04 October 2020

Holy Martyrs Domnina, and her daughters Verinē and Prosdokē

A modern painting of Saint Domnina and her daughters
by Goyo Dominguez, Spanish-British painter

The fourth of October seems to be an important day when it comes to Orthodox martyrs from the Near East. Not only today do we celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Peter the Bishop of Buṣrâ, but we also celebrate the martyrdoms of a Mesopotamian mother and her daughters: Saint Domnina, and Saints Verinē and Prosdokē, respectively. These martyrs were particular favourites of Saint John Chrysostom who composed a homily in their honour, and they are venerated throughout both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Saint Domnina [Gk. Δομνίνα, Ar. Dûmnînâ دومنينا] was a Greco-Syrian Christian woman of Antioch who was married to a pagan. They had two daughters together, named Verinē [Gk. Βερίνη or alternatively Vernikē Βερνίκη, L. Veronica, Ar. Fîrûnîkâ فيرونيكا] and Prosdokē [Gk. Προσδόκη, L. Prosdoce]. Domnina had been famous as a beautiful and chaste-minded noblewoman before her marriage, and it seems her daughters were cut from the same pulchritudinous and virtuous cloth. During the persecutions of Diocletian, the three women resettled themselves in Edessa in Mesopotamia (modern-day ar-Ruhâ) for safety, but they were discovered there by the pagans and placed under arrest.

Under force of arms, they were transported to Hierapolis – which is present-day Manbij in Syria. The soldiers who were guarding them ate and drank heavily, and some of them began to nod off under the influence of the wine. Seizing the opportunity, Domnina took her daughters and fled from the soldiers. They were chased, and seeing no other route forward, Domnina fled with her daughters into the nearby Euphrates River, and they all drowned. In this way all three of them attained to martyrdom.

Saint John Chrysostom tells their tale in a slightly different way, however. In his telling, when the soldiers became drunk, they began to threaten the honour of the women in a lewd way, and Saint Domnina fled with her daughters in order to preserve them from rape. She took them into the middle of the river and drowned them before drowning herself after them. He praised all three women – Domnina for her bravery, and her daughters for their obedience even unto death. Holy martyrs Domnina, Verinē and Prosdokē, who embraced the waters of Euphrates to flee the wrath of the pagans, pray unto Christ our God for the salvation of our souls!

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