The Eusebian Virgins

The Holy Bishop Eusebius also founded the first monastery for women in the West, near the Cathedral. The Eusebian virgins had their own housing built in a way that they could follow the liturgical celebrations that were held in the Cathedral without leaving their house.
Tradition acknowledges Eusebius’ sister, called Eusebia, as the first superior of the monastery, and the ancient Eusebian rite has its celebration on October 15.

The existence of the consecrated virgins at the time of Eusebius is documented by some writings of Eusebius himself, in his second letter written in Scythopolis, to the “Holy Sisters” of Vercelli and the “Holy Virgins”, who shared the persecution of their faith.

The earliest memory of the nuns that still exists is a small headstone dedicated to Zenobia, consecrated to God and dead at the age of 65 on 24 December 471 A.D., exactly 100 years after the founder’s death. If Zenobia was consecrated to God in her adolescence she could have been educated by disciples of the same Eusebius. It keeps, however, the text of an ancient inscription dedicated to Eusebian nuns who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries, young Mary and four sisters: Licinia, Leontia, Ampelia and Flavia, killed and considered holy, as well as two sisters, Esuperia and Constanza.

St. Jerome, writing to Innocent in the year 370 A.D., mentions a woman sentenced to death by the Governor of Vercelli. Declared dead, she revived during the burial and was taken under the care of some virgins, who cared for her at home on the farm until her full recovery. This is a valuable testimony documenting the charity service of the Eusebian virgins.

Nobody has heard about this institution since the middle of the sixth century and this silence is due to the Lombards’ invasions in Italy.

The only religious congregation which now is clearly inspired by St. Eusebius of Vercelli is the Daughters of St. Eusebius, founded in 1899 by Father Darius Bognetti and Mother Eusebia Arrigoni, for the ecclesial charity service, with particular attention to the unfortunate ones and those in sorrow.

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