Dunstan vs. Maryam of Qidun

Hey, look! It's a saint a lot of people have heard of! But, as history would suggest, that means nothing in this annual clash of saints. Nonetheless Dunstan squares off against Maryam of Qidun (we were referring to Dunstan, obviously) in today's Lent Madness battle.

Yesterday, Marianne Cope erased Bartolomé de las Casas 65% to 35%, but only because we couldn't think of a saint whose last name was also a liturgical vestment. Believe us, there's no one named Charles Chasuble. We looked.

The history of the church in England, like that of the church worldwide, is not a story of continual growth but of constant invention and reinvention. Saint Dunstan’s great ministry was to preside over the reinvention of monastic life in England when its flame had nearly been extinguished by Viking invasions that began in the late eighth century.

Born to an influential family and raised in the household of his uncle, an Archbishop of Canterbury, Dunstan took a vocation to monastic life in 943, living at Glastonbury as a hermit within a five-foot by two-and-a-half foot cell. According to legend, he worked as a silversmith, a scribe, and a musician. Yet even as a hermit, his stature rose, and he became a fixture within the courts of Anglo-Saxon kings. Upon receiving two large inheritances, Dunstan used his newfound wealth for the restoration of monastic life in England. A political exile to Flanders proved to be transformative, as Dunstan encountered the Benedictine monastic revival.

When he returned to England after only a year of exile, Dunstan was ordained bishop of Worcester, then translated to be bishop of London, and ultimately in 960, he became Archbishop of Canterbury. He used his new influence and favor with the king to reform and restore abbeys at Glastonbury, Bath, and Westminster, among many others. Dunstan’s monastics were “contemplatives in action”—particularly focused on the immediate concerns of church and state. They regulated liturgical worship, revived monastic life for women, sought education and discipline among the clergy, and brought the church into closer alignment with the royal power instead of the power of local lords. The revived monasticism also valued the arts, scriptoria, and workshops within monasteries.

Soon after his death, Dunstan’s cult rose and grew to great prominence and was perhaps foremost in England until eclipsed by Thomas Becket in the thirteenth century; they shared a common site of pilgrimage at Canterbury Cathedral, where each was archbishop. Goldsmiths, jewelers and locksmiths claim him as their patron. Dunstan’s work to revive monasticism would be a defining work of the tenth century in England; that same century would prove to be the cradle of the next five centuries of English history.

Collect for Dunstan
Direct your Church, O Lord, into the beauty of holiness, that, following the good example of your servant Dunstan, we may honor your Son Jesus Christ with our lips and in our lives; to the glory of his Name, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

—David Sibley


Maryam of Qidun
Maryam of Qidun was a monastic woman with a story easily transformed into legend bordering on hyperbole. The scant, subjective information about her life leaves much to the imagination. Nonetheless, even when you remove all embellishment, we’re left with a woman worthy of our deep contemplation.

Maryam’s parents died when she was seven, and she went into the care of her uncle, Abraham, of Qidun, a desert village outside of Edessa, Turkey. Abraham was a monastic who gave his considerable wealth to the poor and lived the life of a hermit, entirely devoted to God. He raised his niece as part of his monastic cell, with him in an inner room and Maryam in an outer space. A small window between the rooms allowed Abraham to teach Maryam scripture and a rule of life, and they lived this way for twenty years.

One day, a man described as a monk “in name only” began to visit Abraham but set his intentions on Maryam. After a year of visits, the man convinced Maryam to leave her cell, at which point he “immediately contaminated and polluted her” due to his lust. Maryam immediately berated herself, believing herself unworthy of forgiveness. Considering her life over, she fled to a place where no one knew her and lived as a prostitute.

Abraham had two dreams that showed Maryam’s fate. After two years, he finally discovered her location, borrowed the clothing of a soldier so that he would not be recognizable, and set out to find Maryam. Once Abraham found her, he asked to meet with her and ultimately went to her bedroom. Abraham then revealed himself to her as her uncle, lamented her leaving, and begged her to return. Abraham convinced Maryam that she could confess her sin and God would forgive her, and they returned to their cell.

Abraham put Maryam in the inner room and himself in the outer enclosure. Her weeping and cries of penitence inspired people to visit her to cry out to God alongside her. Many people were blessed by her salvation.

Most of us are unwilling to publicly repent for our sins, let alone be willing to confess and submit our lives to God. Maryam reminds us that the repentance of others can help us in our need to be forgiven. Her greatest lesson and gift: no one is devoid of sin except for God.

