Three virgins of Tuburga

Last updated
Saints Maxima, Donatilla, and Secunda
Virgin Martyrs
Bornc. 240s CE
Died257 CE
Thuburbo Maius, Roman Province of Africa (modern-day Tunisia)
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Roman Catholic Church
Canonized Pre-congregation
Feast 30 July

The Three virgins of Tuburga were a group of young women who were executed for being Christians around 257 AD, in what was Roman-era Tunisia.


Traditionally named Maxima, Donatilla, and Secunda, the trio are venerated as saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church [1] and in the Catholic Church. [2] They are remembered in both churches on 30 July.

Ruins of the Capital at Tuburium, where the virgins' trial was held. Thuburbo Majus vue vers Capitole.jpg
Ruins of the Capital at Tuburium, where the virgins' trial was held.

The three young women were martyred under Emperor Valerian's persecution in the 3rd century. [3] It is also possible they were executed under Diocletian given the dates Proconsul Anullinus was procurator.

They are among the few named victims of this widespread persecution, and the primary source on them in John Foxe who records that they "had gall and vinegar given them to drink, were then severely scourged, tormented on a gibbet, rubbed with lime, scorched on a gridiron, worried by wild beasts, and at length beheaded". [4] [5]


Ruins of the Thuburbo Maius Amphitheatre Amphitheatre 3.JPG
Ruins of the Thuburbo Maius Amphitheatre

Maxima, aged 14, and Donatilla were residents of Tuburga, a Roman colony in Africa Proconsularis, [6] six miles southwest of Carthage. When an edict was issued for the townsfolk to sacrifice to the Roman gods [7] [8] the girls refused, after which they were tried and sentenced by Proconsul Anullinus. At some stage during their imprisonment, the pair met Secunda, aged 12. It is assumed that she was arrested separately, since she is not mentioned in the proconsular interview.

Tradition holds that despite the older two girls trying to convince Secunda to recant – as she was much younger and the only child of an aged father – she refused. According to their vitae, the girls were subsequently tortured, and exposed to wild animals which failed to attack them. The order was eventually given to behead them.


The girls are considered saints in both Eastern and Western Christianity, with a feast day celebrated on 30 July. They are sometimes mistaken for Perpetua and Felicitas, who were from another town, Thuburbo Majus.

The Emperor Valerian was later captured in battle by the Parthians and reputedly flayed, causing the belief among some in the Church in North Africa to claim it was divine retribution for his actions against the martyrs. [9]

Related Research Articles

Pope Sixtus II Bishop of Rome from 257 to 258

Pope Sixtus II was bishop of Rome from 31 August 257 until his death on 6 August 258. He was martyred along with seven deacons, including Lawrence of Rome, during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Valerian.

Pope Stephen I was the bishop of Rome from 12 May 254 to his death on 2 August 257. He was later canonized as a saint and some accounts say he was martyred while celebrating mass.

The 300s decade ran from January 1, 300, to December 31, 309.

Cyprian Bishop of Carthage and Christian writer (c.210-258)

Cyprian was a bishop of Carthage and a notable early Christian writer of Berber descent, many of whose Latin works are extant. He is recognized as a saint in the Western and Eastern churches.

July 30 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

July 29 - Eastern Orthodox Church calendar - July 31

Blandina 2nd century Gallic Christian martyr

Saint Blandina was a Christian martyr who died in Lugdunum during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Martina of Rome

Martina of Rome was a Roman martyr under the Emperor Severus Alexander. A patron saint of Rome, she was martyred in 226, according to some authorities, more probably in 228, under the pontificate of Pope Urban I, according to others. Her feast day is January 30.

Protus and Hyacinth

Saints Protus and Hyacinth were Christian martyrs during the persecution of Emperor Valerian. Protus' name is sometimes spelled Protatius, Proteus, Prothus, Prote, and Proto. His name was corrupted in England as Saint Pratt. Hyacinth is sometimes called by his Latin name Hyacinthus.

Eugenia of Rome Roman Christian martyr (died c 258)

Eugenia of Rome was an early Christian Roman martyr whose feast day is celebrated on December 25 in the Roman Catholic Church, on December 24 in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and on January 23 in the Armenian Apostolic Church. She is included in the Golden Legend.

Saint Crispina was a martyr of Africa who suffered during the Diocletian persecution. She was born at Thagara, a town in the Roman province of Numidia, located in Taoura, Algeria. in North Africa.) She died by beheading at Theveste, in Numidia.

