Afra, St.

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Martyr at Augsburg during the persecution of diocletian, patron of the Diocese of Augsburg. The Martyrology of St. Jerome witnesses to her life and martyrdom, and this information is confirmed by Venantius Fortunatus, who visited her grave in 565. A passio represented by a long and short recension and a conversio depict her as a repentant prostitute. This legend began apparently in the eighth century and spread rapidly (there is even an Armenian version) but has no historical foundation. It arose through confusion with the martyr of Antioch, Venerea, whose name was interpreted in relation to Venus, and was inscribed in the Martyrology of St. Jerome on the same day as Afra's. Several ancient calendars of Augsburg assert that Afra was a virgin. The body of a woman discovered in a sarcophagus in the Roman Church of St. Afra in the eleventh century is honored today under the altar dedicated to the saint. In a later passio the martyrdom of an Afra at Brescia is fused with that of SS. Faustinus and Jovita. It is obviously a version developed from the original legend of the eighth century.

Feast: Aug. 5.

Bibliography: a. bigelmair and a. p. frutaz, Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 1:169170. a. bigelmair, "Die heilige Afra," Lebensbilder aus dem bayerischen Schwaben, ed. g. von pÖlnitz, 4 v. (Munich 195255) 1:129. w. brambach, Die verloren geglaubte Historia de Sancta Afra martyre und das Salve regina des Herman-nus Contractus (Karlsruhe 1892). h. goussen, Theologie und Glaube 1 (1909) 791794. h. rosenfeld, Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 37 (1955) 306335. f. savio, Analecta Bollandiana 15 (1896) 572, 113159, Afra of Brescia.

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