-1968 is 11 not 50. And on page 27 one finds both “David Pendleton Oakerhater, Deacon and Missionary, 1931” (1979-1931=48, which is still less than 50) on 1 September and “The Martyrs of New Guinea, 1942” (1979-1942=37, which is 13 shy of 50) on 2 September. Additionally, on page 29 is “James Otis Sargent Huntington, Priest and Monk, 1935” (1979-1935=44) on 25 November.

            So to say that there is a hard and fast rule that someone has to be dead 50 years to get on the Calendar of The Episcopal Church is to say something that can be proven false by no less than four entries on three pages of the BCP itself!

            And as for our Roman siblings, may I point to Saint John Paul II who died in 2005 and Saint Theresa of Kolkata who died in 1997, yet were canonized by the Vatican, in 2014 and 2006, respectively.

            Now about Saint Fred of the Neighborhood (who had the misfortune of dying on the feast of George Herbert, Priest, 1633), the best way to get him eligible is to get him added to The Episcopal Church’s list of Lesser Feasts & Fasts/Holy Women, Holy Men/whatever they are calling it now. And to get on that takes approval of General Convention. And as far as I understand to get considered it takes a Diocese to ask. So if you are a deputy to your diocesan convention, start writing resolutions asking your Diocesan Convention to ask General Convention to add him to the Calendar along with other non-Episcopalians* like past Golden Halo winner, the Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer; past Golden Halo contestant, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King; past Golden Halo contestant, the Rt. Rev. Oscar Romero; and 2021 Golden Halo Contestant General Catherine Booth.

            * FYI:  The Rev. Fred Rodgers and his wife were summer Episcopalians, as they did worship at the Episcopal parish nearest their vacation home each summer. I forget the name of the parish, but they have a window of him dedicated to him.

        • Bill Thewalt's Gravatar Bill Thewalt
          March 16, 2021 - 3:03 pm | Permalink

          I could readily support recognition of Mr. Rogers. Certainly he imparted valuable lessons to his many viewers. As one raised as a Presby but now an Episcopalian for nearly 50 years, I’m ecumenical enough to think that would receive widespread support. As my favorite priest would say, “It’s the same Jesus.”

        • Sarah P's Gravatar Sarah P
          March 16, 2021 - 5:12 pm | Permalink

          For at least two years, I have nominated Frederick B. (Ted) Howden for Lenten Madness. He meets the criteria, but quietly gave his rations to others in the POW camp in which he was incarcerated during WWII. Not flash and dash enough, I guess. Today’s vote seemed like a bait and switch for Theodora—sounds great the first round, and then the consequences of her counseling the King to stick around caused the death of many in the Hippodrome. I guess I’ll vote for Albert.

        • John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
          March 16, 2021 - 9:34 pm | Permalink

          I’m a fan of Dr. Grenfell as well, for two somewhat different reasons. One of my hobbies is collecting and playing games and puzzles. Dr. Grenfell, as an accomplished fundraiser for his Newfoundland and Labrador missions, did not neglect the area of jigsaw puzzles. Raphael Tuck and Sons, the British puzzle manufacturers, brought out a set of four commemorative puzzles to benefit his hospital missions. See
          The other is that I have a long-standing attraction to the Maritimes, especially Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, who continue to debate where my namesake first stepped ashore! Let it rest, guys; I’ve sailed both your coasts since and find your provinces offer a welcome haven to the seaborne visitor. I look forward to a post-Covid visit.

          • Deborah Gardner Walker's Gravatar Deborah Gardner Walker
            March 17, 2021 - 10:17 am | Permalink

            This is fascinating, John. I would add that being a lover of Labrador Retrievers would be another reason to hold up Dr. Grenfell. Lexie raises her gray paw in support!

    • Linda Davidson's Gravatar Linda Davidson
      March 16, 2021 - 10:03 am | Permalink

      I think of what Fr. Scott says, “ Lent Madness is optional”. Once again, we judge based on our present culture and knowledge. The disciples were notoriously flawed, like us. I enjoy the learning and the realization that the church recognized these folks
      For a reason. Who know what we would be missing without their contributions?

      • Grace's Gravatar Grace
        March 16, 2021 - 10:37 am | Permalink

        I agree, Linda. Thank you for speaking up.

