There are several stories about Saint Onuphrius, but the story that best matches the fresco at the church in Nevsehir of this beautiful woman with a beard seems to be this one:
A Tale of Saint Onuphrius: Onuphria was a pious young woman who lived with her family in the village. Despite her youth, she was already well known for the quality of her weaving. She was also known for her tremendous beauty.
Many a suitor came to Onuphria’s family home, but her parents wanted for her only the best–someone with money. One day, a wealthy merchant came to ask for Onuphria’s hand. Savvy, though foolish and burning with lust for her, the merchant saw at once that the prize was his for the asking.
And, indeed, Onuphria’s parents consented to the marriage almost immediately. The betrothal ceremony was to take place the next day. Determined not to fall into the hands of one so rough, Onuphria meditated and prayed all night. She turned the hand of God to her face and made upon it a long beard.
At church the next day, no one suspected anything until Onuphria drew back her veil. The merchant was revolted and stormed out. Onuphria’s parents accused her of commerce with the devil. Outraged, they ordered her away.
Guided by the Deity, Onuphria ran away into the forest and entered a cave. She removed her maiden’s clothing and burned them. For twelve years, Onuphria lived simply in the cave. She ate little, prayed and meditated, and listened only to the voice of God. Her hair and beard grew very long, disguising her female form. During this time, seekers of wisdom began to speak of a wise old hermit in the woods.
1. Sirça ceramic collection
2. Yilanli Church (Snake Church of St.Onuphrius) at Nevsehir