Requiem for Santarém

Requiem for Santarém
On the feast day of Saint Irene of Tomar (Santa Iria of Nabância) – (c.635 – c.653) – a devout and moral young maiden, lustfully pursued, then drugged and raped by her tutor, falsely accused of impiety and unchaste behavior, maligned by lies and finally killed on her rebuffed incredulous suitor’s orders. In time, even her existence has come to be doubted, suggesting that she never existed, that her life was mere legend or myth, that she was invented to fulfill a need or a fantasy. Thus in death as in life she is abused. Yet a Saint will endure. A Saint will not be denied. A Saint will find a way.

Requiem for Santarém

Of grey clouds hanging pregnant over the path bright
The clocks have measured out the days of forgetting
Would you care for a drink young maiden? – an old blight
It’s just fair maidenhood, nothing worth regretting

Here the river’s swift current emerges slowly
We who are removed by time know not the truth pulse
A spirit within the water of life, holy
It washes over centuries, and what is false

The vampire lives inside men, orders the beast’s pounce
Some flowers are not for plucking unless you ask
She said “no” – is that not enough Remigio? – ounce –
-of brew to make her pliable, pour it in a flask

In Tomar where the Templar’s hid their treasure vast
Where the Visigoths ravaged the land and pleasured-
-their foul flesh on the unwilling, then drunk on lust-
-buried secrets like pinched gold with guilt unmeasured

Perhaps it was not the monk but the petty prince
His name: Britald – little man full of anger’s roust
Impotent to the point of squeamishness, a wince-
-of a man – but by his command, Irene was lost

Santarém – dedicated to God and the Cross
A sun-lit flower asking only to bask in-
-learning and goodness, to seek out the guiding laws
And one of them she found – the nightfall of black sin

When the city awoke, they wept for her, cherished
What rumor and rapacity killed, yet she fades
Till her memory called into doubt now displaced
Yet lingers as soul sense when in water it wades.


Saint Irene is the patroness of raped and murdered women, of women falsely accused, of women maligned by rumor, of those falsely accused of impiety and unchaste behavior, and of those who knew and trusted men who then abused that trust. She is also the patroness of young studious girls who wish to learn, for whom learning trumps other concerns, and of all those who will not allow even death to stop their noble goals.

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