Saints Eulogius, priest, and Leocritia, laywoman, of Cordoba were martyrs for the faith during the Moorish occupation of southern Spain. Since the early eighth century, southern Spain was under the rule of the Moors. They were a Muslim people mostly from northern Africa who had invaded the Iberian peninsula, as well as Malta and Sicily. Cordoba in the Andalusia region of south central Spain was their capital. Under this Islamic rule, Christians were allowed to worship, but they were highly taxed on all their properties. No disrespect (“blasphemy”) for their founder Mohammed was permitted, and anyone attempting to convert someone to Christianity (“apostasy”) faced the death penalty. Many Christians had moved north for safety, and the Christian population was, therefore, a small one, although Cordoba was one of the largest cities in Europe at the time.
Eulogius was born in the early 800’s to a prominent Christian family in Cordoba. The family had roots traced to the Roman Senate and had owned their land for hundreds of years. He was given a first-rate education, first by his mother, followed by years of study at St. Zoilus monastery at Cordoba with the highly esteemed Abbot Sperando. Eulogius was ordained a priest at an unknown date. He gained a reputation in the region as wise and learned, especially about the Holy Scriptures. He was appointed to direct the largest church school in Cordoba. In 848, he traveled to several monasteries to the north, where he obtained and studied copies of some of the most eminent writings of antiquity, including those of Virgil and St. Augustine of Hippo. He composed rules for monasteries in Pamplona and Navarre before returning to Cordoba. He developed an especially close friendship with fellow scholar Alvarus Paulus, with whom he exchanged many letters and essays on several topics. During a period of particularly brutal persecution, Eulogius was arrested and imprisoned in 850, during which time he composed Exhortation to Martyrdom, a letter of encouragement to two Christian girls who were being threatened with enslavement. He was soon released and devoted himself to encouraging Christians to hold fast to the Faith in the face of persecution. He was chosen to become the bishop of Toledo, Spain.
Leocritia was a young woman who was the child of prominent Moorish parents living in Cordoba. In 859, after being taught the tenets of the Faith by a relative, she converted from Mohammedanism to Christianity and chose to be baptized. When her parents learned this, they were enraged and locked her in her own home to keep her from any further Catholic influence. She wrote to Father Eulogius, who had not yet been installed at Toledo. He advised her to remain subservient to her parents, but to look for an opportunity to flee. When she attended a wedding with her family, she saw her opportunity to escape, slipped away unnoticed and found her way to Father Eulogius. He was able to protect her for a time by changing her whereabouts regularly with Christians who shielded her from the Moorish authorities. One day, her location became known, and she and all who had helped her were arrested, including Eulogius. Both Eulogius and Leocritia were flogged and then put in prison, denied food and drink and offered their freedom if they would renounce Christianity. Both refused to abandon the Faith. Eulogius was beheaded on March 11, 859, and Leocritia met the same fate on March 15. Leocritia’s body was discarded into the Guadalquivir River, a river in Cordoba where numerous Christian martyrs before her had also been placed. The Catholic faithful retrieved her remains, which were brought to Oviedo Cathedral about twenty years later. She shares a reliquary there with Eulogius, which can be venerated to this day in northern Spain.
During his second and final imprisonment, St. Eulogius wrote Memorial of the Saints, in which he left a detailed account of the stories of the Cordoban martyrs under Moorish rule. He had also written an Apologia, in which he defended the actions of those who chose death rather than deny their Catholic Faith. His friend, Alvarus Paulus, wrote Eulogius’s own story. During his interrogation before his death, Eulogius bravely defended his protection of Leocritia and proclaimed that he would joyfully instruct any who came to him for an explanation of the Faith. He displayed the courage of a good bishop even though he was never able to perform a bishop’s role. In the years 851 to 859, forty-eight Christians were put to death in Moor-occupied Spain (then known as Al-Andalus), all charged in some way with blasphemy or apostasy. They are known as the Martyrs of Cordoba. Saints Eulogius and Leocritia, though much less known than the many martyrs put to death under the Roman Empire, exhibited the same heroic courage and steadfastness in the Faith of their forebears. St. Eulogius’s feast is March 11; Leocritia’s is March 15.