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Pelagia was a 15-year-old Christian virgin. Soldiers came in search of her, during the Diocletian persecution, in order to force her to offer publicly a heathen sacrifice.
She was alone in the house. She came out to the soldiers and when she learned the order they had to execute, she requested permission to go again into the house in order to put on other clothing. This was granted to her.
The girl knowing what was before her and not willing to expose herself to the danger of being dishonored, went up to the roof of the house and threw herself into the sea. In this manner she died, as virgin and martyr, and was honored as such by the Antiochene Church.
There is a later legend of a Pelagia who is said to have led the life of a prostitute at Antioch and to have been converted by a bishop named Nonnus. According to the story she went to Jerusalem where disguised as a man and under the name of Pelagius she led a life of self-mortification in a grotto on the Mount of Olives. The author of this legend who calls himself the Deacon Jacob has drawn the essential part of his narrative from the 48th homily of St. Chrysostom on the Gospel of St. Matthew.
In this homily the preacher relates the conversion of a celebrated actress of Antioch whose name he does not give. As no old authority makes any mention of a Pelagia in Jerusalem, no doubt the alleged converted woman is a purely legendary recasting of the historical Pelagia.
In the East, the feast of this second Pelagia is observed on the same day (Oct. 8).