Faith on Friday: The Emperor and the Actress

Justian and Theodora

Justian and Theodora

In the Orthodox Church, we commemorate numerous saints every day of the calendar year. Two of the saints who are commemorated on November 15 are the Emperor and Empress Justinian I and Theodora I.

Why did I single them out to write about for my Faith on Friday post? Because of their unlikely marriage and the effect it had on their people. You see, Theodora (like her parents) was an actress. And probably also a prostitute, since the two professions often went hand in hand in the 6th century. In order to marry Theodora, Justinian had to change a law so that actresses were allowed to marry into high society. She was 15 years younger than Justinian, but he loved her passionately.

Empress Theodora and her attendants

Empress Theodora and her attendants

Justinian set about to rebuild the Roman Empire by creating law schools and revamping its legal system. He also brought beautiful architecture to the Empire, the most shining example being Hagia Sophia, the crowning jewel of Byzantine architecture, in Constantinople. His love of beauty is one of the reasons I decided to write about him today. And I’m thankful that the Orthodox Church commemorates both him and his wife every year.

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