A Woman Saint on a Deacon’s Door?

St. Marina Altar Door

We customarily think of icons of Archangels or Archdeacons for the deacon’s doors on our iconostases, but during the Middle Ages in the Balkans, there were several churches who opted for St. Marina for one of their deacon’s doors. They chose her because of her power over demonic forces and those possessed, so she could be there always to protect the altar from intruders.

St. Marina was born in a pagan household in Pisidian Antioch. When she heard of Jesus Christ when she was twelve, she immediately converted and determined to live her life totally committed to Christ as a virgin. Her father disowned her for this. The governor, Lopharius Ebrotus, wanted to take her for his wife. When she refused, he tried to persuade her to sacrifice to idols. She refused to honor any but the living God. So the governor tortured her by having her body scraped and combed with iron combs and rubbed with salt, vinegar and lime, then threw her bleeding into prison. She was miraculously healed and encouraged by a resplendent vision of the Cross with a dove on it. At night, a demon came to tempt her and she exposed him and bound him with the sign of the Cross and cast him away. The next day the governor was amazed that she appeared totally unharmed. Instead of being convinced, he had her thrown into a cauldron of boiling lead. She asked that it be made like her baptismal waters and blessed it in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and was unharmed. Her tormentors were so enraged that they finally beheaded her. At the moment of her beheading the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to receive her, as witnessed by many who were there. She suffered in the year 270, during the reign of Diocletian. One of her hands is preserved in Vatopedi Monastery on Athos. There is a St. Marina Monastery in Albania, where more of her relics continue to work wonders and healings.

This Icon is tempera on wood and woodcut. It is an altar door from 17th century Bulgaria. Margaret is an English translation of the name Marina.

O glorious Marina betrothed to God the Word, thou didst abandon all things earthly and contest victoriously as a virgin. For thou didst trample on the invisible foe when he appeared, O holy trophy-bearer, and thou dost now bestow gifts of healing on the world.

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