St. Maxima of Singidunum, and her priest-husband, St. Montanus
Commemorated on March 26
St. Maxima and her priest-husband, St. Montanus, lived in Singidunum (present-day Belgrade in Serbia) in the fourth century during the time of Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. The Emperor’s deputy, Galerius, issued an edict requiring Christians to offer sacrifices to the idols. The pious couple refused, and continued to conduct their lives according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They traveled to Sirmium (west of Belgrade) in order to distance themselves from the seat of power. However, in the year 304, they were seized by Roman soldiers and brought to stand trial before Governor Probus.
As they stood before the governor on a bridge overlooking the Sava River, the captives were given the choice of sacrifice to the idols or death. St. Montanus showed great heroism and explained that if he were to sacrifice to the idols, it would be tantamount to rejecting Jesus Christ as God and Lord of heaven and earth, and he refused to comply.
Frustrated and intending to take advantage of her “weaker” sex, Probus tried to persuade St. Maxima to deny Christ. Much to the surprise of the crowd, her fidelity and apostolic courage proved to be as great, if not greater, than her husband’s. St. Maxima defended her faith so convincingly and with such eloquent zeal that Probus cut the trial short, fearing mass conversions to Christianity.
Sts. Maxima and Montanus were beheaded by the sword, and their remains were thrown into the Sava River. The faithful, and those converted by the zeal of the holy couple, willingly endangered their lives in order to rescue the bodies and heads of the martyrs from the river. The relics were transported to Rome and interred in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla on the Salarian Way where they remained for 1,500 years.
In 1804, certain tombs in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla were opened. The many relics that were discovered were presented to various Roman Catholic churches and to notable families in Rome. St. Maxima’s relics were found to be in a remarkable state of preservation. They were ultimately presented to the influential Sinibaldi family, and for over a hundred years, her relics were venerated at the altar of their private chapel in Rome.
In 1927, the Sinibaldi family presented St. Maxima’s relics to the Poor Clares of San Lorenzo Monastery in Rome who, in turn, presented them to the Poor Clares Monastery in Chicago, Illinois, where they remained for forty years. For the next few decades, St. Maxima’s relics were transported from one monastery or priest to another, including Father Joseph Louro, a Roman Catholic missionary in South America. After Father Louro’s death, St. Maxima’s relics found a permanent home with the Byzantine Poor Clares in North Royalton, Ohio.
Wherever her relics journeyed, veneration of St. Maxima grew because of the boundless miracles that occurred through her intercessions. It was, however, the impact of her life that most impressed the faithful. The visible presence of a priest’s wife who, in a time of confusion and darkness, confronted evil with selfless courage and willingly gave her life confessing Christ has inspired countless people to live their Christian faith without counting the cost.
May the Orthodox Church rekindle its knowledge of and love for this saintly and zealous priest’s wife. Rooted in the traditionally Orthodox area of Serbia, St. Maxima’s prayers await our cries and supplications for peace and justice in the world, particularly in Kosovo, and intercessions for the protection of Orthodox families, especially for priests’ wives whose well-being and example are so vital to the faith.
By permission of Sts. Mary & Martha Orthodox Monastery, Wagener, South Carolina