Collect for Maryam of Qidun
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and restore them again like your servant Maryam, that with penitent hearts and steadfast faith they might embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—Miriam Willard McKenney


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Dunstan: Randy OHC / CC BY (
Maryam of Qidun: Unknown


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173 comments on “Dunstan vs. Maryam of Qidun”

  1. St. Dunstan, so it is written,
    Rebuilt the great abbeys of Britain.
    Goldsmiths call on him still
    As a craftsman of skill;
    To advance him today is most fittin’.

    1. I voted for St. Dunstan, too. My great church is named for him. (And by the way, wouldn't it be great to visit the places where St. Dunstan lived?)

  2. Please help me understand the sin of which Maryam repented? If I'm reading this correctly, she was assaulted and left to live with undeserved guilt for her "sin" for the rest of her life. She is a woman worthy of our deep compassion.

      1. Nor does she seem to be the protagonist of the story...rather that seems to be her uncle.

      1. I could not agree more. She was a triple victim: raised in a hostile environment; exploited and abused by a misogynist society, and mentally battered into a life of unnecessary repentance.

    1. I agree. Different time and different place, but is repenting for being imprisoned by a weird uncle, being raped and forced into prostitution and then recaptured a kind of saintly example? Ugh. Poor Maryam.

    2. Indeed, Maryam's story is one of bitter one faced by many women, all worthy of our deep compassion, deep contemplation, and the repentance of dark histories of our church . However I am still trying very hard to find the saint part of it.
      Alternatively, Dunstan , silversmith, a scribe, and a musician, helped revive the arts, scriptoria, and workshops. Being able to bring song and the arts, using them honor and delight the Creator, rather than worshiping them, is one of the reasons I love my church.
      Today, voting for Dunstan, by a gold/silversmith, jeweler and sometimes lock picker.

    3. I agree. Poor Maryam did not sin; she was raped. I feel only compassion for her.

      1. Yes, triply unjust pile of lemons, yet she made lemonade that resonated with enough outside people that she is still remembered centuries later. Impressive for someone whose sole “reach” is one small cell.

    4. Dunstan is also the patron saint of bell ringers. It is reported that Dunstan "founded" his own bells and hung them in the churches in Canterbury.

    5. I voted for Maryam on behalf of the many women who have been rape victims and have been gaslighted into blaming themselves. Their survival itself is a form of heroic strength.

      1. I find your statement far more moving than the cries of sainthood is not for those who did not choose the life. Yes, she was forced into many things, but she survived all of it by drawing strength from God when all others blamed her and, by her cries for forgiveness, gave others the permission and support they needed to cry out publicly to God.

    6. Precisely! She has my compassion but not my vote because I would hate to be confronted again with this theological viewpoint.

    7. Yes! She should not have had to repent but once and again it was not her fault to begin with as she was a victim of society.

    8. Agree. I don't understand the write up at all. It's like it implies that because she thought she was impure (after what sounds like assault) her only recourse was a life of prostitution. Then she spends ages repenting of the prostitution forced on her by unrealistic understandings about sex and sin and we are all supposed to be inspired by that?????

    9. I agree. Her story made me very sad. I voted for Dunstan because we shouldn't normalize what happened to her.

    10. My vote is with Maryam. She was assaulted then revictimized. Sadly, we still witness this type of blaming of sexual assault survivors and sex-workers. I vote for her, not because I think she had any cause for repentance, but because she stands for so many caught in a similar web.

      1. I voted for Maryam because I sensed despair in her story. "I was so bad, I am beyond God's forgiveness." I think that is a common occurrence for many and drives them away from church. I thought the story embodied the bringing back into the church/body of Christ for everyone, even when you feel unworthy. The acceptance of those who came to weep with her, in a way, welcomed her back no matter how rejected she felt. Her feelings were accepted.
        Dunstan struck me as someone who took advantage (in a good way) of the many opportunities he had. An easier story.

      2. I agree. I felt sick reading Maryam’s bio. It’s NOT a sin to be raped, not even if you were lured out of your cell!

    11. I find your use of the term "recaptured" interesting. I hadn't thought of it like that - kind of like white settlers captured by native peoples and then recaptured by whites, sometimes unwillingly. Poor Maryam was definitely mentally, physically, and spiritually abused. Like others, I have tremendous compassion for her, but don't see a "saintly" connection.

      1. Exactly! I certainly have compassion for her, but her example, is not one I'd call saintly--unless surviving in a world where the choice is being a hermit or a prostitute is saintly.

