Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Born 360-5; died 25 July, 408, probably at Nicomedia. This pious, charitable, and wealthy disciple of St. John Chrysostom came from an illustrious family in Constantinople. Her father (called by the sources Secundus or Selencus) was a "Count" of the empire; one of her ancestors, Ablabius, filled in 331 the consular office, and was also praetorian prefect of the East. As Olympias was not thirty years of age in 390, she cannot have been born before 361. Her parents died when she was quite young, and left her an immense fortune. In 384 or 385 she married Nebridius, Prefect of Constantinople. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, who had left Constantinople in 381, was invited to the wedding, but wrote a letter excusing his absence (Ep. cxciii, in P.G., XXXVI, 315), and sent the bride a poem (P.G., loc. cit., 1542 sqq.). Within a short time Nebridius died, and Olympias was left a childless widow. She steadfastly rejected all new proposals of marriage, determining to devote herself to the service of God and to works of charity. Nectarius, Bishop of Constantinople (381-97), consecrated her deaconess. On the death of her husband the emperor had appointed the urban prefect administrator of her property, but in 391 (after the war against Maximus) restored her the administration of her large fortune. She built beside the principal church of Constantinople a convent, into which three relatives and a large number of maidens withdrew with her to consecrate themselves to the service of God. When St. John Chrysostom became Bishop of Constantinople (398), he acted as spiritual guide of Olympias and her companions, and, as many undeserving approached the kind-hearted deaconess for support, he advised her as to the proper manner of utilizing her vast fortune in the service of the poor ( Sozomen, "Hist. eccl.", VIII, ix; P.G., LXVII, 1540). Olympias resigned herself wholly to Chrysostom's direction, and placed at his disposal ample sums for religious and charitable objects. Even to the most distant regions of the empire extended her benefactions to churches and the poor.

When Chrysostom was exiled, Olympias supported him in every possible way, and remained a faithful disciple, refusing to enter into communion with his unlawfully appointed successor. Chrysostom encouraged and guided her through his letters, of which seventeen are extant (P.G., LII, 549 sqq.); these are a beautiful memorial of the noble-hearted, spiritual daughter of the great bishop. Olympias was also exiled, and died a few months after Chrysostom. After her death she was venerated as a saint. A biography dating from the second half of the fifth century, which gives particulars concerning her from the "Historia Lausiaca" of Palladius and from the "Dialogus de vita Joh. Chrysostomi", proves the great veneration she enjoyed. During he riot of Constantinople in 532 the convent of St. Olympias and the adjacent church were destroyed. Emperor Justinian had it rebuilt, and the prioress, Sergia, transferred thither the remains of the foundress from the ruined church of St. Thomas in Brokhthes, where she had been buried. We possess an account of this translation by Sergia herself. The feast of St. Olympias is celebrated in the Greek Church on 24 July, and in the Roman Church on 17 December.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49
35 Someone may ask: How are dead people raised, and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 56:10-12, 13-14
10 In God whose word I praise, in Yahweh whose word I ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 8:4-15
4 With a large crowd gathering and people from every ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 20th, 2014 Image

Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions
September 20: Feastday: September 20 The evangelization of Korea began ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter