The Teenage Martyr Who Heals Broken Hearts

Tortured to death in 303, Sainte Foy, or St. Faith, continues to work miracles in the French town that houses her relics

Excerpted with permission from "Little Saint" by Hannah Green (Random House, 2000).

While living in the remote village of Conques in southwestern France, writer Hannah Green fell in love with the town's patron saint, Sainte Foy (St. Faith). The saint was a 13-year-old girl who, according to legend, was martyred in the year 303. Sainte Foy is credited with many miracles over the centuries. One of her most recent was the cure of the broken heart of Green's artist-friend Jean Ségalat, a Conques resident who had fallen into a deep depression after his love, Emanuelle, committed suicide.

My husband and I stop, arrested by the empty window looking out from the apartment just above us, where Jean Ségalat lived with his beloved Emanuelle that summertime, those autumn weeks, when they were together here in Conques.

It is almost unconsciously that we are compelled to stop here beneath their window, to look up and think of our friend and to feel the cold and dusty emptiness of the room within, for no one has come to live here since Emanuelle's suicide.

"She was folle," said the wife of an old friend of Jean's. She repeated that Emanuelle was mad; "She was not the woman for him."

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And yet she was the woman for him--the last, the only, the one he would die for.

She had been rash, others said. She had burned her bridges. She had run off to be with Jean, but still her husband would not give her a divorce. Perhaps it was that.she was distraught.. There was a certain amount of scandal, of course, so perhaps it was that.unhappiness.anger.confusion..

Should she have? Despair was eating at her heart when there should have been the pure summer bliss of love. He loved her well, she knew, but she felt empty, detached; she began to think that living with Jean Ségalat, loving him, wasn't what she wanted after all.

She was impulsive.impetuous. She had been drinking, so perhaps she hadn't intended.like a child playing with fire.perhaps..

She stood before the mirror in the bathroom stuffing the pills into her pretty mouth and swallowing them, drunk and sad and all alone, hating God the Father.

The summer after Emanuelle's death, Jean came back to Conques, and he opened the gallery that was going to be for her. He gave the gallery her name, and day after day, as he does still, he sat there in the Galerie Emanuelle, working at his ink drawings, and minding the gallery as well.

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