    12. "Teach me not to hate power-crazed politicians." Oh, lord. That struck close to home. A prayer for ALL of Lent 2021.

    13. Yes, Linda! I voted for her so we can discuss how sex workers are made, not by their immorality, but by the immorality of others. Her wailing should draw us all into lament for the many ways we exploit the vulnerable and call it their fault.

    14. I am glad to see that so many others had the same thought on reading this story. What did she do to believe herself unworthy of forgiveness? Why did she think that she had to (metaphorically) throw the baby out with the bathwater and become a prostitute because she'd been raped?

      And her uncle is not without fault in this story either. If he gave his considerable wealth to the poor, perhaps he should have dedicated some of his wealth (including whatever he got from Maryam's parents) as a settlement upon his niece to raise her with others rather than as a girl child in a monastery full of monks, or even put his hermit life on the back burner and raised her in a less monastic setting until she was an adult. At the very least he could have given her the more secure inner cell and slept in the outer cell!

      And all she did after returning to Abraham's cell was cry and ask for forgiveness, constant "me-me-me-me-me" even if she did allow people to come and cry out to God alongside her. I don't see anywhere in this writeup that she did anything positive or proactive.

      I don't see that she needed to do penitence, however I also don't think she is anywhere near the saint that Dunstan is. My sympathy goes to Maryam but my vote goes to Dunstan.

      1. I think it's entirely reasonable that a woman who was orphaned, confined in a monastery by the uncle charged with her care, seduced, raped, abandoned and forced to engage in prostitution, then confined again, engage in some "me-me-me," behavior. She didn't lash out at anyone or hurt anyone; she just begged for forgiveness and she repented.

      1. She became a prostitute because she would have had no other way to support herself after being raped, just as many sex workers throughout the ages have after being abused at home.

    15. Yes! Her "sin" was in being raped, and assuming the guilt of the perpetrator as her wn. Come on!

    16. Linda, this is Linda. How are you? You are so right. Maryam's sin was being a female orphan, preyed up on by a rapist, condemned by her community as the only life an unwed woman could have--prostituting herself to raise her child, then "forgiven" these sins by the uncle, who then imprisoned her again. Maryam's only societal recourse was to cry out in weeping and wailing through her prison cell her impotence at her hopeless situation. That we have a record at all of her name and life story is due to the uncle's wealthy status in their community. Otherwise, we'd never have heard of her at all. How many young women and girls today are still placed in the same impotent position of Maryam--doing the best they can after being raped?

    17. I am in full agreement! she was either seduced or raped and guilty of nothing. The reasons for her sainthood are extremely misguided and only further propagate the lie that men are not responsible for controlling their actions. this makes me very angry.

  3. Each teaches great lessons. My question is did Dunstan continue liv in his tiny cell while doing all those other things?

  4. Me: "... The bishop of Wocster.."
    My mom: "Wait like the sauce?"
    Me: "It's not spelled that way..."
    My mom: *takes out the sauce* "See? It is!"
    Me: "That's Wosctershire!"
    My mom: "Same thing!"
    Me: "Fine! He's the bishop of sauce!"

    And that's why Dunstan is getting my vote today

    1. I know it's saucy of me, but I feel compelled to point out that it is spelled W-O-R-C-E-S-T-E-R.

  5. This is really awful. Maryam was a sinner because some a-hole raped her? What crap. Living as a prostitute may have felt like the only option but I cannot possibly say she was a sinner who “repented”-to vote for her would feel like condoning the religious machine that painted her as a sinner! I think it was a poor choice to include a saint who was so poorly treated by the church, and poor Maryam. Also her uncle was a thoughtless man not to find her a proper home...he sounds abusive!

    1. My thoughts exactly. I am angry for her, disgusted with the uncle, the church who felt she must "repent", and annoyed with the SEC for putting this out there! Not voting today...

  6. I almost wish I could vote for the people who came to weep with Maryam, instead of her/her uncle/etc. Because they indeed showed saintly compassion. I'm reminded of the friends of Jephthah's daughter, who join her in lament before she submits to the abusive idolatrous oath of her father.

  7. Maryam's illustration that God forgives the repentant sinner is important for us all to learn. However Dunstan's wide spread and long lasting legacy got my vote.

  8. How Maryam make it to Lent Madness? I feel for this terribly abused woman, and must question whether her inclusion perpetuates misygonistic thinking. I agree I would rather vote for those who came and prayed with her, hopefully to comfort her and not for her repentance but for others.

