Julia (also known as Saint Julia of Carthage or Saint Julia of Nonza) was born of noble aristocratic parents in Carthage (South Africa). Given the high-profile nature of the city, it was also subject to numerous barbarian attacks, and the city’s defenses had crumbled. During one attack by the Vandals, Julia was taken from her family, and sold into slavery. Despite her dire circumstances, she did not complain or feel sorry for herself. Rather, Julia accepted everything as a gift of the Lord, and performed the most humble tasks with wonderful cheerfulness.
Her master, Eusebius, was a pagan who admired so great a virtue in service. When Julia’s duties were done and she was granted the servant’s time off, she spent her spare time either in reading or insisting on praying. She grew pale and thin from fasting despite the threats and blandishments of her master, but her mind, intent on Heaven, fed daily on God’s words.
Eusebius, who was charmed with her fidelity and other virtues, thought proper to take her with him on one of his voyages to Gaul. When he reached the northern part of Corsica, he cast anchor and went ashore to join the pagans of the place in an idolatrous festival. Julia was left at some distance, because she would not be defiled by the superstitious ceremonies, which she openly spurned.
The governor of the island, Felix, a bigoted pagan, asked who this woman was who dared to insult the gods. The merchant informed him that she was a Christian, and that all his authority over her was too weak to prevail upon her to renounce her religion; nonetheless, he found her so diligent and faithful he could not part with her. Then Felix gave him some options: “Either compel her to give offerings to our gods, or give her to me in exchange for whichever four of my handmaidens please you, or for the price that was set for her.”
But Eusebius replied, “No; all you are worth will not purchase her; for I would lose the most valuable thing I have in the world rather than be deprived of her.”
The penalty for disrespecting the rights of Roman citizens was severe, and the girl was the property of Eusebius. He could do as he liked with her. However, disrespecting the state gods was a crime punishable by death, which the magistrate could only overlook at his own risk. So, Felix prepared a banquet, and waited until good Eusebius became intoxicated and fell into a deep sleep.
Straightway a raging mob of gentiles boarded the ship and placed Julia on the shore. Felix said: “Sacrifice to the gods, girl. I will give your master as much as he likes and dissolve the bond of your state.”
However, Julia replied: “Libertas mea Christi servitium est, cui ego quotidie pura mente deservio. Ceterum istum vestrum errorem non solum non veneror, verum etiam detestor.” (My liberty is the service of Christ, whom I serve every day with a pure mind. As for that error of yours, I not only do not venerate it, I detest it.)
The tribune ordered that she be struck blows to the face. That done, she said that as Christ was struck for her, why should she not be struck for him? Then the most cruel serpent ordered that she be ‘tortured by the hair’, later described as mollitia, or hair of her head to be torn off. Then she was flogged, to which she replied in the same way, that if Christ was flogged and crowned with thorns for her, why should she not endure this diminishment of the hair, which she calls the vexillum fidei, the ‘flag of faith.’
In the midst of these torments, the Saint continued to confess her faith with ever greater ardor. “I confess Him,” she cried, “who for love for me has endured the torment of the flagellation. For if my Lord was crowned with thorns for me, was nailed to the tree of the Cross, wherefore ought I refuse to let my hair be torn from my head as price for the confession of my faith, that I might be worthy to seize the palm of martyrdom?”
The serpent, fearful of being indicted for cruelty, hurried the process along by ordering ‘the handmaiden of Christ’ to be placed on the patibulum of a cross.
Eusebius was awakened at this time. As he let go the bonds of sleep, the saint, with mind released from the flesh, victress over suffering, took happy flight with the angels to the stars of heaven. Another manuscript cited by Ruinart has a columba, a ‘dove’, flying from her mouth.