22 October: Sts. Nunilo and Alodia! Virgins and Martyrs

The other day I was in the Vatican gardens and I saw the “Peace Tree” where an Imam recited a sutra from the Koran intended to claim the Vatican for Allah.   Nope.  I said some very harsh things to that tree, along the lines of the Lord and the fig that wasn’t bearing fruit.

That was then.

Today, 22 October, is the great feast of the glorious martyrs Sts. Nunilo and Alodia!

Nunilo and Alodia were 9th c. virgin martyrs in Huesca, Spain. They were born to a Muslim father and Christian mother. They chose their mother’s Christianity.

As a result of their choice for Christ, the Emir Abd ar-Rahman II executed them as apostates according to Sharia law.  Ah, the Religion of Peace!  The more things change…

Oh yes.  Before I forget, it is also the memorial of St. John Paul II.  This is the anniversary of his “inaugural” Mass after his election in 1978.  How time flies.

We read about Sts. Nunilo and Alodia also in good ol’ Butler’s Lives of the Saints:

Among the numberless martyrs who in those days sealed their fidelity to the law of God with their blood, two holy virgins were most illustrious.

They were sisters, of noble extraction, and their names were Nunilo and Alodia. Their father was a Mahometan, and their mother a Christian, and after the death of her first husband, she was so unhappy as to take a second husband who was also a Mahometan. Her two daughters, who had been brought up in the Christian faith, had much to suffer in the exercise of their religion from the brutality of this step-father, who was a person of high rank in Castile. They were also solicited by many suitors to marry, but resolving to serve God in the state of holy virginity, they obtaine

d leave to go to the house of a devout Christian aunt, where, enjoying an entire liberty as to their devotions, they strove to render themselves every day more agreeable to their divine Spouse.

Their fasts were severe, and almost daily, and their devotions were only interrupted by necessary duties or other good works.

The town where they lived, named Barbite, or Vervete, (which seems to be that which is now called Castro Viejo, near Najara in Castile, upon the borders of Navarre), being subject to the Saracens, when the laws of king Abderamene were published against the Christians, they were too remarkable by their birth and the reputation of their zeal and piety not to be soon apprehended by the king’s officers.

They appeared before the judge not only undaunted, but with a holy joy painted on their countenances. He employed the most flattering caresses and promises to work them into a compliance, and at length proceeded to threats. When these artifices failed him, he put them into the hands of impious women, hoping these instruments of the devil would be able by their crafty address to insinuate themselves into the hearts of the virgins. But Christ enlightened and protected his spouses, and those wicked women after many trials were obliged to declare to the judge that nothing could conquer their resolution.

He therefore condemned them to be beheaded in their prison; which was executed on the 22d of October, 851, or, according to Morales, in 840. Their bodies were buried in the same place: the greatest part of their relics is now kept in the abbey of Saint Saviour of Leger, in Navarre. Their festival is celebrated with an extraordinary concourse of people at Huesca in Aragon, and at Bosca, where a portion of their relics is preserved.

Someone translated a bit of Memoriale Sanctorum, by St. Eulogius of Cordoba about the saints (Book Two, Chapter Seven: Nunilo and Alodia, virgins and martyrs.)

Also, for a spiffy hymn to the sisters go here.

From the Mozarabic Psalter, pp. 262-263, a hymn to these sister-saints. It seems to follow the St. Eulogius account pretty closely.

Restant nunc ad Christi fidem
virtutis insignia,
que sanctorum rite possint
adsequi preconia,
que unius festa diem
celebrantur gloria.

Now they hold out toward Christ’s faith
The banners of virtue,
Who from the saints were able solemnly
To come as heralds,
Who together on one feast day
Are celebrated in glory!

Adsunt nempe sanctitatis
nobilis prosapie,
Nunilo siquidem virgo,
sanctaque Alodia,
que clarent germanitate,
clarentque martirio.

They are, of course, of holiness.
Of noble lineage,
Nunilo, though only a maiden,
and holy Alodia
who shone in sisterhood,
and shone in martyrdom!

Que ambo inueunti
etatis infantie
martires deo qua fide
dilitescunt domui,
sed Christi accense igne
enitescunt celibes.