    • Gretchen's Gravatar Gretchen
      March 16, 2021 - 2:27 pm | Permalink

      I would like to see a Lent Madness that focuses on artists and who has contributed the most to Christian thought, such as Giotto, Handel, Michelangelo, for example.

      • Tessa's Gravatar Tessa
        March 16, 2021 - 7:22 pm | Permalink

        Put forth your candidate when the call for nominations goes out — usually not long after Lent is over. They have the saintly equivalent of an open casting call.

      • Shelly's Gravatar Shelly
        March 16, 2021 - 8:27 pm | Permalink

        It would be cool to have a corner for them.

        • Shelly's Gravatar Shelly
          March 16, 2021 - 8:28 pm | Permalink

          Wait, I mean a quadrant.

  6. Denise LeGendre's Gravatar Denise LeGendre
    March 16, 2021 - 8:23 am | Permalink

    “We exist because God is good…” made my morning better.

    I did like Theodora’s courage and sense of humor though.

    • Adrienne M Reynolds's Gravatar Adrienne M Reynolds
      March 16, 2021 - 11:48 am | Permalink

      and remembering her earlier history, i like that she believes in the faith of the work given to us – would we die in retreat from our duties or face them with faith and understanding and as much self knowledge as possible?

  7. Debbie Rakestraw's Gravatar Debbie Rakestraw
    March 16, 2021 - 8:25 am | Permalink

    To me, Albert was an early voice of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, combining a belief in God with a desire to understand the world around him in a scientific way.

    • Rob's Gravatar Rob
      March 16, 2021 - 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it’s important to remember that science as we know it was born out of the desire to understand God’s creation (and God) better, along with other theological concerns.
      But I’d say that the Reformation was, among other things, a reaction against the synthesis of Aristotelian thought (and its religious presuppositions) with Christianity. The legacy of that synthesis includes most of what’s bad about modernity.
      But I too prefer to hear about why a saint is indeed saintly. It’s amazing how a negatively skewed write-up really influences the voting. I wonder how many people would have voted for Albert if the focus had been on his writings about homosexuality.

      • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
        March 16, 2021 - 3:25 pm | Permalink

        I think we know the answer to that! Good analysis—thanks.

  8. March 16, 2021 - 8:28 am | Permalink

    This goes to show that even among the saints there is a basic tenet of humanity: we are flawed.

  9. Linda Burnett's Gravatar Linda Burnett
    March 16, 2021 - 8:29 am | Permalink

    Went with Albert today because he stands as an example of someone who had faith AND believed in science. Given the current climate we find ourselves in we would be wise to embrace both as well.

    • Mary Beth Burns's Gravatar Mary Beth Burns
      March 16, 2021 - 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I totally agree with Linda – We’re still living with a pandemic that was made much worse by people
      refusing to respect the scientists – Our faith should lead us to thank God for men and women who
      use His gifts to try to understand the world He created, and to use that understanding to make life
      better for us all –

  10. Melanie's Gravatar Melanie
    March 16, 2021 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    If we were voting for powerful women of history, it would be Theodora in a landslide. But I don’t see much saintliness in today’s entry on the Empress. Now I’m trying to remember what was saintly about her back in the first round, because I do remember voting for her.

  11. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 16, 2021 - 8:41 am | Permalink

    “He was an expert in all the sciences from alchemy to zoology.” Albert had information vegetal, animal, and mineral. He was the very model of a modern major . . . theologian? You had me at “brilliant scholar.” I’m detecting some anxiety on Kierkegaard’s part, perhaps over that philosopher’s stone, for Kierkegaard also wrote that “Albertus was transformed from an ass into a philosopher and from a philosopher into an ass.” Al Bottom, thou art translated! Albert held that silence was an integral part of music, anticipating Miles Davis by seven centuries. While I love Theodora’s frescoes, and however tempting it would be, I’m not sure it’s good Christian practice to “gather the insurrectionists into the senate chamber and slaughter them.” Though I understand the feeling. For resurrecting Aristotle, and for including the Muslim philosophers Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd in his commentaries, Albert gets my vote.

  12. Diana Van fossen's Gravatar Diana Van fossen
    March 16, 2021 - 8:53 am | Permalink

    Theodora’s little speech had a huge effect including the swift dispatch of the rioters and the longevity of Justinian’s reign. Only one act in a one scene drama, but then she had the only woman’s part. Given her times, outstanding!!

