Saint Quiteria
Santa Quitéria - Escola Portuguesa, séc. XVIII.png
18th-century Portuguese painting of Quiteria.
Virgin and Martyr
Born 2nd Century
Braga, Lusitania (now Portugal)
Died 2nd century
traditionally Aire-sur-l'Adour
Venerated in Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church[1]
Canonized 1716 by Pope Clement XI
Major shrine Aire-sur-l'Adour
Kuthenkuly(not officially declared)
Feast 22 May
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;[2] Higueruela; Meca (Alenquer).

Saint Quiteria (Spanish: Quiteria; Catalan: Quitèria; Occitan: Quiteira; French: Quitterie; Portuguese: Quitéria; Tamil: கித்தேரியம்மாள் Kittēriyammāḷ) was a second-century virgin martyr about whom nothing is certain except her name and her cult. She appears in the Roman Martyrology, but not in any other ancient calendars (such as the Martyrologium Hieronymianum).


Quiteria may be derived from Kythere (or Kyteria, Kuteria), a title applied to the Phoenician goddess Astarte which meant "the red one",[2] or from (the possibly related name) Cytherea, an epithet of the Greek goddess Aphrodite because she was born on the island of Kythira. Such origins of the name suggest to some that Quiteria is fictional.


She is said to have been born in Bracara (now Braga, Portugal) to Lucius Catilius Serves, Roman governor of Gallaecia and Lusitania, and Calcia, his wife. 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. Her sister, Liberata, also suffered the same fate in the forest of Montus and lies in a 14th-century sarcophagus in the fortified church of Saint Jean Baptiste in Mazéres 32 km from her sister Quiteria in Aire-sur-l'Adour . There is a Church dedicated to her at Kuthenkully, a coastal village in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu .

Quiteria and the Nonuplet sisters

Portuguese religious traditions state that Saint Quiteria was the leader of the "Nonuplet Sisters," who were named Eumelia (Euphemia); Liberata (Virgeforte); Gema (Marina of Aguas Santas, 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 (or an animal), 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. 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. (citation needed) and she is the Patron Saint of rabies

Miracles in Kuthenkuly

St. Quiteria's statue was first brought to Kuthenkuly by Thommai Rayan, who prayed to her for an heir. His wife gave birth to a boy child and he named his son Kitherian (masculine name for Kitheriammal). He built a Chapel and kept her statue. Later many miracles held at Kuthenkuly so the people made a crown and decided to offer it to her. While the crown was being taken to the church, an eagle took the crown and flew away, so the people were afraid. St. Quiteria came in the dream of Santhacruz and said "Santhacruz, wake up, go to the Church and get my Crown." Immediately he went to the church and saw a broken piece of the crown but the other piece was not there. He searched on the top of the palm tree where he found the other piece. Later the crown was fixed and offered to her statue.

Alternate legend

Other Portuguese traditions make her a native of Bracara (Braga, Portugal) who was decapitated and thrown into the sea. This legend states that she emerged from the water with her head in her hands, and is thus sometimes represented as such. However, she is not considered one of the Cephalophores because there is no written record to support this. 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 2018 after a proclamation was made by its bishop.[3]



  1. ^ (in Greek) Ἡ Ἁγία Κουϊτερία ἡ Μάρτυς. 22 Μαΐου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  2. ^ a b portcult.com Archived February 19, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ http://arre-burro.weblog.com.pt/arquivo/2004_10.html

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