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Saint Macrina the Younger (c. 330 – 19 July 379) was a nun in the Early Christian Church and is a prominent saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox churches. Her younger brother, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, wrote about her life focusing heavily on her virginity and asceticism.

Macrina the Younger
Macrina the Younger.jpg
Bornc. 330
Caesarea, Cappadocia
Died19 July 379
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion
FeastJuly 19
June 14 (with Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzus; Lutheranism)


Macrina was born at Caesarea, Cappadocia. Her parents were Basil the Elder and Emmelia, and her grandmother was Saint Macrina the Elder. Among her nine siblings were two of the three Cappadocian Fathers, her younger brothers Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nyssa, as well as Peter of Sebaste and the famous Christian jurist Naucratius. Her father arranged for her to marry but her fiancé died before the wedding. After having been betrothed to her fiancé, Macrina did not believe it was appropriate to marry another man, but saw Christ as her eternal bridegroom.[1] Instead, she devoted herself to her religion, becoming a nun.

Macrina had a profound influence upon her brothers and her mother with her adherence to an ascetic ideal. Her brother Gregory of Nyssa wrote a work entitled Life of Macrina in which he describes her sanctity throughout her life. Macrina lived a chaste and humble life, devoting her time to prayer and the spiritual education of her younger brother, Peter. Gregory presents her as one who consciously rejected all Classical education, choosing instead devoted study of Scripture and other sacred writings.

In 379, Macrina died at her family's estate in Pontus, which with the help of her younger brother Peter she had turned into a monastery and convent. Gregory of Nyssa composed a "Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection" (peri psyches kai anastaseos), entitled ta Makrinia (P.G. XLVI, 12 sq.), to commemorate Macrina, in which Gregory purports to describe the conversation he had with Macrina on her deathbed, in a literary form modelled on Plato's Phaedo.[2] Even on her deathbed, Macrina continued to live a life of sanctity, as she refused a bed, and instead chose to lie on the ground. Her feast day is the 19 July.

Saint Macrina is significant in that her brother, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, was able to set standards for being a holy Early Christian woman. He believed that virginity reflected the “radiant purity of God.”[3]


Universalists, including Hosea Ballou and J. W. Hanson, claim Macrina as a Universalist in her teachings, citing works which they believe demonstrate Macrina's belief that the wicked would all eventually confess Christ.[4][5][6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Peter Brown, The Body and Society, Columbia University Press, 1988, 272.
  2. ^ Susan Ashbrook Harvey, 'Women and words', in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres, Andrew Louth, eds, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, (2010), p385
  3. ^ Peter Brown, The Body and Society, Columbia University Press, 1988, 272.
  4. ^ Hosea Ballou The ancient history of universalism p 173 "His grandmother, Macrina, under whom he received his juvenile education, and his first impressions of piety, had been, in her youth, a hearer of Gregory Thaumaturgus, in Pontus ; for whom she inspired her young scholar with a profound and lasting veneration. "
  5. ^ J. W. Hanson Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church 1889 p 105
  6. ^ Note: the clause 'in purgatory' was removed because of its biased nature. Disputes between Catholic and Orthodox Churches about the literal existence of purgatory are ongoing.


  • Bear, Carl. "Funeral Music in Early Christianity." Cross Accent 22, no 3 (2014): 4-14.
  • Burrus, V. "Macrina's Tattoo." In The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender, Asceticism, and Historiography, edited by Dale B. Martin and P. Cox Miller. 103-116. Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
  • Burrus, Virginia. "Is Macrina a Woman? Gregory of Nyssa's Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection." In The Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology, edited by Graham Ward. 249-264. Malden: Blackwell, 2001.
  • Dury, John L. "Gregory of Nyssa's Dialogue with Macrina: The Compatibility of Resurrection of the Body and the Immortality of the Soul." Theology Today 62, no. 2 (2005): 210-222.
  • Frank, Georgia. "Macrina's Scar: Homeric Allusions and Heroic Identity in Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina." Journal of Early Christian Studies 8, no. 4 (2000): 511-530.
  • Helleman, Wendy. "Cappadocian Macrina as Lady Wisdom." In Studia Patristica. 86-102. Louvain: Peeters, 2001.
  • Hotz, Kendra G. "Speaking Funk: Womanist Insights into the Lives of Syncletica and Macrina." In Women, Writing, Theology: Transforming a Tradition of Exclusion, edited by Emily A. Holmes and Wendy Farley. 71-94. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011.
  • Jallistos, Metr and Ralph Townsend. "The House of St Gregory and St Macrina: The First Quarter Century." Sobornost 6, no. 2 (1984): 55-63.
  • Johnson, Maria P. "Daughter, Sister, Philosopher, Angel: The Life and Influence of St Macrina the Younger." Diakonia 31, no. 3 (1998): 176-186.
  • Levering, Matthew. "The Dying of Macrina and Death with Dignity." Trinity Journal 38, no. 1 (2017): 29-52.
  • McDonald, Durstan. "Macrina: The Fourth Capadocian?" In Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church, edited by Pauline Allen. 1:367-373. Everton Park: Australian Catholic University Press, 1998.
  • McNary-Zak, Bernadette. "Gregory of Nyssa and His Sister Macrina: A Holy Alliance." Cithara 45, no. 1 (2005): 3-12.
  • Muehlberger, Ellen. "Salvage: Macrina and the Christian Project of Cultural Reclamation." Church History 81, no. 2 (2012): 273-297.
  • Pranger, M.B. "Narrative Dimensions in Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina." In Studia Patristica.. 201-207. Louvain: Peeters, 1997.
  • Rousseau, Philip. "The Pious Household and the Virgin Chorus." Journal of Early Christian Studies 13, no 2 (2005): 165-186.
  • Sheather, Mary. "The Eulogies on Macrina and Gorgonia: Or, What Difference Did Christianity Make?" Pacfica 8, no. 1 (1995): 22-39.
  • Silvas, Anna M. Macrina the Younger. Philosopher of God. Turnhout: Brepols, 2008. ISBN 978-2-503-52390-3
  • Smith, J Warren. "A Just and Reasonable Grief: The Death and Function of a Holy Woman in Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina." Journal of Early Christian Studies 13, no 2 (2005): 57-84.
  • Smith, J. Warren. "Macrina, Tamer of Horses and Healer of Souls: Grief and the Therapy of Hope in Gregory of Nyssa's De Anima et Resurrectione". Journal of Theological Studies 52, no. 1 (2001): 37-60.
  • Van Loveran, A.E.D. "Once Again: 'The Monk and the Martyr': St Anthony and St Macrina." In Studia Patristica. 528-538. Elmsford: Pergamon Press, 1982.
  • Wilson-Kastner, Patricia. "Macrina: Virgin and Teacher." Andrews University Seminary Studies 17, no. 1 (1979): 105-117.

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