  13. Rhee H.'s Gravatar Rhee H.
    March 16, 2021 - 8:57 am | Permalink

    Not feeling inspired by either of today’s write ups, I went back to read the original blog about each saint. I voted for Theodora, because she used her power to work for gender equality, marriage rights for women, anti-rape laws, and to provide a home for girls and women leaving sex work.

    • Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
      March 16, 2021 - 10:00 am | Permalink

      Thank you for that reminder of Theodora’s works for good!

  14. March 16, 2021 - 8:58 am | Permalink

    Chose Albert over Empress Theodora. I am going to recall from faltering memory a quote from the play Harvey: You can either be very very smart, or very very nice. I’ve been both, I recommend the latter.

    • Katharine in Iceland's Gravatar Katharine in Iceland
      March 16, 2021 - 11:31 am | Permalink

      “My mother told me, ‘Elwood’ — she always called me Elwood — ‘Elwood, there are two ways to get through life. You can be oh-so-smart or oh-so-kind’. For years I was smart. I recommend kind. You may quote me.”
      I love that movie!

      • Sister Hope's Gravatar Sister Hope
        March 16, 2021 - 2:26 pm | Permalink

        I love Harvey, too! Thanks for reminding me of it.

      • March 16, 2021 - 3:19 pm | Permalink

        Grazie! Thanks for the exact quote. I actually played the young doctor in the play many many years ago.

  15. Micah W.'s Gravatar Micah W.
    March 16, 2021 - 9:04 am | Permalink

    A sweet friend of named Theodora is a big fan of the empress 🙂 She’s getting my vote today!

  16. Jennifer Seaver's Gravatar Jennifer Seaver
    March 16, 2021 - 9:05 am | Permalink

    My vote goes to Albert because I believe in kindness.

  17. Jane Bucci's Gravatar Jane Bucci
    March 16, 2021 - 9:13 am | Permalink

    “Bridging the realms of science and faith” drew my vote for Albert this morning. Though retired from the trenches, the co-existence of science and faith has long been my nursing mantra.

  18. Teri's Gravatar Teri
    March 16, 2021 - 9:18 am | Permalink

    it hurt my spirit a wee bit as I admire the courage and intelligence of Theodora and her sister (I listened to a podcast about them recently on Stuff You Missed In History Class, too!) but the slaughtering of protestors put me over the edge, I had to vote for Albert.

  19. Belle's Gravatar Belle
    March 16, 2021 - 9:44 am | Permalink

    I know Albert is going to thrash the Empress, but I don’t necessarily equate scholarship with sainthood. When it comes to someone like Sir Thomas More, a martyr for his faith, it’s a different story. But Albert was an educated, privileged man who was given the opportunity to be a scholar, in a time when women were never given such an opportunity. Meh.

    On the other hand, Theodora came from obscurity and not only married an Emperor, she was clearly intelligent, strong-willed, and able to hold her own in any room. She reminds me very much of Queen Esther. I don’t automatically vote for women over men, but in this case, my vote went to Theodora.

    I hear the argument against Theodora because of her participation in — or at least approval of — slaughtering protesters. But Albert is not innocent in that department, either. While he is not documented to have been particularly active in slaughtering Jews, he did support a Crusade in his lifetime, a project that usually entailed killing many Muslims and Jews (and not a few Orthodox Christians) in the name of conquest. As well, although Albert admired several Islamic and Jewish scholars, he wrote a number of passages referring to Jews’ unbelief in Jesus as being deliberate, because they “should have known” that Jesus was the Son of God; he also characterizes a number of supposed physical and spiritual defects of Jews, and participated in a Paris council that approved of the confiscating and burning of Jewish books, particularly the Talmud. By the thousands. Which seems strange for a scholar, but the view that the Talmud was a heretical, anti-Christian book justified, in the minds of many Christian scholars, this action.

    So, with these two, it’s pot/kettle.

    (My source on Albert is by Prof. Irven Resnick of the Univ. of TN, Chattanooga, “Albertus Magnus on the Talmud and the Jews”, in _Philosemitism, Antisemitism and the Jews: Perspectives from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century,_ (chapter eight), eds. Tony Kushner and Nadia Valman (Ashgate: 2004), 2004, pp. 132–154.

