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Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project

Miracles of Mary Stories on Wealth & Privilege

By Wendy Laura Belcher

January 31, 2024

Many stories about Mary address wealth and the unfair advantages of privilege, sometimes in problematic ways, sometimes in revolutionary ways. Studying these stories brings much to light about how human beings have viewed disparity over time and space.

If you identify a story about wealth and we do not list it below, please let us know by emailing us. Stories are listed only once below, even if it is about more than one topic. Instructors may also email us to receive a lesson plan for teaching about wealth and privilege in the medieval African folktale.

For class, read the stories and view the paintings of the six required items below.

Wealthy Men Behaving Badly

The noble man from Qemer who was a cannibal and ate 78 people, gave a drop of water to a beggar, and went to heaven (required)

The rich man who angrily threw a loaf of dry bread at a beggar, cutting him, but was saved from hell by the Virgin Mary (required)

A bankrupt merchant to whom Satan offered two pearls if he would deny Christ and the Virgin Mary and they turn to sand (required)

A bishop's prayers enable his rich dead father to move from hell, body part by body part, and then go to heaven (required)

A Muslim woman who entrusted her jewels to a Christian woman for safekeeping and converted after Mary revealed that the Christian woman had lied when she said they had been stolen (required)

The prodigal son of a man who used, when he was alive, to feed two persons; the Virgin Mary promises him riches, but he finds only two grains of gold 

The rich knight who tried to gain a woman's love through gifts and was advised by an abbot to pray to the Virgin Mary instead

Saint Basil and the rich man who refused to give him a tablet for an icon of the Virgin Mary 

The knight who plotted to seduce the shoemaker's daughter, who had pledged her virginity to the Virgin Mary

A young debauched man who was ready to serve Satan but refused to deny the Virgin Mary

A knight who tried to seduce his friend's wife but repented when dead people appeared as she read aloud from the Prayer for the Dead

Two brothers from Rome who loved money, the deacon Peter and the corrupt official Stephen, were both saved from hell when Stephen restored everything he had stolen

Apflsoyas, a wealthy, incestuous man from Bethlehem Shire in Tigray, sleeps with his friends and relatives but is saved from hell by the Virgin Mary

Wealthy People Behaving Well

The pious rich man whom Satan served in hopes of destroying him and who tried to trick him through fishing, hunting, and fasting (required)

The pious official who was accused of embezzlement and of having an affair with the wife of his lord (required)

A merchant who distributed as alms the money that had been loaned to him by a friend after the merchant gave away all his wealth to the poor (required)

A pious wealthy couple decide to become monks later in life and it makes them young

A rich sinner, who had repented and planned to build a monastery, died before he could accomplish this pious goal yet was still saved from hell by the Virgin Mary

The noblewoman who was persuaded by her priest to give away her fine clothes 

The rich woman who went with the monks to the [the Church of] Manbalis [in the town of Alwa, Nubia] for prayer and there saw a vision of the Virgin Mary

A poor man become wealthy with the help of the Virgin Mary


Some nobles heard the Ta'ammera Maryam (Miracles of Mary) and became devotees, other nobles persecuted them

The daughter of the rich man from Caesarea who could not deliver her baby and almost died until taken to the church of the Virgin Mary

A Cappadocian official's beloved son who died but was raised from the dead when he was carried to the icon of the Virgin Mary

The rich merchant from Constantinople who lost all his money and made the icon of the Virgin Mary his collateral when he borrowed money

>A wealthy man to whom the Virgin Mary appeared in the form of a bird to save the countryside from pestilence.

pricenton ethiopian eritrean & egyptian miracles of marry project

The Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project is a comprehensive resource for the 1,000+ miracle stories written about and the 2,500+ images painted of the Virgin Mary in these African countries, and preserved in Geʿez between 1300 and the present.

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