June 29 marks an annual solemn observance for many churches and faith-based organizations across the world known as the Day of the Christian Martyr.
Falling on the date traditionally believed to be when Saint Paul of Tarsus was executed, the observance centers on those who gave their lives for their Christian beliefs.
Beginning with the stoning of Saint Stephen, as described in Acts 7, countless Christians have been murdered or executed for their faith since the first century.
Here are seven notable examples of martyrs or groups of martyrs in Christian history. They include people killed both by non-Christians and those who identified as Christian.
A notable early church martyr, Cecilia was believed to be a Roman citizen of noble birth who converted to Christianity and pledged to remain a virgin for religious reasons.
She converted the pagan husband she was forced to marry as well as his brother. All three were eventually killed for their beliefs, Cecilia being the last of the trio.
“She distributed her possessions to the poor, which enraged the prefect Almachius, who ordered her to be burned. When the flames did not harm her, she was beheaded,” noted Britannica.
Known in Catholic circles as the patron saint of the poor and of cooks, Lawrence was a church deacon during the third century who was a victim of a major persecution under Roman Emperor Valerian.
According to legend, Lawrence was roasted to death. During his painful execution, he was reported to have quipped, “I am cooked on that side; turn me over, and eat.”
“Many conversions to Christianity throughout Rome reportedly followed Lawrence’s death, including those of several senators witnessing his execution,” explained Britannica.
Thomas a Becket
Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas a Becket was famous for his rivalry with King Henry II of England over the power relationship between the Catholic Church and the state.
In 1170, three knights loyal to King Henry entered Canterbury Cathedral and murdered the Archbishop, sending shockwaves throughout medieval Christian Europe.
Less than three years after his murder, Becket was canonized as a saint. He remains a symbol of Christian opposition to tyrannical rule.
Joan of Arc
Born in 1412, as a teenager Joan claimed to have heard the voices of saints telling her to fight for France during the Hundred Years’ War against the English invaders.
From 1429-1430, she amassed a series of military victories against the English and their allies, a major one being the relief of the city of Orleans. However, she was eventually captured by the Burgundians and then sold off to the English.
“Before the pyre was lit, she instructed a priest to hold high a crucifix for her to see and to shout out prayers loud enough to be heard above the roar of the flames,” noted history.com.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski