Saint Faith, also known as Saint Faith of Conques, was a young girl from Agen in Aquitaine. Born in the third century CE, she became a martyr for the Christian faith when she was killed by the Romans because she refused to make pagan sacrifices even under torture.
Faith was tortured and killed with a red-hot brazier, and it is believed that at the time of her death she was only 12 years old. The center of her worship was the Abbey of Sainte-Foy, Conques, where her relics are kept. The relics arrived in Conques in the 9th century after they were stolen from Agen by a monk.
Her cult became popular in many countries such as Italy, England, and South America after it was spread along the pilgrim routes on the Way of St. James. The correct time of her death is not known and there are a lot of legends about her.
She was confused with the three sisters known as Faith, Hope, and Charity and she is celebrated with a story in the earliest written work in the Catalan language between 1054 and 1076, Canco de Santa Fe, written during the reign of Roman Berenguer I, Count of Barcelona. Pilgrims and noble people started visiting the isolated town of Conques because Saint Faith became very popular is Southern France.
The Abbey of Sainte-Foy in Conques was a stop along the route to the shrine of Saint James at Compostela. It became a popular place in Southern France because people believed that miracles were happening there which were associated with Saint Faith, who was particularly good at curing blindness. There is a gilded reliquary in the abbey, which was one of the most famous in all of Europe.
The head was made from a different gold from the body and it was identified as an imperial portrait of the Later Roman Empire which was reused as a pubescent girl’s face. In medieval times, the church used the relic for curing diseases, sight, and paralysis. The latest theory about the golden face was by Thomas Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art who believed that it is a portrait or death mask of Charlemagne.
In 1365, some of Saint Faith’s relics were moved to the monastery of Saint Cigat in Catalonia. However, the golden reliquary can still be seen in the Abbey of Saint-Foy at Conques in France. The whole church provides a remarkable example of Romanesque art and architecture.
Even today, people come to Conques to pay respect to Saint Faith. A great celebration is held for her every October in medieval tradition. Through the centuries, important churches were dedicated to her in Normandy, and at Selestat in Alsace.