    • Ecumenical's Gravatar Ecumenical
      March 16, 2021 - 10:00 am | Permalink

      Thank you Belle for your additional research. Helped my decision.

    • Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
      March 16, 2021 - 10:01 am | Permalink

      I appreciate the additional info.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 16, 2021 - 10:18 am | Permalink

      Thank you for the more complete information, especially on the Talmud. And for citing your source. Well done.

    • Deborah Gardner Walker's Gravatar Deborah Gardner Walker
      March 17, 2021 - 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Yikes! Based on the essays above, I voted for an antisemite and homophobe!

  20. simple village priest's Gravatar simple village priest
    March 16, 2021 - 9:45 am | Permalink

    1) Lent Madness is just weird this year. I’m voting for someone I did not vote for in the first round over someone I did vote for.
    2) Can’t vote for someone whose autocratic and classist legacy today seems to me to be those who send in their forces to club and tear-gas nonviolent protesters for fairness and equal justice, whether in Washington, D.C., London, or Myanmar. The proto-renaissance man gets my vote this time.

  21. Linda H's Gravatar Linda H
    March 16, 2021 - 9:46 am | Permalink

    I’ve read that American publishers believed children would be unable to understand the concept of a Philosopher’s Stone and dumbed it down into “Sorcerer’s” Stone. In the UK, Harry Potter’s adventure is with the Philosopher’s Stone.

    • Katharine in Iceland's Gravatar Katharine in Iceland
      March 16, 2021 - 11:41 am | Permalink

      Yes, American publishers thought “Philosopher’s Stone” would be either unappealing or non-comprehensible (never mind that it is explained, with a tip of the hat to actual medieval person reputed to have one, Nicholas Flammel, in the book).
      They insisted on ‘translating’ the books (because what kid could possibly figure out Harry lacing up his trainers was lacing up his sneakers, or Ron pulling his mom-knitted jumper was pulling on a sweater, eye-roll, etc) until The Order of the Phoenix, which JKR was so late on delivering that her English publishers had to simply send the MS to the printers, which is why it’s full of errors and glitches, and the American publishers likewise had no time to ‘translate’ the British English into American English. Funny thing, kids had no problem reading the book… (Sarcasm). Kids are smart — inexperienced, but smart, and wired to figure out languages. It’s us adults who are dumb! 😀

  22. Kathy Martin's Gravatar Kathy Martin
    March 16, 2021 - 9:47 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, my view of Albert is colored by his statement about a woman being “misbegotten men” who when she can’t get what she wants “seeks to obtain it through lying and diabolical deception.” Sorry, Al, Theodora for me.

  23. simple village priest's Gravatar simple village priest
    March 16, 2021 - 9:51 am | Permalink

    Just posted and now I see Belle’s post re Albert’s active anti Jewish actions. As I said, Lent Madness is weird this year. I mean, Arnulf over Egeria??? Precious history of early liturgy sold for a mess of barley and hops!

    • simple village priest's Gravatar simple village priest
      March 16, 2021 - 10:30 am | Permalink

      I think my coin-toss of a vote will now go back to Elizabeth. Probably her image is on the coin anyway.

  24. John HItzeroth's Gravatar John HItzeroth
    March 16, 2021 - 9:52 am | Permalink

    Anyone who can elicit passion from Kierkegaard deserves my vote!

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 16, 2021 - 10:16 am | Permalink

      Zing! Well played.

  25. JoJo's Gravatar JoJo
    March 16, 2021 - 9:58 am | Permalink

    The Empress impressed the Emperor with her speech but the outcome was slaughter. Albert struck me as being rather arrogant too, possessing something that doesn’t exist. Neither deserve a vote, but the lady gets it.

  26. Mark Waddell's Gravatar Mark Waddell
    March 16, 2021 - 10:04 am | Permalink

    Theodora rocks!! Started at the lowest level of society and became an Empress! AND she helped others as not many “royalty” of that era would.

    A strong woman!

  27. Susan Comer's Gravatar Susan Comer
    March 16, 2021 - 10:16 am | Permalink

    Remember that when Empress Theodora recommended staying in the palace and fighting, she an Justinian saw an unconquerable force outside that was likely to brutally kill them. They were fully prepared to die rather than live comfortably, free, in exile. They no doubt felt that their rule of the land was more righteous than that of the mob which had set to overthrow and murder them. Whose to say who is right? Her quest and role model of gender equality was striking, her concern for sex traffickers important. I liked Albert, who was an amazing man, but today my vote goes to Theodora the Empress.

