Martyrs of Memphis icon.
 Haller, Tobias Stanislas

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Title:Martyrs of Memphis icon

Matthew 25:31-46, today's gospel reading, is familiar to us, as we hear Christ speaking to us, saying "I was sick and you took care of me..." Sometimes this pastoral call comes at a great price, as shown by the lives of the Martyrs of Memphis.

This icon depicts "Constance and her companions," four Episcopal nuns and two priests who died caring for Yellow Fever victims (the sick and orphaned) at St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Memphis, Tennessee, 1878. Memphis suffered periodic epidemics of yellow fever, a mosquito-borne viral infection, throughout the 19th Century. The worst of the epidemics occurred in the summer of 1878, when 5,150 Memphians died. During this time, the Cathedral was considered the “religious center of the city,” because the doors remained open and the Sacraments were always available.

When the 1878 epidemic struck, a number of priests and nuns (protestant and catholic), doctors, and even prostitutes stayed behind to tend to the sick and dying. The Episcopal nuns' superior, Sister Constance, three other Episcopal nuns, and two Episcopal priests are known throughout the Anglican Communion as "Constance and Her Companions" or the "Martyrs of Memphis."

We give thee thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the Heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and the dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death. Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ...


Artist:Haller, Tobias Stanislas
Building:Fessenden House, Brotherhood of St. Gregory
Object/Function:Painting, panel
Country:United States

Scripture:Matthew 25:31-46
Lectionary links:ANYDy
General Subject:Martyrs

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Copyright Permission:This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to use and to share the file for non-commercial purposes under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license compatible with this one. For uses other than the above, contact the Divinity Library at
Attribution:Haller, Tobias Stanislas. Martyrs of Memphis icon, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved August 12, 2020]. Original source:
Record Number:54194 Last Updated: 2012-11-28 15:43:18 Record Created: 2009-02-03 11:19:38
Institution:Vanderbilt University Unit: Collection: Art in the Christian Tradition