    1. Does it perpetuate misogynistic thinking or does it hold up that thinking as something for us to consider, and condemn, and work to change, in our own culture? . . . giving an opportunity for us to join those who came and prayed with her and lamented with her? . . . and with the Maryams of our own churches today? The write-up, sadly, missed the boat and did not do that but the comments and responses show a hunger for it.

      1. Haha--I just assumed that they, being hermits, did no washing or cooking or cleaning! I imagine it to be a smelly place....

      2. Absolutely agree that the write-up missed the boat entirely. the conversation in this thread ,thankfully, redeemed her inclusion.
        Would love to see the original author comment on why she presented Maryam in that way. Even better, lets have the Church and Lent madness revisit her story and present it as so many more enlightened and compassionate Lent Madness participants have

  9. This is hard today. Maryam took me to prayer. Not of repentence though. Her story is the story of so many women who have been abused and have had to carry the guilt and shame, and the sin of those who are perpetrators of the sin.
    I voted for her because of the holiness and saintliness of tears... I hope she realized that she was a beloved child of God

  10. I really am disgusted by Maryam's story - like others, I feel compassion for this woman who was so horribly treated and who felt she was unworthy of God. Who taught her that odious term"pollution" to refer to rape? Some supposedly godly person?

    I cannot vote for that story. Dunstan for me today.

  11. Dunstan it is. After the pandemic is declared over and we can return to our churches, we are going to need faith and imagination to regather and rebuild.

  12. As influential as he was, Dunstan moved from advantage to advantage, with the exception of a year in exile. I don't see where he suffered any spiritual crises that compare with Maryam's. Many of the recent female candidates have "fallen" because of sexual activity often initiated by unscrupulous males in their lives. The misogyny of power structures over the centuries have relegated these women to the margins.

  13. The truth in the story of Maryam is her cry of lament, however mixed with a sense of her own sinfulness. The defiled feel defiled; traumatic experiences can linger, especially if someone knows they could have done something differently to protect themselves ("I should not have gone outside my room"). The interior logic for Maryam didn't integrate a feminist paradigm; and as many of us know from experience, internalizing a feminist paradigm doesn't prevent survivors of sexual assault or abuse from the sense of pollution, defilement, being cast out of the ordinary world. Maryam bears witness publicly to her trauma, however mixed with her sense of her own sinfully limited choices--and in her heard cry, others could cry out with her. The beauty of her story is that she became a vocal focal point of pilgrimage for the inarticulate cry of sinner and sinned against alike.

    I voted for Dunstan because I have had so much in mind of late how institutions (ecclesial, higher ed, civic) are ever vulnerable and in need of creative administrative attention--even zeal. I like that Dunstan worked hard to crate spaces for others to thrive--including monastic spaces where one like Maryam could have found a home.

    1. I agree with Bev. Very well said. Thoughtful, balanced. That last bit especially: "The beauty of her story is that she became a vocal focal point of pilgrimage for the inarticulate cry of sinner and sinned against alike." Thanks for sharing.

  14. Message across the ages to Maryam: Beloved Child of God, This Was Not Your Fault!!!
    Message to Lent Madness leadership: What in the name of all that is holy and compassionate were you thinking? Wake up, and hear the echoes of thousands of "me too"s from throughout the ages bouncing up from this comments thread.
    Shaking, and shaking my head. And voting for Dunstan.

    1. Thank you for writing my post for me. What I heard in Maryam's story was a young woman being blamed for being lied to and raped. Maryam's "sin" is echoed in all of the ages of "What were you wearing?" "Maybe you shouldn't have gone on that date with him" and "You must have led him on." Place Maryam as a candidate for her strength and resilience, and for her example to all of us who have survived sexual assault, that there is NO sin in being assaulted. Then I'll be able to vote for her, because she deserves our recognition and praise. For now, I'll remember her, and all of my brothers and sisters who have been burdened by being blamed for forces beyond their control.

  15. The British History podcast has devoted hours to Dunstan. He was a major figure in Anglo Saxon England.
    Some posters here indicate that Abraham, Maryam's uncle contributed to her tragedy. I read the story diffetently. He accepted his responsibility for the child Maryam, brought her into his home, put her in the safest place he had, and taught her scripture and prayer. After she left her searched for her and brought her home. Insteaf of "weird," isn't he modeling the Good Shepherd?