Who both from the beginning,
From the age of babies,
Martyrs of God whose faith
they hid in the house,
But Christ, you reckon the fire
the unmarried ones started shining.

Tunc deinde functionem
cuiusdam versipelli
inpelluntur ad conspectum
presidis viam vici
vitam normam confitentes
Christiani dogmatis.

Then from there by the doing
of a certain Deceiver*
they were impelled into the sight
of the governor, in the street by chance;
they confessing to the rule of life
of dogma Christians.

Protinus regi delate
perducuntur pariter
urbis Osce adsistentes
principis presentia;
que interrogate pari
Christum voce clamitant.

Immediately carried to the king,
they are brought together
to stand before the city of Osca (Huesca/Adahuesca)
in the presence of the prince;
How both, questioned,
cry out, “Christ!” With one voice!

Ylico traduntur alme
private custodiam,
ubi quaterdenum tempus
dierum instantie
respuunt promissiones,
respuunt supplicia.

They were handed over on the spot, fed
under private guard,
where for four-tens’ time
of days of approaches
they spit on promises,
they spit on entreaties.

Sed in tali mancipate
dierum articulo
non cessant Christum precantes
ut illis constantiam
passionis atque mortis
largiretur optio.

But enslaved in such a way
for the days I articulate,
they do not cease praying Christ
for that constancy
to suffering and death,
when the choice would be given.

Igitur conpleta dies
inluxit feliciter;
conproducte producuntur
ad form perniciter
sic se ambo exortantes
ad palmam martirii.

Therefore, the final day
lights them with happiness;
They are led forward together
to the forum quickly,
thus both exhort each other
toward the palm of martyrdom.

Percitus litor hostendens
fulgurantes gladium
ubi conprosilit, prima
Nunilo sanctissima
crine sibi inligata
percussa prosternitur.

Hastily the lictor stretching out
his flashing sword
where it springs up, first
the most holy Nunilo
with her long hair tied up,
struck, was prostrated.

Quod cernens germana virgo
protinus Alodia
excipit flexa cerbice
inminentem gladium,
sicque ambe laureate
preveuntur etheris.

Which, seeing, her virgin sister
Alodia at once
pulls out from the bent neck
the sword sticking out;
and thus by it both, laurel-crowned,
come above the upper sky.

Inde tuam omnes sancte
flagitamus gratiam,
ut earum interventu
dimittantur crimina,
vitaque feliciorum
potiamur gaudia.

From there, all your holy
grace we ask earnestly,
so by their intervention
crimes may be dismissed,
and the life of the happy blessed
we may receive in joy.

Procul sit a corde dolum
pellantur lascivia,
caritatis omnis uno
conectamur vinculo,
quo carisma, dona sancti
perfruamur spiritus.

May deceit be far from our hearts;
may wantonness be beaten;
May everyone be one, in charity’s
chain be joined,
that by the charism, the gifts of the Holy
Spirit, we may be delighted.

Gloria patri natoque
semper et paraclito
laus potestas atque virtus,
gratiarum copia,
que deum cuncta fatentur
seculorum secula. Amen.

Glory to the Father, and the Son,
and the Paraclete always.
Praise, power and virtue,
abundance of graces.
May He be acknowledged God,
for ages of ages. Amen.

* versipelli: Deceiver — “versipellis” is literally a skinturner, skinchanger, shapeshifter. It was used figuratively in classical literature as meaning a crafty, deceitful person. In this case, they’re talking about the Devil.

One of my correspondents wrote to say:

PS — Probably the most prominent Alodia namesake today is the Filipina cosplayer and (according to that one fan documentary) “Queen of the Geeks”, Alodia Gosiengfiao. The whole phenomenon of a cosplay supermodel cracks me up…. Happy nameday to her, and to all you Alodias and Nunilons!

Mass singing of a contemporary hymn, and an instrumental version, for Ss. Nunilo and Alodia, from Huescar in Spain (a sort of sister city in Granada to Adahuesca, the saints’ birthplace in Aragon, that adopted the saints as their own). These mp3s are zipped up.

