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   Major Christian Saints, Bishops and Martyrs

Paul St. (SM)

The most dynamic figure of the New Testament, the greatest missionary of Christianity and its first theologian. St. Paul was born to Jewish parents in Tarsus C. 3, being a diaspora - the dispersion of Jews into the Greco-Roman world and was circumcised on the eighth day by the Jewish tradition. His original name given to him was Saul after the Hebrew King. However, Saul took as his everyday name of Latin origin with a sound similar to that of his original Hebrew name. We understand from his letters, he had deep knowledge of Greek rhetoric which he learned in his youth in Tarsus. But also his philosophy reflects that he had received a formal training in the Jewish law, probably he was getting prepared for becoming a rabbi. St. Paul, in his early years, was a insistent persecutor of the Christians and even he was a supportive witness to the stoning of St. Stephen, the first of the Christian martyrs. Again, before his conversion, he accepted that Christianity was a Jewish sect and that wasn't true to the Jewish law and that therefore had to be destroyed. St. Paul's conversion occurred during his journey from Jerusalem to Damascus, after experiencing a vision of Christ. He clearly perceived the revelation of Jesus Christ to mark the end of all religions. St. Paul is well known from his three journeys as recorded in the book "Acts of Apostles", which he traveled to spread the new born religion. From Acts, we know that he was arrested in Jerusalem after riots by Jewish opponents and that later he was taken to Rome. He talks about his own possible death in the Acts. He was probably martyred at Rome C. 62. The New Testament refers to 13 letters which St. Paul was author of, and 7 of the letters (first letter to Thessalonians, Letter to Galatians, first letter to Corinthians, Letter to Romans, Letter to Philippians, second letter to Timothy and Letter to Philemon) that bear his name were certainly written by St. Paul himself. These letters in which St. Paul speaks of his works, are the major source of information about his life. In his letters, he addressed to the major metropolitan centers of the ancient world, he also chose the synagogues to give his preaching in. Apparently he was the man of the road as he covered a considerable distance on his journeys.
 
Pelagia of Antioch (M)

She was born at Antioch and martyred there C. 305. She was a young girl when Roman soldiers came to her home to arrest her, rather than surrender she threw herself to death from the top of the building.
 
Pelagia of Tarsus (M)

She probably lived in Tarsus during the reign of the emperor Diocletian as told in her legend. against her will, this beautiful girl was affianced to one of the sons of emperor Diocletian. When she converted to Christian, her fiancée killed himself. The emperor, instead of punishing her, wanted her for himself. When she refused this offer, she was roasted to death in a red-hot brazen bull.
 
Philip the Apostle (SM)

He was born at Bethsaida. Philip preached the gospel in Asia Minor. Tradition says he was martyred at the ancient city Hierapolis (modern Pamukkale, Turkey) by having been nailed on a tree upside down C. 80. There is still a martyrdom built for St. Philip from 6th C., of which the ruins are still visible there.
 
Philip of Heraclia (BM)

He was born at Heraclia on the coast of the Sea of Marmara. He lived during the reign of the emperor Diocletian. He was the bishop of Heraclia in Thrace. When his church was closed by the Roman soldiers, he told them that God dwells in men's hearts not within the walls. He summoned the service in the open air. Bassus the governor of the city ordered him to hand over the church's books and relics which Philip and his deacon Hermes refused to do. When Philip and Hermes the deacon refused to sacrifice for Hercules the chief and name god of the city, Philip was dragged to jail by his feet. After tortured in jail for seven months, Philip, Hermes and another priest called Severus were taken to Hadrianople (modern Edirne), where they were beaten and tortured for weeks, and finally both were sentenced to death. St. Philip was so much weary of the tortures, he had to be carried to execution.
 
