St. Apollonia of Alexandria


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Commemorated on February 9

St. Apollonia was an elderly virgin and deaconess of Alexandria, whose martyrdom was described by St. Dionysius of Alexandria in one of his letters.

When Decius became emperor in 249, he launched the greatest attack upon Christians up to that time, becoming the first emperor to call for Christianity’s total extermination. St. Dionysius wrote that the persecution started at Alexandria a year before other places, incited by a certain “prophet and poet of evil,” who stirred up the people against the Christians.

Backed by the power of the government, the pagans massacred Christians, believing that they were serving false gods. The “aged and excellent virgin Apollonia” was seized and struck in the face until all her teeth were knocked out. The mob built a fire outside the city and threatened to burn her alive unless she agreed to worship the idols and sacrifice to the emperor’s genius.

St. Apollonia asked the pagans to let go of her for a moment so that she could pray. As soon as they did, she leaped into the flames and was consumed, receiving a double crown of martyrdom and virginity. Because of the nature of her torments, she is sometimes depicted with a golden tooth hanging from a necklace, or holding a tooth in a pair of pincers. She is invoked by those suffering from toothache.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)