[Editor’s note: March is Women’s History Month and CBE is celebrating by highlighting some admirable women from church history that you may or may not be familiar with. Each post this month will have short biographies on a few of these women who lived during a certain time period. We hope you find this month-long series enriching and enlightening.]
Nino was a great woman apostle in the fourth century, best known for her preaching and healing in the Iberian kingdom (present-day Georgia), although prior to that she helped her uncle spread the gospel around Rome. Nino healed Queen Nana of Iberia from a severe illness. This incident caused the queen to convert to Christianity and be baptized by Nino, despite the king’s intolerance for Christians.
The king threatened to divorce his wife, but soon changed his mind about that decision as well as Christianity after experiencing a conversion experience much like the apostle Paul’s. He became a Christian, got baptized, and preached to his own kingdom of his experience.
Nino was able to live and work in the community for the rest of her life, witnessing and being a part of many of the conversions in the Iberian community. The first church in Iberia was commissioned and built in the year 334. She died shortly after this turn of events. Her tomb can still be seen from the churchyard as the king wished it to be.
Macrina the Younger
Macrina the younger was arranged to be married at the age of twelve, but her fiancé passed away due to illness before the wedding. Believing it wouldn’t be right to marry another man, Macrina dwelled heavily on her identity as a virgin, choosing Christ as her bridegroom, and devoting herself to becoming a nun. She was a profound influence on those around her, living a simple and humble life, spending hours of her day in prayer. Much of her life was spent gathering women in her community that had similar goals and ambitions, as well as caring for the poor and hungry women around her.
While Macrina is little-known by many Christians, especially in the West, we all feel her influence. Her younger brothers, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa are two of the most famous church fathers, and shaped Christian theology. They readily acknowledge that their sister Macrina inspired and influenced them profoundly. Gregory devoted an entire work to his older sister, hailing her as the standard for Christian women. Another brother, Peter of Sebaste, an ascetic and bishop, owed his theological education to Macrina, who oversaw his spiritual education. It is difficult to overstate the influence of this humble woman on the history of Christianity.
Leoba, born with the name Leofgyth, was a miracle baby, born to parents considered to be old and barren. As she grew older, Archbishop Boniface (a distant cousin to her mother and friend of her father’s) began to ask her to accompany him on journeys to Germany to spread Christianity. Leoba, a virtuous woman even at a young age, agreed to this because of a dream she had, believing it was from God.
Leoba was entrusted with great authority while in Germany—many bishops consulted her on various issues. She was the only woman allowed in the monastery in Fulda, a major cultural and religious center of Charlemagne’s empire. Leoba was considered to be responsible for many miracles, including saving villages and people from fires and storms and healing a fellow nun who was ill. All miracles Leoba performed, she credited to prayer. She died in September 782 and was laid in a tomb near Boniface.