|St. Thecla, Virgin and
Martyr - 1st Century
The veneration of St. Thecla of Iconium was widespread in early Christianity. Her story comes to us through the 2nd-century Acts of Paul, the Thecla episode of which also circulated under the title Acts of Paul and Thecla. Its two most dramatic elements are the Iconians' attempts to kill St. Thecla first by fire and then by throwing her to the beasts. St. Paul's prayers frustrate both these designs, and St. Thecla goes on to an eremitic life in a cave in Seleucia, Syria, and lives there for another 72 years.
Some Greek manuscripts have a final episode in which, to preserve her from a band of rapists, God opens up a crack in a mountain for St. Thecla and closes it before the men can lay hands on her.
Notwithstanding all these preservations, St. Thecla was universally revered as a martyr. Indeed, the martyrology of the Greek Church lists her with the title, "Protomartyr among women and equal to the Apostles." St. John of Damascus' eighth-century hymn to St. Thecla seems to imply that it was her willingness to be a martyr that made her one. ("You chose to die, and now you live to the ages.")
In 1630 the people of Este credited St. Thecla with interceding for them during a plague. In the following century Tiepolo painted a commemoration of that event (see painting).
Feast day: September 23 in the Roman Martyrology, September 24 in the Greek; several other dates in early martyrologies.
At left, St. Thecla Altarpiece - Burgos, Spain
The Acts of Paul and Thecla (cache)
Hymn by St. John of Damascus (cache)