More information about Ss. Nunilo and Alodia, from a local Huescar confraternity. This seems to draw from the Aragonese account.

I wonder what Nunilo and Alodia would say about Pachamama and the Amazonian syncretism that the Synod (“walking together”) is nodding at.

Sts. Nunilo and Alodia, pray for us!


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Traductora says:

    I can’t imagine a single saint, especially a Spanish one (and particularly St Ignatius Loyola!), who’d have a single positive thing to say about syncretism or about the Pachamama idols being worshipped in the Vatican gardens, placed before the altar in San Pedro and Santa Maria de Traspontina, and sitting in front of the Pope at the Synod meetings everyday. He has the tasteful black one in front of him…but I think there actually were three goddesses, one for the sky, one for the earth, and one for the waters and the “Underworld,” whatever that meant to them. One was black but I’m not sure which one he’s having preside over him every day.

    Spain, who conquered Latin America for Christ…and now what do we have? Fortunately, Bergoglio has not a drop of Spanish blood and, like many Argentinians, is Italian and was brought up in an Italian speaking household. He actually didn’t speak Spanish other than a few words to the family servants until he had to start school (about age six) so Spain isn’t responsible for him!

    That said, I’ve been bothered by “traditionalist” Catholic comments on the pitching of the Pachamama. They seem to think this was tasteless and political.

    For Pete’s sake (literally, St Peter)…a lot of the hated “Novus Ordo” Catholics in the US, Spain, Italy and elsewhere were jumping up and down and applauding it, as was I. (I’m Byzantine rite, Slavonic usage, but there isn’t one where I live so I go wherever the liturgy is more or less orthodox.)

    When these real Catholic men pitched the idols, for the first time in weeks, I thought there was hope, some chance of a rebellion against the revival of paganism, this time in the heart of the Church. So, from what I have been reading, I don’t know why “traditionalists,” self-defined at least, haven’t been more enthusiastic about this.

    If the only thing that matters to you is your rite, then I guess I understand. They want to keep their rite and in exchange they’re perfectly happy for the Pachamama to have her own rite….but what about the Faith?

    Oh…btw, most if not nearly all of the people put to death by the Inquisition in the New World were clergy, and in most cases it was for…syncretism. This was followed by sexual or material exploitation or enslavement of the Indians.

    Btw in the preview the formatting looked weird and adding more spaces or paragraphs didn’t change it. So i hope this post doesn’t look like one giant run-on sentence, but if it does, it’s not my fault!

  2. The Cobbler says:


    Seems like most of the traditionalists I’ve seen are right there with you. In fact, asserting God’s rights over the more mundane rights of individual humans seems consistent with e.g. those who remember the whole “social kingship of Christ” concept.

    The thing with those concerned isn’t a mere satisfaction with their rite, though, but precisely a concern for more – the modern West is full of rejection of law, authority and order, even among conservatives (classical liberalism), and one Catholic teaching making a comeback these days is precisely that those things are morally imperative. Of course, if they’re moral issues, then none of them is absolute at a merely human level: rights, freedoms, government all are themselves subject to their proper moral context.

    The long and short of which is that it isn’t necessarily simple to suss out the right answer in particular cases. That’s as it should be: one of the problems with an absolute view of rights, or with treating law as something we can use mechanically to avoid authority, is that it’s inhumanly simplistic. Moral realism must admit of more prudential issues.

    That said, I’m cautiously optimistic and personally rather pleased there are people who walk the walk and don’t take heresy sitting down! Thinking of celebrating October 20th or 21st as “Patchy Mama Day” in future years, with some sort of Tiberian reenactments.

  3. Emilio III says:

    I have had a great devotion to Sts Nunilo and Alodia since I “met” them here. And it was reading about them that I found that avatar (the flag of Huesca of Aragon, formerly Osca of Hispania).

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    A lot of people who love tradition also love orderliness. Nothing wrong with that, except that sometimes there is no orderly, quiet, respectful way to do the right thing. Sometimes you have to do something that seems chaotic, because that actually is the most orderly thing to do. (A la Jesus turning over tables.)

  5. The Cobbler says:


    You said it better than I could have! Mind if I quote you on this one?

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The Cobbler — Be my guest.

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