At some point, when I was a child, I received a bookmark or some small card that explained the meaning of my name:
"Stephanie" is a feminine form of Stephen, and it means "crowned one".
I think I was slightly embarrassed by the implied royalty of that definition. I didn't really feel like a princess, but I liked the suggestion that somehow I was identified as having some special value. Who knows whether that suggestion of specialness had some effect on my personality - or how much of an affect. Beyond the implication of being special, I never looked further into what my name might mean. -- Until I was in Italy last year.
If you are in Florence for long enough, and you visit all of the must-see sights enough times, you begin to look carefully to find the things you are missing. On our previous three trips to Florence, we had always missed the museum of Orsanmichele. Orsanmichele is church that was originally a granary. We had already visited the church to see the painting of the Madonna and Child that is believed to be miraculous and is now housed in an incredibly elaborate altar, but the church is not the museum. You must enter a narrow doorway tucked in the corner to the left of the entrance. Through this small doorway is a very steep and tight climb to the second floor. The first floor, which is the church, has such high-arched ceilings it is hard to image a floor above it, much less two floors, but there they are.
Orsanmichele is most famous for the statues of saints that adorn the exterior of the building. The statues represented the patron saints of the guilds of Florence. They were sculpted by famous artists of the Renaissance such as Verrocchio, Ghiberti, and Donatello. Today the sculptures you see on the exterior of the building are copies; many of the originals are housed in the museum on the second floor, which is only open on Mondays. (The third floor holds a few more of the original exterior sculptures, but mainly it has large windows that offer views of the Duomo and other sights of Florence.)
Although we arrived in Florence in early January, we did not make it to the second floor museum until late March. My calendar shows that after that first Monday, we went to the museum seven times before we left Italy at the end of May. Nearly every Monday found us sitting on the benches around the edges of the second floor, looking at the sculptures and the other visitors. Brian made several well-developed drawings during these visits.
Saint Stephen (by Ghiberti)
As Brian drew, I would write, or watch, or examine the sculptures, or look at the views from the third floor. I chose a favorite sculpture - a calm-faced man, with a tonsure (the hairstyle of a monk). It took several weeks for me to wonder who this saint was; I was content to look at his face and the graceful gesture of his robes. To my surprise, this saint was my namesake: Stephen. Did his name, too, mean "crowned one"?
St. Stephen was a Greek who converted to Christianity and became a preacher. At some point, he was asked to denounce Christianity; he refused and was stoned to death. He is considered the first martyr of Christianity, so he was the first to wear "the martyr's crown." Thomas Aquinas describes the martyr's crown as a special halo that allows its wearers to share in divine power. While Stephen's Greek name might have come from an Arabic word that means "crown", it seems that the connection of the name Stephen with a crown also relates directly with his martyrdom. Wikipedia article - if you are interested.
This new facet of the meaning of my name is puzzling. I never really knew what "crowned one" meant or what I might be (or was) crowned with. One usually images laurels or jewels as crowns. A crown of martyrdom was not part of the self-image that developed as a connection with my name. A princess and a martyr are very different things.
On a related note: St. Stephen is the patron saint of stonemasons, which is my father-in-law's occupation.