    1. Lane that was my thought about the uncle too. Especially thinking that in his culture and time, a lot of men would've written her off after she left. I am surprised that so many people saw him so negatively.

    2. That's a good way of looking the situationa. However, according to Ohio State's Monastic Matrix,, Abraham accepted responsibility for the child but also gave her ample inheritance to the poor and orphans. I think the ample inheritance would have made it easier to find a safe place for her to grow up that didn't involve her living in the monastery with him. Which did not turn out to be a very safe place at all. And then he brought her back to the SAME PLACE SHE WAS ASSAULTED?! The Good Shepherd went and brought the sheep to a place of safety, not to the abatoir.
      I respectfully disagree with your reading of the story.

    3. Lane, You have one good point. It was Maryam's uncle's responsibility to care for Maryam. Women were not allowed to inherit. Therefore, it was both her uncle's familial duty and legal duty to provide care for Maryam. He failed her. She was raped and left his care, we can only guess what actions of his prompted her to leave a home she had known since she was a child. I am only conjecturing now, but I can guess why her uncle went looking for her. Since it was his societal and legal duty to care for her and she was no longer under her care, I'm guessing that when it became public (and legal) knowledge that he was no longer caring for her, he would have lost her share of her father's inheritance. That's why it took him two years before he went looking for her. He needed to prove that she was still in his care. A weaker but still valid guess why her uncle went to find her after two long years, was community condemnation. Maryam couldn't have traveled that far to set up as a prostitute. There would have been talk among men about the "new" prostitute. Eventually, wives and well-intentioned community leaders would have approached the uncle, requesting him to "forgive his niece" and take her back into his care. If he had refused, there could easily have been both societal and monetary push-back negatively affecting the uncle.

  16. Mary am was the victim a Virgin until a man raped her she did not sin. Too bad it still happens in 2000

  17. As a companion to the story of Maryam, responding to the mood of several comments above, I'd like to offer a movie today: Anchoress (1993, dir. Chris Newby), starring Natalie Morse and Christopher Eccleston (of Doctor Who fame). This is NOT a feel good movie; however it does raise some interesting questions about walled seclusion and experiences of mysticism; it really sets in context the possibilities or lack thereof for a young woman in the medieval church. The spectre of abuse constantly hovers over the young anchoress; her connection to the divine remains. I loved this movie for the Anchoress's glimpses of Divine Reality, despite the harshness and the bleakness all around her. I'll be surprised if anyone out there has seen this film; however, if you have, chime in. [Comments a while back (Melangell) inspired me to watch the first episode of Brother Cadfael, which we enjoyed! Another Doctor Who connection, Sean Pertwee was in it. ]

    from wikipedia:
    The screenplay (written by two women) is partly based on accounts of an historical female anchorite, Christine Carpenter, who was walled into her anchorhold in a village church in Shere, Surrey, in southern England, in 1329. The story revolves around the girl's mystical visions of the Virgin Mary, the local reeve who wants to marry her, and the priest who walls her into his village church and his dislike of her mother, a midwife whom he regards as a witch. The film is shot in black-and-white and visually resembles the works of Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, especially The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928).

    This movie doesn't seem to be available streaming but maybe you could rent it from a Library?

  18. Finally! I get a chance to vote for my parish saint, Dunstan. We are a small parish in the woods in the suburbs of Atlanta, and I could say so many wonderful things about it. But we’re talking about Dunstan the man today, so I won’t. I voted for Dunstan also because he was a musician (as am I) and because of the work he did to put the English church back together after the Vikings. Where would we be without him? Go Dunstan!

  19. As I cast a vote for Maryam, I agree 100% with those who wish we could vote for those who lamented with her. As I contemplate the question of, "is there saintly value here?" all I can find is a deep, heartfelt prayer I've needed a lot lately. "Dear God, please help me turn my anger from useless rage into some commitment to action. Please guide me to express it through responsible civic duty such as supporting education, mental health care for victims, reform legislation. Teach me not to hate power-crazed politicians. Amen"

  20. Wow. I wrote my Lenty suggestion without knowledge of today's comments. I guess that was obvious!

  21. Well I guess I'll be voting for Dunstan, Bishop of Sauce (thank you Gillian). Although I wonder how he could have been "a fixture within the courts of Anglo-Saxon kings" while still being a hermit.
    Maryam's story is tragic and I can't vote for it for all the reasons already mentioned. I suppose she is the patron saint of all abused women. The Church has much to repent.

