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Kalliopi (martyr)

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Kalliopi
Martyr
Born Early 3rd Century AD, Roman Empire
Died c. 250, Roman Empire
Venerated in Most Christian branches, including: Eastern Orthodoxy/Catholicism
Feast June 8
Attributes hot iron pressed to her breast

Kalliopi (Calliope) was a Christian saint of the third century AD. She was executed in 250, near the beginning of Emperor Decius' violent suppression of Christians within the Roman Empire.

Legend of Kalliopi's martyrdom

There are no reliable historic sources for details of Kalliopi's martyrdom, though it is generally accepted that she was beheaded. The following story has long been in circulation, though it probably rests more on legend than verifiable historic events:

By the age of twenty-one (by third century standards a ripe age), Kalliope had already passed the age at which most girls marry. In fact she had no social prospects at all. She spent her days dedicated to her religion with little thought to social life. She hadn't been deemed ready for marriage even though she was obedient and met the criteria for marriage. When at last she seemed ready for marriage, many suitors asked for her hand. One pagan suitor sent word that were she to reject him in favor of another, especially a Christian, he would see to it that the pagan authorities would carry out their form of justice. Kalliopi did not hesitate to not only deny this suitor, but made it plain that she would not marry him even if he were a Christian—such a conversion, she said, could not be reliably authentic.

This didn't bring her any more acclaim from the Romans who saw her as rebellious, not to mention that she was a Christian in a pagan land. The spurned suitor arranged for her to be brought before a magistrate, where she was accused of a variety of crimes ranging from a mockery of the pagan faith to treason against the state. According to legend, the suitor paid a parade of witnesses to testify against Kalliope in order to destroy her reputation. She was deemed guilty, and the rejected suitor stepped forth to offer a withdrawal of the charges against her if she would disavow Christ and become his pagan bride. The alternative was torture, and if that didn’t bend her will, then it was death.

Taken to the public square, she was bound to the post and mercilessly flogged until her clothing and flesh were in tatters. Her beautiful face was scarred with branding irons and salt was poured into her open wounds, and while the breath of life was still within her she was told to disavow Christ. When she refused she was beheaded.

Veneration

Kalliopi is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church. She is pictured in art with a hot iron pressed to her breast, emblematic of the branding that she is supposed to have suffered before death. Her feast is celebrated on June 8.

References

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