  28. Elizabeth Stevens's Gravatar Elizabeth Stevens
    March 16, 2021 - 10:21 am | Permalink

    Being “an expert in all the sciences from alchemy to zoology” in the 13th century doesn’t mean a lot. AND he was allowed to spend a lot of time studying, which has been pointed out.
    Theodora advised her husband “not to run away”. Nothing in this says that she said kill all the rioters. What set off the rioting? Probably wasn’t something that Theodora did! Why does the woman get blamed for everything? I voted for Theodora.

    • Elizabeth Coombs in Sunny SoCal's Gravatar Elizabeth Coombs in Sunny SoCal
      March 16, 2021 - 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Elizabeth, I was teetering between the two, sure that both had worthy qualities, and unclear who had the flaws that were hardest to accept. You’ve said it for me. Let the Elizabeths go down together!

    • March 16, 2021 - 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Excellent point.

  29. Sarah Boron's Gravatar Sarah Boron
    March 16, 2021 - 10:34 am | Permalink

    My email address has changed. I have tried to stop the old email. The link to manage by subscription and unsubscribe do not work. How so I correct my email address?

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      March 17, 2021 - 12:00 am | Permalink

      You could just subscribe to the blog with your new one. And if your old email account ceases to exist, then the messages to it will stop too.

      I just go straight to to vote and read the comments as I get way too much email already!

  30. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    March 16, 2021 - 10:40 am | Permalink

    Having voted for both in the first round, a struggled this time. Eventually I opted for Albert who sought to bring science and faith together. I am not sure that the focus on one incident in Theodora’s life really did her justice.

  31. Kitty's Gravatar Kitty
    March 16, 2021 - 10:52 am | Permalink

    This is Lent Madness, I’m voting for The Empress. Albert certainly deserves my vote based on all his works but Theodora stood up for her conscience and Justinian listened. Hurrah!

  32. Mary O'Donnell's Gravatar Mary O'Donnell
    March 16, 2021 - 10:53 am | Permalink

    Theodora fight to hold ground does not mean she wanted the protesters killed. They should have been prosecuted. And I expect if she had any part of deciding to slaughter or prosecute, she would wish for prosecution.

  33. March 16, 2021 - 11:05 am | Permalink

    I don’t think Theodora’s write up did her justice. She did so much, way before her time, to help women in society–look at her original blog. But the quote from Harvey (thank you, Richard the chalice bearer) “you can be very very smart or very very nice” got me. Seems like lately we have smart people on both sides of the political fence but very few nice ones. I appreciate. you, Theodora, but voted for Albert.

  34. Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
    March 16, 2021 - 11:15 am | Permalink

    It is unfortunate that Theodora’s champion decided to focus on only one aspect of the Empress – her courage – which led to such carnage! What about Theodora’s influence over Justinian and the laws he enacted for the rights and protection of women and girls, her monastic foundations, her promotion of learning? While I voted for Albert (mainly because in these trying 21st century times when so many who call themselves Christians oppose science and see it as anti-religious, it is good to know that the mediaeval church could recognize as a saint a man of faith and science), I still believe Theodora got the short end of the stick today.

  35. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 16, 2021 - 11:35 am | Permalink

    Nice versus smart? I don’t see that as Either/Or (apologies to Kierkegaard). My question for the rest of Lent Madness will be of each saint: who can best help this child, growing up painfully in a culture presently struggling (often not very sincerely) to overcome a “heritage” of hatred, violence, and anti-intellectual entitlement:

  36. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 16, 2021 - 11:38 am | Permalink

    When helping children to grow up whole,
    each saint must treat all souls as a tender foal,
    for it’s never Either/Or
    with apologies to Kierkegaard:
    an enlightened empathy is the goal.

  37. Beth Parkhurst's Gravatar Beth Parkhurst
    March 16, 2021 - 11:39 am | Permalink

    I second Rene Jamieson’s message. I’d also like to point out that Theodora did *not* order the slaughter of the people who wanted to depose Justinian.

    • Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
      March 16, 2021 - 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes, thank you. Although it’s quite possible, even likely, that she was comfortable with it, as it would be considered defending the kingdom from a violent coup.

