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Saint Apollonia was one of a group of virgin martyrs who suffered in Alexandria during a local uprising against the Christians prior to the persecution of Decius. According to legend, her torture included having all of her teeth violently pulled out or shattered. For this reason, she is popularly regarded as the patroness of dentistry and those suffering from toothache or other dental problems.
Additional recommended knowledge
Christian historians have claimed that in the last years of Emperor Philip the Arab (reigned 244-249), during otherwise undocumented festivities to commemorate the millennium of the founding of Rome (traditionally in 753 BC, putting the date about AD 248), the fury of the Alexandrian mob rose to a great height, and when one of their poets prophesied a calamity, they committed bloody outrages on the Christians, whom the authorities made no effort to protect.
Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria (247-265), relates the sufferings of his people in a letter addressed to Fabius, Bishop of Antioch, of which long extracts have been preserved in Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiae (I:vi: 41). After describing how a Christian man and woman, Metras and Quinta, were seized and killed by the mob, and how the houses of several other Christians were pillaged, Dionysius continues:
This brief tale was extended and moralized in Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend (c. 1260).
Apollonia and a whole group of early martyrs did not await the death they were threatened with, but either to preserve their chastity or because they were confronted with the alternative of renouncing their faith or suffering death, voluntarily embraced the death prepared for them, an action that runs perilously close to suicide, some thought. Augustine of Hippo touches on this question in the first book of The City of God, apropos suicide (I:26):
The narrative of Dionysius does not suggest the slightest reproach as to this act of St. Apollonia; in his eyes she was as much a martyr as the others, and as such she was revered in the Alexandrian Church. In time, her feast was also popular in the West. A later legend mistakenly duplicated Apollonia, making her a Christian virgin of Rome in the reign of Julian the Apostate, suffering the same dental fate.
The Roman Catholic Church celebrates Apollonia on February 9, and she is popularly invoked against the toothache because of the torments she had to endure. She is represented in art with pincers in which a tooth is held. In a late 14th century illumination from a French manuscript, widely distributed as a poster that is considered suitable for dentists' offices in the U.S., the sacred tooth in her pincers glows from within, like a lightbulb.
Saint Apollonia is one of the two patron saints of Catania. In Germany, where the Fourteen Holy Helpers (vierzehn heiligen) or Nothelfer are singled out as the patron saints of daily life, Apollonia, protectress against toothache, is one of them.
William S. Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs And of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities 1897, noted that, though the major part of her relics were preserved in the former church of St. Apollonia at Rome, her head at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, her arms at the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, parts of her jaw in St. Basil's, and other relics are in the Jesuit church at Antwerp, in St. Augustine's at Brussels, in the Jesuit church at Mechlin, in St. Cross at Liege, in the treasury of the cathedral of Porto, and in several churches at Cologne. These relics consist in some cases of a solitary tooth or a splinter of bone.
There was a church dedicated to her in Rome, near the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, but it no longer exists. Only its little square, the Piazza Sant'Apollonia remains. One of the principal train stations of Lisbon is also named for this saint. There is a statue of Saint Apollonia in the church at Locronan, France.
Cult in England
In England, there are 52 known images of her in various churches which survived the ravages of the 16th century Commissioners. These are concentrated in Devon and East Anglia. Most of these images are on the panels of rood screens or in stained glass with only one being a stone capital (Stoke-in-Teignhead, Devon).
By county, some of the locations are:
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Saint_Apollonia". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|