Praxedes, St

Praxedes, St.

was an early convert to Christianity, according to some accounts, of the apostle Peter; but this is, of course, very doubtful, since we do not even know whether Peter was ever at Rome. The acts of her life are so surrounded by traditions as to be almost entirely devoid of trustworthiness; but from these we learn that she was the daughter of St. Pudentius, a Roman senator, and sister of St. Pudentiana (q.v.). According to the legendary account, Praxedes, with her sister Pudentiana, devoted herself, after Peter had suffered martyrdom, to the relief and care of the suffering Christians, and to the burying of the bodies that were slain in the persecutions. They had the assistance of a holy man named Pastorus, who was devoted in their service. They shrank from nothing that came in the way of their self-imposed duties. They sought out and received into their houses such as were torn and mutilated by tortures. They visited and fed such as were in prison. They took up the bodies of the martyred ones which were cast out without burial, and, carefully washing and shrouding them, they laid them reverently in the caves beneath their houses. All the blood they collected with sponges, and deposited in a certain well. Thus boldly they showed forth the faith which was in them, and yet, according to the most trustworthy accounts, they escaped persecution and martyrdom, and died peacefully and were buried in the cemetery of Priscilla. Pastorus wrote a history of their deeds and virtues. Their house, in which the apostle is reported to have preached, was consecrated as a place of Christian worship by pope Pius I. Their churches are among the interesting remains of ancient Rome. In the nave of the church of Santa Prassede is a well, in which she is said to have put the blood of those who suffered on the Esquiline, while the holy sponge is preserved in a silver shrine in the sacristy. In the church of St. Pudentiana there is a well, said to contain the relics of 3000 martyrs. In Christian art they have frequently been made the subject of the painter's brush, and the two sisters are usually represented together, richly draped. The sponge and cup are their especial attributes. They are commemorated on the days on which they are supposed to have died-July 21 and May 19, A.D. 148. See Schaff, Church History, vol. 2; Butler, Lives of the Saints. (J. H. W.)

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