Saint Quiteria
18th-century Brazilian image of Saint Quiteria.
Died ~5th century, traditionally Aire-sur-l'Adour
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Aire-sur-l'Adour
Feast May 22
Attributes palm of martyrdom; depicted with a dog on a lead; depicted with her head in her hands, emerging from the sea.
Patronage invoked against rabies[1]; Higueruela; Meca, Alenquer

Saint Quiteria (Spanish: Quiteria, Catalan: Quitèria, Template:Lang-oc, French: Quitterie, Portuguese: Quitéria) was a 5th century virgin martyr and saint. Nothing is certain about Quiteria except her name and her cult. Her name appears in the Roman Martyrology, but not in any other ancient calendars (such as the Martyrologium Hieronymianum). Her name is a title that the Phoenicians gave to the goddess Astarte: Kythere, Kyteria, or Kuteria, which means "the red one."[1], which some take to mean that she might be a fictional saint; but one must keep in mind that she may have simply been named after the pagan goddess.


Her legend states that she was the daughter of a Galician prince. Her father wanted her to marry and renounce Christianity. Quiteria fled and her father's men found her at Aire-sur-l'Adour, in Gascony. She was beheaded on the spot.

Quiteria and the nine nonuplet sisters

Portuguese religious traditions state that Saint Quiteria was the leader of the "Nine Nonuplet Sisters," who were named Eumelia (Euphemia); Liberata (Virgeforte); Gema (Marinha, Margarida); Genebra; Germana; Basilissa; Marica; and Vitoria (Victoria). These were born in Minho to an important Roman military official. Their mother, disgusted at the fact that she had given birth to nine daughters all at once as if she were a common peasant, ordered a maid to take them to a river to drown them. Their father was unaware of their birth.

Disobeying her mistress, however, the maid gave the girls over to some local women who brought them up. As adult women, they opposed the worship of Roman gods and were brought before their father, who recognized them as his daughters. Their father wanted them to marry Roman officers or other suitors. The nonuplets refused and were imprisoned in a tower. However, they escaped and liberated all of their other prisoners. They subsequently waged a guerrilla war in the mountains against the Roman Empire.

Quiteria was caught and beheaded. Miraculously, however, her body rose up, grabbed her head with her hands, climbed a mountain and stopped in the place where she wanted to be buried. (This is a familiar hagiographical trope, most famously attributed to Saint Denis.) Her sister Euphemia, unable to escape from the soldiers who pursued her, threw herself from a cliff situated today in the Peneda-Gerês National Park (it is called today Penedo da Santa, Cliff of the Saint). A rock opened up and swallowed her and on the spot there sprang up a hot spring.

This is a legend that closely follows that of the Galician Saint Marina, who is said to have been one of nine sisters.

Alternate legend

Other Portuguese traditions make her a native of Balcagia (Baiona, Pontevedra) who was decapitated and thrown into the sea. This legend states that she emerged from the waters with her head in her hands, and is thus sometimes represented as such. Her patronage against rabies stems from the fact that her legend states that she held two rabid dogs at bay with the power of her saintly voice. A festival in her honor was first held at Tui, Galicia in 1688 after a proclamation was made by its bishop.[2]


The Church of Sainte-Quitterie in Aire-sur-l'Adour is dedicated to her. This church was on the pilgrimage route called the Way of St. James. Quiteria was especially venerated in the border region shared by France and Spain, which includes Navarre. However, her cult spread and there were many churches dedicated to her in France (such as at Lilhac), Spain, Portugal, India (Kuthenkuly, Tamilnadu) and thus also in Brazil. Her relics were situated at Aire-sur-l'Adour, but were scattered by the Huguenots.

The city of Santa Quitéria in Brazil is named after her.



External links

ca:Quitèriaoc:Quitèirapt:Santa Quitéria ru:Санта-Китерия

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