Monday, November 20, 2017

Female Martyrs of the 4th Century

Beatrice (Beatrix) was martyred with her brothers Simpliciu and Faustinus during the Diocletian persecution.  Simplicius and Faustinus were beaten with clubs, and finally beheaded and thrown into the Tiber.  Beatrix had the bodies drawn out of the water and buried.  For seven months Beatrix lived with a pious widow named Lucina and together they offered hospitality to persecuted Christians healing their wounds and feeding them.  When she was arrested and strangled to death in prison, Lucina buried her with her brothers in the cemetery on the Via Portuensis in 303 CE. 

Juliana was the daughter of a pagan prince who betrothed her to the Senator Eleusius. Her father was violently opposed to Christianity, but Juliana secretly converted and was baptized.  When the time came for her to marry, she refused.  Her fiancé, who was also the governor, ordered her to be flogged.  Then he had hung her by her hair until it was pulled from her scalp.  He promised to allow her to worship her God freely if she married him.   When she refused again, he burned her face on a grate.  Many pagans who witnessed her torture were so moved by her courage that they converted to Christianity.  The Senator had them all beheaded in 304 CE.  A wealthy noble woman named Sephonia took Juliana's body and gave it a proper burial in Campania.

Restituta was born at Teniza (Tunisia) and tortured under Diocletian. She was placed in boat loaded with oakum and resin that was set ablaze.  It is unknown whether she burned to death or drowned.  A local Christian woman named Lucina found the incorrupt body of Restituta on the beach and had it solemnly buried at the foot of Monte Vico in Lacco Ameno, where a basilica was dedicated to her.  Some of her relics were brought to Naples in the fifth century and a church was built in her honor in Naples in the sixth century .  The church was later incorporated into the Cathedral of Naples built on the same site.  The date of her death is believed to be 304 CE.

Lucia (Lucy) was born of rich and noble parents about the year 283 CE.  Her father was of Roman origin, but he died when she was five years old, leaving Lucia and her mother without a guardian.  Her mother was suffering from a bleeding disorder and feared for Lucia's future so she arranged for her daughter to marry a wealthy young pagan.  Lucia convinced her mother to make a pilgrimage to Catania where was cured.  In gratitude her mother allowed her to consecrate her virginity to God and distribute her dowry among the poor.  Her fiancé, however, took offense and turned her over to the authorities who gouged out her eyes before beheading her with a sword in 304 CE.

Crispina was born at Thagara (Tunisia) into a distinguished family and became a wealthy matron with many children. On being ordered to sacrifice to the gods she declared she believed in only one God.  The judge ordered her head to be shaved and subjected her to public mockery. Despite the tears of her children, she refused to recant and offered her neck to the swordsman who beheaded her in 304 CE.

Febronia was another virgin who refused to renounce her faith and marry.  For this she was brutally tortured an mutilated with pliers until she died in 304 CE.  Having witnessed her courageous suffering, her fiancé converted and was also executed.

Agnes of Rome was a member of the Roman nobility and raised in an early Catholic family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. When she spurned the offer of marriage to the prefect’s son, he condemned her to be dragged naked through the streets to brothel.  When she was expelled from the brothel for failing to submit, she was bound to a stake to be burned.  The bundle of wood would not burn, and the officer in charge drew his sword and beheaded her in 304 CE.  She was buried beside the Via Nomentana in Rome, and the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura was later built over the catacomb where her relics are interred.  Her skull was sent for veneration in a separate chapel in the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in the Piazza Navona.   Her foster sister Emerentiana was stoned to death for reprimanding her sister's executioners shortly after her martyrdom.

Catherine of Alexandria was a princess and a scholar, who became a Christian around the age of fourteen after a vision of the Madonna and Child.  When Maxentius began his persecutions, she rebuked him for his cruelty. The emperor summoned fifty of the best pagan philosophers and orators to dispute with her, but she won the debate converting several of her adversaries in the process.  The emperor ordered them killed and had Catherine scourged and thrown in prison.  She continued to win converts while in prison, including Maxentius' wife, Valeria.  The emperor executed them all and asked Catherine to marry him.  When she refused, she was condemned to die on a spike wheel, but the wheel shattered at her touch, and she was beheaded in 305 CE.

Theodosia was born in Tyre (Lebanon) in 290 CE and was martyred at the age of seventeen in 307 CE.  She made her way to Caesarea in Palestine and went to the public square where many Christians were in chains awaiting interrogation. As she began encouraging them and praising their courage, she was seized by the guards and tortured when she refused to reject Christianity.  Her sides were raked with combs until her ribs were torn and her bowels visible.  Then she was thrown into the sea.  Having spent his fury on Theodosia, the governor sent the other Christians into slavery without inflicting any torture upon them. 

Fausta was a thirteen year old girl who was arrested, tortured, and executed for being a Christian in 311 CE.  Evilasius, the man responsible for torturing and executing her, converted to Christianity after watching her courageous death and was also martyred.