Portrayed by legend as a Christian courtesan of Alexandria who was converted by the hermit Serapion and sealed in a cell of a woman's monastery to do penance. In other versions of the story either Paphnutius or Bessarion is credited with her conversion. After three years of rigorous confinement, Thaïs was released; she died within 15 days. Though two mummified bodies, identified as
Thaïs and Serapion, were discovered at Antinoë in Egypt at the beginning of the 20th century and were exhibited in the Musée Guimet at Paris, there is not enough evidence to substantiate the claim that these are the remains of the penitent courtesan and the hermit of the legend. In the earliest accounts the penitent is nameless. The story of Thaïs is a morality tale that enjoyed great diffusion in the Middle Ages.
Feast: Oct. 8.
Bibliography: h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 1907–53) 1.2:2339–40. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, rev. ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4v. (New York 1956) 4:61–62.