Phocas (M)

He was born at Sinope on the Black Sea coast, and martyred there. Much of the information about this martyr comes from Asterius the bishop of Amesia (modern Amasya). His account says that Phocas was a market-gardener by profession, and when the Roman soldiers called at his cottage they had orders to kill a Christian named Phocas, he invited them into his cottage to overnight and he would tell them his location in the morning. During the night Phocas dug his grave in his garden, and in the morning he said to his guests that he was phocas. The soldiers carried out their orders, and buried him in his grave. Sailors in the Black sea, and Aegean sang chants in honor of their patron saints.
 
Photius (B)

He was born to a noble family at Constantinople C. 820 and died there C. 891. He was the patriarch of Constantinople and one of the greatest scholars and theologians of the Byzantine ages. Photius had a brilliant career as a diplomat and scholar. Later he was elected patriarch of Constantinople to replace Ignatius, who was in conflict with the court of the emperor Michael III. The election of Photius was opposed by the supporters of Ignatius who appealed to the judgment of Nicholas I the Pope. At the beginning, Photius was supported by Papal legates, but later denounced by the pope. The conflict had roots in the competition between the Byzantine and Western churches. Photius accused the papal missionaries heretics and called a council in 867 which deposed Pope Nicholas I. When Basil I murdered Michael III and usurped the throne deposed Photius and restored Ignatius as the patriarch of Constantinople.
 
Pionius (M)

Martyred at Smyrna C. 250. Pionius was a priest, and well educated man. He was arrested with a woman and another man, after celebrating the anniversary of St. Polycarp the bishop of Smyrna. They were asked to sacrifice to the Roman gods, upon their refusal, they were tortured by the soldiers. We cannot tell for sure what had happened to the other two, but St. Pionius was taken to the stadium of the city, and after a discussion with the proconsul of the city, he was sentenced to death. He was martyred at the stadium with a priest. We also know that he had made a copy of a letter that tells how St. Polycarp was martyred.
 
Polycarp (SMB)

St. Polycarp, no doubt, is one of the most prominent figures on the Asia Minor stage. He was the great bishop of Smyrna. He was martyred at an advanced age, at Smyrna (modern Izmir) C. February 23, 155. This is a saint whose life and martyrdom has come to us with great details, because, his church in Smyrna wrote a long letter to the Church of Philomelium in Pisidia region of Asia Minor, and fortunately this account of his life has survived and probably is the most authentic one from early period of Christianity. He was arrested by Roman soldiers at a farm house outside the city, after betrayal of a servant. Right after this he was taken to the stadium of the city, where there was a big crowd for the sport games, and introduced to the proconsul who told Polycarp to respect the Roman Gods and curse Christ. Polycarp said "I have served Christ for 86 years, and he has done me no wrong". The proconsul with the yells of the mob asking for his blood, ordered Polycarp be burned alive in the middle of the stadium. Polycarp prayed and the flames embraced his body, the chief executioner stabbed him to quicken his death.
 
Pulcheria (S)

Pulcheria was the wise empress of Byzantine empire. Born C. 398 and died C. 453 at Constantinople. The princess Pulcheria became regent for her younger brother, Theodisius II. Even after his brother's marriage, she continued to influence his brother and rule the country with some intervals. When Theodisius II died in 450, Pulcheria ruled the country with the help of the general Marcian, a master of administration and politics, whom she married. She was a pious lady and and also an active opponent of Nestorians and monophysists. Her parents' bad treatment of John Chrysostom hurt her so much, she had John's body brought from Comana back to Constantinople and buried in the church of Apostles.
 
The Seven Sleepers (S)

This story comes from oral tradition. Seven young Christian men with their dog took refuge in a cave near Ephesus, during the persecutions of the emperor Decius (C. 250 ), and fell asleep in there. When they woke up, they were hungry, and went down to the town to buy some bread. Their strange clothes and the coins they wanted to use to buy bread caused the curiosity of the town people. After questioning, they found out that these seven young men had slept in their cave for about 200 years. By this time, the Christianity was established already in the Roman Empire, and the emperor was Theodisius II who rules the country in 440s. When the town people heard their story, told them not to fear, because they could go and pray in the church freely. Their grotto near Ephesus has been a popular place of pilgrimage, and still today it is open to visits.

 

 
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