This is the day that … Blandina was cruelly martyred in AD 177.
The gospel had reached Gaul (modern day France) 25 years earlier and many were converted to Christ, through Pothinus, a missionary sent by Polycarp of Smyrna. In time, however, opposition arose and Christians were shamefully abused and openly exploited. Eventually many were imprisoned and sentenced to torture.
Sometimes referred to as the Martyrs of Lyons, 48 Christians were arrested and put to death. While some suffocated in the unholy imprisonment, most were publicly tortured in place of gladiatorial contests.
The tortures included the stocks, whippings and being seated in a metal chair suspended over a fire – to barbecue the flesh. The point of the torture was to get the Christian to recant and also to frighten others from the faith. Many of the saints endured multiple days of torture in the amphitheatre, for the amusement of the crowd.
Among those martyred was Pothimus, their bishop, then 92 years old. There was a 15 year-old lad, and the deacon Sanctus, spoken of as ‘a pillar of the church’. And there was Blandina, a slave girl.
It was feared she might renounce her faith. But she remained true, saying: “I am a Christian, we commit no wrongdoing.”
She survived six days of various tortures, amazing the crowd who had never seen a woman endure so much violence. Others in her party found their way to heaven ahead of her. The Christians took courage from her unflinching resolve. At one point, suspended on a pole over wild animals, she reminded the others of Christ on the cross. The animals did not touch her and some hoped she would survive the entire ordeal.
Finally she “endured the scourging, the iron chair over a fire, and being put in a net and tossed by a wild bull…” She was trampled to death by the bull.
The story comes to us from Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, the first history of the Christian faith (approximately AD 340), in which he quotes an eyewitness letter written from Lyons to Asia Minor.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond the Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.