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Coptic Christianity in Ottoman Egypt$
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Febe Armanios

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199744848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199744848.001.0001

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A Female Martyr Cult in the Nile Delta

A Female Martyr Cult in the Nile Delta

Dimyana and the Forty Virgins

Chapter:
(p.65) 3 A Female Martyr Cult in the Nile Delta
Source:
Coptic Christianity in Ottoman Egypt
Author(s):

Febe Armanios (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199744848.003.0004

The third chapter examines the popularity of a supposedly ancient female martyr, St. Dimyana, whose cult, according to seventeenth and eighteenth century sources, was centered on springtime festivities in the Nile Delta. Her written martyrology, which was commonly commissioned by archons and performed at her festival and at local churches, infused discourses of women and gender within the communal consciousness. Echoing earlier discussions of Coptic lay-clerical interchange, a study of this cult reveals complex conceptions of female sainthood and hints at varying notions of gender within Coptic practices. An idealized version of Dimyana as an erudite virgin and vocal devotee was promoted in her hagiography and fostered by the clergy, although it would be often eclipsed by a more popular image of the saint as a beneficent miracle-giver. Dimyana’s cult also provides valuable insight into the intersection of religious patronage and communal beliefs during this period.

Keywords:   festival, Nile Delta, women, gender, female sainthood, virgin, miracle, religious patronage, communal beliefs

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