In a previous posting we looked at the iconography of St. “Friday-Friday” (Paraskeva Pyatnitsa); today we will look at that of St. Sunday — the female megalomartyr Kyriake.
Here is an image of her inscribed in Greek:
As you can see, the icon shows the effects of time and paint loss, but fortunately the most important parts of the image remain — including the title at the top, which we can emend as ἉΓΙΑ ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ —Hagia Kyriake — “Holy Kyriake” — or in modern Greek pronunciation, Kyriaki. We can even see — at left — the top of the martyr’s cross she held in her right hand, which is common in her iconography.
Kyriake is usually depicted with a simple white headcovering, but sometimes she is also — as in this example — given a crown on top of it.
Kyriake is the Greek word for Sunday. Supposedly she was so named because she was born on Sunday. In Bulgaria she is known as Sveta Nedelya (Света Неделя) — “Holy Sunday.”
Now whether Kyriake was created as the personification of Sunday — the day of the Resurrection — or whether she was an actual person is sometimes disputed. In Eastern Orthodoxy she is given her traditional hagiographic tale as a young woman who was martyred under Emperor Diocletian. The tale relates that a magistrate of Nicomedia wanted to marry her to his son, but she refused, telling him she was betrothed to Christ. He then denounced her to the authorities as a Christian, and she was supposedly tortured for her refusal to worship the gods and eventually beheaded. The tale of her martyrdom has the usual extravagant and fantastic elements common to much hagiography.