Period: Late 18th century
Size: 31 x 25 cm
Not all saints lived saintly lives. Mary of Egypt (c. 344 – c. 421), portrayed here, only converted to Christianity at an advanced age and subsequently lived as a hermit in the desert.
According to legend, she led an extremely dissolute life in the city of Alexandria since she was a young woman. Driven by insatiable lust, she often refused the money offered to her for the services she provided to men. At a certain time, she decided to travel to Jerusalem to seek men among the pilgrims who could satiate her lust. She paid for the fare in kind. Arriving in Jerusalem, she wanted to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but was then stopped by an invisible force. Hereupon, she converted to Christianity and spent the remaining part of her life as a hermit in the desert. A year before her death, she recounted her life story to Zosimas of Palestine, who also gave her Holy Communion. When Zosimas decided to visit her again a year later, she had passed away in the meantime. He buried her and passed on her life story to his fellow brethren. It was preserved among them as oral tradition until it was written down by Sophronius.