  38. James Lodwick's Gravatar James Lodwick
    March 16, 2021 - 11:58 am | Permalink

    Empress Theodora was a bold and interesting woman, but she hardly seems like a saint. My vote goes to the holy and brilliant Albert. I am sorry Kierkegaard didn’t appreciate him.

  39. Fr. Ken Campbell's Gravatar Fr. Ken Campbell
    March 16, 2021 - 11:58 am | Permalink

    Sorry to say that this year’s Lenten Madness has disappointed me. Several times I have not voted. I believe there are thousands of admirable Christians to chose from. In my Episcopal Church there is ” Holy Women, Holy Men” and ” A Cloud of Witnesses,” for starters. I believe in all ages there are those who rise above the cultural and religious prejudices of their times. I think of John Quincy Adams who after being president returned to the House of Representatives for almost two decades dedicated to ending the slave trade. When he started he was virtually along but eventually he was vindicated. I think of the Quakers in England and the USA who embraced non-violence as a way of living in the midst of violent societies. I think of Bryan Stevenson who dedicated his life to helping those on death row because of racism chronicled in his moving book ” Just Mercy.” Yes, in every age there are many to truly inspire us.

  40. Sue Goodman's Gravatar Sue Goodman
    March 16, 2021 - 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Tricky one! But it has to be Theodora.
    This route is getting more difficult, more and more excellent Lenten models left behind.

    (Btw, it WAS the Philosopher’s Stone in Harry Potter, before someone translated the books into American.)

  41. Alethea Eason's Gravatar Alethea Eason
    March 16, 2021 - 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I can’t vote for either today.

  42. Denise Diaab's Gravatar Denise Diaab
    March 16, 2021 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I too had to go back and refresh my memory on why I voted for Theodora the Empress on the first round. Here’s what was posted:

    Theodora married Justinian I around 525 and ushered the Byzantine Empire into its golden years. During Justinian’s coronation, she was also crowned as an equal. She did not take the position of empress lightly. Her name can be found on every law that was passed at that time. And her commitment to gender equality extended beyond her self-interests. Theodora worked for gender equality, marriage rights, and anti-rape laws. She wrote papers against pimps and banished brothel-keepers from major cities. She opened a home for women and girls who wanted to transition out of sex work.

    I was very concerned and disappointed with the lopsided, patriarchal write up in today’s writings.

  43. Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
    March 16, 2021 - 12:36 pm | Permalink

    It was a bit of a t0ss-up for a while, but I went with Albert, a man of both faith and reason who was able to keep the two in balance.

    • Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
      March 16, 2021 - 12:42 pm | Permalink

      I like your succinct characterization of Albert.

  44. Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
    March 16, 2021 - 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I would like to point out that in the Old Testament, the story of God’s chosen people includes them not only taking over Canaan as their promised land, but also slaughtering everyone who lived there, and that this genocide was supposed to be an action blessed by God. This was the most difficult part of the Old Testament for me to accept, the notion that God wanted his people to kill an entire population to take over their land. More on Cherem here:
    (I did also learn that was customary for the ancient Hebrews to view every action as either blessed or cursed by God and to judge which of the two it was retroactively, by whether or not it had succeeded, and then it became part of the storytelling.)

    I’m not suggesting that we determine the worthiness of Theodora through the lens of slaughter in the OT – I think Jesus came to show us a different way of following God (never mind that this has not been the only instance of genocide in the years AD/CE). It’s just something I recalled as I read through the comments.

    I decided to vote for her in spite of the very real possibility that she supported the choice to kill the insurrectionists. I don’t think I would call that saintly, but I decided that I would support her for her good works – for this round.

    I did like Albert’s championing of science as a means to understanding the world, and I love “We exist because God is good.”

  45. Foster Eich's Gravatar Foster Eich
    March 16, 2021 - 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Neither is perfect, of course. But as a Dominican and a member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, I vote for Albert. His work, and the work of the Franciscan, Roger Bacon, provided the philosophical underpinnings for the origin of the Scientific Method (the gist of which is, “If you have a question about Nature, ask Nature.”)

