EWTN Catholic Q&A
Episcopa Theodora
Question from Diane Sulpizio on 10-07-2005:

Does anyone know about the woman bishop Episcopa Theodora? There is a mosaic of her in the Church of St. Pre....???

Did she exist?

Answer by Anthony Dragani on 12-02-2005:


"Theodora Episcopa" refers to an inscription found in a mosaic at the Basilica of St. Prudentia and Praexedis in Rome. It is usually translated as "Bishop Theodora," and is often pointed to as evidence that women were bishops in the early Christian Church.

Actually, Theodora was the mother of Pope Paschal I, who built this church in honor of his mother. Why is she referred to as "Episcopa?" Throughout the first millenium, it was very common for the wives of bishops, priests, and deacons to take on the honorary title of their husbands. Many bishops wives were known as "Episcopa," for example. This sort of practice lasted longer in the Eastern Churches. In the case of Theodora, she was probably given this honorary title because her son was the bishop of Rome.

God bless, Anthony