Who Was the Early Visionary St. Perpetua?

by jimmyakin

in History, Liturgical Year, Prophecy

St.s Perpetua and Felicity are commemorated in Eucharistic Prayer I (the Roman Canon) itself. But who were they, and what is their dramatic story?

Thursday is the feast of St.s Perpetua and Felicity.

Many have heard their names. They’re early saints mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer #1 (the Roman Canon).

But often we don’t know much more than that, which is a pity.

They have a dramatic story, which St. Perpetua recorded herself in the days before her martyrdom. It also records the visions she received during this time.

Here are 10 things you need to know.


1. Who was St. Perpetua?

She was a young Christian woman and martyr, who died just after the year 200 in North Africa. When she was still a catechumen, she and several acquaintances were taken into custody.

According to the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity:

And among them also was Vivia Perpetua, respectably born, liberally educated, a married matron, having a father and mother and two brothers, one of whom, like herself, was a catechumen, and a son an infant at the breast. She herself was about twenty-two years of age.

No mention is made of her husband, who may have already been dead.

After being baptized, Perpetua received several visions and was eventually martyred. We also learn about her companions and other members of her family, including her father and her younger brother, who had died previously of cancer.


2. What is the “Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity”?

It is a document describing what happened to Perpetua and her companions. It is also called “The Passion of the Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicity.”

The document is composed of a preface followed by six chapters.

What is particularly special is that about half of the document was written by the martyr herself:

  • Chapters 1-3 were penned by St. Perpetua while she was awaiting execution. 
  • Chapter 4 was written by one of her companions and fellow-martyrs, Saturus.
  • Chapter 5-6 (and the preface) were written by the anonymous editor, who was apparently an eyewitness of the martyrdoms.

3. What does Perpetua’s writing reveal about her father?


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