Cyprian and Justina Pair of Christians martyred in 304

Saints Cyprian and Justina are honored in the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy as Christians of Antioch, who in 304, during the Diocletianic Persecution, suffered martyrdom at Nicomedia on September 26. According to Roman Catholic sources, no Bishop of Antioch bore the name of Cyprian.

Julia of Corsica

Saint Julia of Corsica, also known as Saint Julia of Carthage, and more rarely Saint Julia of Nonza, was a virgin martyr who is venerated as a Christian saint. The date of her death is most probably on or after AD 439. She and Saint Devota are the patron saints of Corsica in the Catholic Church. Saint Julia was declared a patroness of Corsica by the Church on 5 August 1809; Saint Devota, on 14 March 1820. Both were martyred in pre-Christian Corsica under Roman rule. Julia's feast day is 23 May in the Western liturgical calendar and 16 July in the East.

Rufina and Secunda Roman virgin-martyrs and Christian saints

Rufina and Secunda were Roman virgin-martyrs and Christian saints. Their feast day is celebrated on 10 July.

Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire Roman religious persecution of Christians

The persecution of Christians occurred, sporadically and usually locally, throughout the Roman Empire, beginning in the 1st century AD and ending in the 4th century AD. Originally a polytheistic empire in the traditions of Roman paganism and the Hellenistic religion, as Christianity spread through the empire, it came into ideological conflict with the imperial cult of ancient Rome. Pagan practices such as making sacrifices to the deified emperors or other gods were abhorrent to Christians as their beliefs prohibited idolatry. The state and other members of civic society punished Christians for treason, various rumored crimes, illegal assembly, and for introducing an alien cult that led to Roman apostasy.

The Martyrs of Abitinae were a group of 49 Christians found guilty, in 304, during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, of having illegally celebrated Sunday worship at Abitinae, a town in the Roman province of Africa. The town is frequently referred to as Abitina, but the form indicated in the Annuario Pontificio is Abitinae. The plural form Abitinae is that which Saint Augustine of Hippo used when writing his De baptismo in 400 or 401.

Saints Peter, Andrew, Paul, and Denise are venerated as martyrs by the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches. They were killed in the 3rd century at Lampsacus, Mysia on the Hellespont.

Decian persecution Christian persecution resulting from Roman edict (250)

The Decian persecution of Christians occurred in 250 AD under the Roman Emperor Decius. He had issued an edict ordering everyone in the Empire to perform a sacrifice to the Roman gods and the well-being of the emperor. The sacrifices had to be performed in the presence of a Roman magistrate, and be confirmed by a signed and witnessed certificate from the magistrate. Although the text of the edict has been lost, many examples of the certificates have survived.

Gaius Annius Anullinus was a Roman senator who was appointed consul in AD 295.

The Martyrs of Sigum were a group of Nicomedians who were arrested and worked to death around 257 in the marble quarries of Sigum, Numidia, during the persecution of the Christians initiated by the Roman emperor Valerian. They were recognized as saints, with a feast day of 10 September.

Martyrs of Carthage under Valerian

The Martyrs of Carthage under Valerian were a group of Christians including Montanus, Lucius, Flavian, Julian, Victoricus, Primolus, Rhenus, and Donatian who were executed during the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Valerian in 259 AD. Their feast day is 24 February.


  1. "Ss. Maxima, Donatilla & Secunda, Virgin Martyrs, in North Africa".
  2. "Roman Martyrology July, in English".
  3. Jose Ramon and Ramon Romero son Persecution under Valerian (257 AD).
  4. John Malham, T. Pratt, Fox's Book of Martyrs: Or, The Acts and Monuments of the Christian Church; Being a Complete History of the Lives, Sufferings, and Deaths of the Christian Martyrs; from the Commencement of Christianity to the Present Period (W. Borradaile, 1829).p420.
  5. John Foxe, Book of Martyrs: A Universal History of Christian Martyrdom from the Birth of Our Blessed Saviour to the Latest Periods of Persecution, Volumes 1-2 (E.C. Biddle, 1840) p10.
  6. Thierry Ruinart, Acta primorum Martyrum sincera et selecta. Ex libris cum editis tum manu scriptis collecta, eruta vel emendata, notisque & observationibus illustrata. Opera et studio Domni Theoderici Ruinart,(Franciscus Muguet, 1689) p82.
  7. The Passion of Maxima, Donatilla, and Secunda, 4.
  8. Maureen A. Tilley, Donatist Martyr Stories: The Church in Conflict in Roman North Africa, Translated Texts for Historians. (University of Liverpool, 1996) p22.
  9. Meijer, Fik (2004). Emperors don't die in bed. (New York: Routledge, 2004).

Further reading