Sunday, November 19, 2017

Female Martyrs of the 3rd Century

Perpetua was the mother of a nursing infant when she was arrested along with her pregnant servant Felicity.   They and several other members of the household were undergoing instruction in the Christian faith when they were arrested.  Perpetua insisted on being baptized before she was imprisoned along with the infant she was still nursing. Her father tried several times to convince her to recant, but she refused. 

Felicity gave birth in prison and both babies were turned over to Perpetua’s mother for safe-keeping.  The two women were whipped by gladiators, gored by a wild cow and finally beheaded in 203 CE.  Later a major basilica was built over their tombs in Carthage.       

Philippa, the mother of a Roman soldier named Theodore, was crucified for the faith along with her son and three other men in 220 CE.

Martina was orphaned at an early age and arrested for professing the Christian faith.  She was subjected to scourging, set upon by wild beasts and set on fire before finally being beheaded in 226 CE.  Her executioners converted to Christianity after her death and were also beheaded.

Cecilia was a Roman noblewoman who suffered martyrdom with her husband Valerian, his brother and another Roman soldier.  After being struck three times on the neck with a sword, Cecilia lived on and asked the Pope to convert her home into a church after her death.  She died three days later and was buried at the Catacombs of Saint Callistus in 230 CE.  Later her remains were moved to the basilica of Santa Cecilia built on the site of her home in Rome.

Tatiana, the daughter of a Roman civil servant, secretly converted to the Christian faith and was captured by a jurist who tried to force her to make a sacrifice to Apollo. She prayed for God to save her and an earthquake destroyed the temple and the statue of Apollo.  For this offense, she was blinded, beaten and thrown into a pit with lion, but the lion lay down at her feet leaving her unharmed.  She was subjected to several more gruesome tortures before being beheaded in 230 CE.

Appolonia, a chaste deaconess held in high esteem, suffered martyrdom during the persecutions in Alexandria when a pagan mob was incited to violence against her.  They seized her, beat her and broke out all of her teeth, and then threatened to throw her on a burning pyre if she did not invoke the pagan gods.  Rather than blaspheme, she leaped into the fire willingly sacrificing herself for the faith.   A group of virgins loyal to her were similarly threatened and followed her example, willingly choosing death by plunging themselves into the waves rather than renounce their faith.  Appolonia was martyred in 249 CE and a church was dedicated to her near the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome.  Only the piazza named in her honor remains.

Dominica (Cyriaca) was a Roman widow and patroness of Saint Lawrence who used her home and resources to welcome and feed the poor. She was scourged to death for her faith in 249 CE.

Cynthia (Cointha or Quinta) was an Egyptian girl who suffered martyrdom at the hands of anti-Christian mobs during the persecutions in Alexandria.  She was scourged then tied to a horse and dragged through the streets until she was dead in 249 CE.

Agatha was a young woman from a rich and noble family in Sicily who dedicated her virginity to God in her fifteenth year.  Having rejected the advances of the Roman prefect, she was forced to flee and took refuge in in a rock hewn crypt in Malta.  She prayed for courage and returned later to face martyrdom.  The prefect ordered her sent to a brothel where she refused to submit.  In prison her breasts were cut off with pincers, but she remained steadfast in her devotion to God.  She was burned at the stake, but Saint Peter appeared to her in a vision and healed her wounds.  She died in prison in 251 CE and was buried at the Badia di Sant'Agata in Catania.  The titular church of Sant'Agata dei Goti in Via Mazzarino in Rome and the Cattedrale di Sant'Agata in Catania are dedicated to her.

Rufina and Secunda were the Christian daughters of a Roman Senator.  Their fiancés, were also Christians, but renounced their faith when the Emperor Valerian began his persecutions.  Rufina and Secunda fled to Etruria, where they were captured and brought before the prefect, who tortured and beheaded them in 257 CE.  Their bodies were buried in the catacombs on the Via Aurelia (Cornelia).  Later the Church of Sante Rufina e Secunda was built over their graves, only the Piazza of Santa Rufina remains.  After the church closed their relics were moved to baptistery chapel at San Giovanni in Laterano by Pope Anastasius IV in 1153 CE.        

Eugenia converted to Christianity during the persecutions of Valerian.  She fled her father's house dressed in men's clothing and became an abbot.  She cured a woman who attempted to seduce her of an illness.  After she rebuffed the woman’s advances, the woman accused her of adultery and she was arrested.  In court she faced was brought before her father who was the judge of such cases.  He recognized and exonerated her.  Later he converted and became Bishop of Alexandria.  After he was executed, Eugenia and her remaining household returned to her family home in Rome where she converted many to Christianity before being arrested and beheaded in 258 CE.  Later Eugenia’s relics were moved to a church in Barcelos, (Portugal), where she is venerated as a saint.       

Digna and Emerita were martyred at Rome in 259 CE.  Little is known about their lives except that they died for the faith.  Their relics are in the church of San Marcello al Corso in Rome.  

Columba of Sens was born to a noble Spanish pagan family who fled betrothal to the emperor’s son and was baptized instead. Emperor Aurelian imprisoned her in a brothel at the amphitheater where a guard attempted to rape her, but a bear attacked him and she managed to escape.  She was caught and the emperor ordered her be burned her alive.  This failed when the rain put the fire out.  She was beheaded at the age of sixteen in 273 CE.  A man who had recovered his sight after praying for her intercession, saw to her burial.  A chapel, and later an abbey, was built at the site of her grave in Sens.      

Daria was a Roman Vestal Virgin betrothed to a Christian convert named Chrysanthus in order to win him back to the pagan religion of his ancestors.  Instead Daria converted to Christianity and went on to live a chaste life with her husband using their home to teach the faith and convert other Romans.  Chrysanthus was arrested and tortured, but his heroic example won over the emperor’s wife and his wife and sons, and seventy of his soldiers. The outraged Emperor Claudius ordered Chrysanthus to be drowned.  His wife was sent to the gallows and his sons were beheaded.  Daria was also ordered to be executed in 283 CE, but it is unclear whether she was martyred by stoning, beheading or being buried alive.  She and her husband are entombed in a deep sand pit in the catacombs near the Via Salaria Nova in Rome.

Alberta was one of the first victims of Diocletian's persecutions.  She was burned on a grill and beheaded, along with a large group of spectators who objected to her torture were beheaded as well in 286 CE. 

Pelagia lived in Tarsus (Asia Minor) during the reign of Roman emperor Diocletian.  A nobleman fell in love with her and wanted to marry her, but she refused saying she had consecrated her virginity to Christ.  The emperor had her body sealed into a brass bull and burned in 286 CE. Constantine the Great built a church on the site where she died and was buried.

Regina was born in Autun, France to a pagan named Clement. Her mother died at her birth and her father sent her to live with a Christian nurse who baptized her. Regina prayed and meditated on the lives of the saints while she tended sheep. She was betrothed to the Roman proconsul, but refused to renounce her faith to marry him.  She was tortured and beheaded in 286 CE.