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St. Silvia

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(Also spelled "Sylvia").

Mother of Pope St. Gregory the Great , born about 515 (525?); died about 592.

There is unfortunately no life of Silvia and a few scanty notices are all that is extant concerning her. Her native place is sometimes given as Sicily, sometimes as Rome. Apparently she was of as distinguished family as her husband, the Roman regionarius , Gordianus. She had, besides Gregory, a second son.

Silvia was noted for her great piety, and she gave her sons an excellent education. After the death of her husband she devoted herself entirely to religion in the "new cell by the gate of blessed Paul " (cella nova juxta portam beati Pauli). Gregory the Great had a mosaic portrait of his parents executed at the monastery of St. Andrew; it is minutely described by Johannes Diaconus (P.L., LXXV, 229-30). Silvia was portrayed sitting with the face, in which the wrinkles of age could not extinguish the beauty, in full view; the eyes were large and blue, and the expression was gracious and animated.

The veneration of St. Silvia is of early date. In the ninth century an oratory was erected over her former dwelling, near the Basilica of San Saba. Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) inserted her name under 3 November in the Roman Martyrology. She is invoked by pregnant women for a safe delivery.

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