  22. I feel like I have spent most of the past year grieving. Maryam's story is more misery. Had to vote for Dunstan.

  23. Maryam’s life sounds like a fable, a cautionary tale for young girls at a particular place and time. I voted for Dunstan.

    1. Maryam’s story is the same as of today’s runaways, or others seduced by a boyfriend then led down the park of prostitution after being separated from their families. It isn’t a fable. It still happens all too frequently today. Newspapers have recently revealed a sex trafficking ring in a western state. That is not a fable either.

  24. I voted for the lady today due to the rape and further mental abuse she suffered.
    May her rapist & those who told her she sinned burn, burn, burn in everlasting fire.
    She didn’t sin she was a victim, it’s unfortunate that attitude is still around today.
    Maryam of Qiden should be the patron saint of Rape Crisis Centers & abused women.

  25. Another where I don’t particularly feel either deserves the golden halo.
    Dunstable was a real person with a known history . Unfortunately, he comes over as a “prince of the church”, a bit of a wheeler dealer.
    I feel so sorry for Maryam, she could have done with some counselling after she was groomed and raped, but how much of her story can be authenticated?
    So, reluctantly, I’ll use my vote for Dunstan

  26. Wow. Celebration of male privilege vs. blaming of female rape victims. How very . . . medieval. I'm voting for Maryam, not because I endorse the idea that she needed God's forgiveness, but because men should be asking women for forgiveness. Whether women should be expected to give it, however, is a whole other question.

  27. Help me out here. Based simply on the text of our celebrity blogger, what evidence do we have that the relationship was not consensual? Why do we assume that it was not love that led her out of her cell, and that the sexual relationship was fully consensual? If sexual relations, fully entered into willingly, were then regretted by her, why would her feelings of guilt not be appropriate? Why do we automatically assume rape?

    1. Your unseemly comment is consistent with claims by defense attorneys in rape cases who try to cast rape victims as willing participants. I am thankful that the #MeToo movement brought down abusers like Harvey Weinstein and hopeful that courts will be less likely to accept such ploys.

      1. I am also deeply grateful for the #metoo movement. The difference here is that the post did not state that she was raped, nor did it state that she even claimed that she was raped. Whether consensual or not, sadly the penalty for not remaining a virgin was punitive and shaming. The reality was left vague. I was simply remarking that it is best to avoid assuming anything in a 1500 year old account when we do not hear her perspective, nor the details of what motivated her to leave her cell. I don’t gamble, but if I did I would put money that she was sexually assaulted and terribly misled by a perpetrator. I am sorry that my remarks about seeking clarity reviewed as unseemly.

        1. "he “immediately contaminated and polluted her” due to his lust."

          Sure sounds non consensual. His lust. Not their lust. His.

          She wasn't the one that needed to repent.

          I'll probably end up flipping a coin to decide how to vote.

    2. That is a valid argument based on the writeup, though I think most women who engage in consensual sex do not feel that they were "contaminated and polluted" and the writeup does say "he contaminated and polluted her" rather than that "they had relations" or other ways of wording the situation. Rape, however, as far too many women (and men) know, does cause the victim to feel contaminated and dirty even though they should not be the ones who feel defiled.

      And although we can't really understand the mindset of a 4th century woman, I find it hard to believe that the aftermath of consensual sex would be terrible guilt, flight, and the adoption of a life of prostitution.

      1. Considering patriarchy at the time, I assumed that the quote was not from the saint (wasn’t Julian of Norwich the first acknowledged female author in Europe?). I assumed that the men looked upon her that way after the incident. In the quotation, I hear men shaming her for her departure to engage in a relationship, and leaving her restrictions set by a male family member. I am aware that people, especially women, had very little agency in those kind of decisions in the 6th century. Kind of a filling in the gaps thing here. To some readers, she was obviously raped. But if she were, would the original biographer include that salient fact, or was the culture of the time unable to see it that way? In the gaps, people make assumptions and assume they are factual. I am not insensitive to sexual abuse. This is very likely here. I do hope that the blogger presenting her story clarifies how the legend makes meaning of her story. Does the tradition see her as being forced into unwanted relations? Would that even be possible to consider and acknowledge in those times?

        1. I initially had the same reaction to your initial comment asking why we assume it was rape that Laura had. Then I agreed completely with Tessa. And thank you for continuing to dig deep here very carefully. I respect that.

          And I agree, I'd like to know more about how the physical relationship was portrayed in antiquity. The author who told Maryam's story here did not do her any favors and in fact, it comes off as tone deaf in modern times.