  46. Carolyn Hartman's Gravatar Carolyn Hartman
    March 16, 2021 - 1:01 pm | Permalink

    It’s a hard choice today between: Albert the Great “Again, his travels took him far, always on foot and never on horseback, thereby earning him the name “Boots the Bishop.” and Theodora the Empress and her husband Justinian I building 25+ churches including the Hagia Sophia!!

  47. MARY ROSA's Gravatar MARY ROSA
    March 16, 2021 - 2:30 pm | Permalink


  48. March 16, 2021 - 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Some people just can’t bring themselves to vote for a strong woman!!!

  49. Pamela Payne's Gravatar Pamela Payne
    March 16, 2021 - 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Tough call today. I voted for both of these candidates in the first round. Theodora made some impressive impact on the health and safety of women in the empire and I admire her courage. However, as both a student of theology and science, I feel called to vote for Albert. (And if he irritated Kierkegaard, so much the better!)

  50. Ruth Hill's Gravatar Ruth Hill
    March 16, 2021 - 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Today’s decision wasn’t an easy one….two outstanding people of faith…umm….Any woman who could (and did) stand up and ‘give brave counsel to frightened men’ is already in a class by herself. However, in this time of great division that pits the haves against the have nots, the ‘in crowd’ from the ‘out siders’, conservatives agains progressives, and one race/class of people against other races/classes, a man who is “an expert in the sciences, a skillful writer, a leader in the church, as well as a theologian of deep faith and thought,” is very much needed. I finally went with Albert because he did wed science with faith and taught us that both are gifts from God.

  51. Jenny Reece's Gravatar Jenny Reece
    March 16, 2021 - 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Though hardly a saint, Theodora
    Was woman enough to implore her
    Husband to silence
    Insurgents’ violence–
    But there’s much more for which I adore her.

    I just had to. I was not pleased by the portrait of Theodora offered today. Raised herself out of a background of actors and prostitution, she was tireless in working for other women victims of sex trade and exploitation. As a leader and supporter of Miaphysite Christianity she managed to preserve an important (though not mainstream) stream of Christology, as well as protecting Miaphysite communities in Syria and Egypt and rescuing or hiding many individuals accused of monophytist heresy. She was a complex woman, for sure, and probably a little power-hungry. But she has my vote.

  52. Donna Kerry's Gravatar Donna Kerry
    March 16, 2021 - 4:17 pm | Permalink

    When in doubt, go with the Harry Potter reference

  53. March 16, 2021 - 4:29 pm | Permalink

    My mother was a Byzantinist and once, many years ago, at a costume party at Harvard University’s Center for Byzantine Studies, Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., my parents came dressed as Theodora and Justinian. Kinda a no-brainer whom I voted for! And besides, rioters storming the palace hits a little too close to home post 1/6/21…

  54. Amy Cliffe's Gravatar Amy Cliffe
    March 16, 2021 - 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Justinian might have been cowed
    Till brave Theodora avowed,
    “Though female I be,
    I’ll be darned if I flee;
    Because royalty makes the best shroud”.

    • Elizabeth Stevens's Gravatar Elizabeth Stevens
      March 16, 2021 - 6:43 pm | Permalink

      Thank you. Wonderful poetry.

    • John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
      March 16, 2021 - 9:38 pm | Permalink


  55. Robert Coates's Gravatar Robert Coates
    March 16, 2021 - 6:50 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Albert because of his devotion to science, however flawed. As I pointed in her original competition. The saintly Empress Theodora was the 7th century widow of Theodosius who restored the veneration of icons, NOT the wife of Justinian in the 6th century, who was widely hated. Legend says that during the time of Justinian, a whale became trapped in the Golden Horn and caused a great deal of destruction to fishing and shipping. It was found floating belly-up the same day Theodora died. Brave young men went running through the streets shouting, “The monster is dead,” with impunity because it was not clear of which monster they were shouting.

  56. Mary Vincent's Gravatar Mary Vincent
    March 16, 2021 - 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I usually think of “saints” as persons who have character qualities I should strive to emulate. I fail to see what there is in these two that is truly worthy of emulation. What have I missed? I’m not voting.

  57. C.S. Coolidge's Gravatar C.S. Coolidge
    March 17, 2021 - 2:53 am | Permalink

    Since the smart money says that Dorothy Parker won’t get a place in this tournament (since there seems even now to be a bit of a bias in favor of good deeds over _bons mots_) I reckon Theodora has as good a claim as any to the Algonquin vote.

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