Slave Girl of Lyons
Christianity first came to Lyons in the early 2nd century when a missionary came to Gaul (modern-day France ) and established the church of Christ in Lyons and nearby Viennes. As the church grew, persecution against the Christians in Gaul began. They endured all kinds of shame and personal injuries including being forced out of their homes and businesses so that nothing belonging to them could appear in public. Mobs were formed to beat, stone and rob them. Adding fuel to the fire of persecution, unbelieving servants, fearing lest they should be taken along with their masters, sought to protect themselves by charging their Christian masters with gross crimes such as cannibalism, incest, and other shameful practices.
When believers were arrested they courageously confessed their allegiance to Christ and then they were imprisoned and ultimately martyred for their faith. A slave girl named Blandina was one who perished during this terrible religious persecution under the emperor Marcus Aurelius.
The Christians were restrained in the worst part of the prison, in dark and cramped spaces, and many of them suffocated there. Some were placed in stocks; others were placed in a hot-iron seat where their flesh was burned. After enduring torture, forty-eight Christians were taken to the amphitheater to “entertain” the crowd during a Roman holiday by being thrown to wild beasts.
Blandina was one of them. Though she had already endured numerous tortures and treated with inhumane brutality, she was then suspended on a stake and to taunt the wild beasts. Though it was intended to terrorize her fellow Christians, her torture inspired them for when they looked at her on that stake it reminded them of Christ on the cross, who was crucified for them and that everyone who suffered for Him would enjoy eternal life with God. Amazingly, none of the beasts attacked her so she was taken down from the stake and cast into prison again.
According to the description of her death by the Christian History Institute
( http://www.gospelcom.net/chi/ ), Blandina face death heroically:
“On the last day of the contests in the amphitheater, Blandina was again brought in with Ponticus, a boy of about 15. Every day they had been brought to witness the sufferings of others and pressed to deny their faith and swear by idols. Ponticus died first, and Blandina remained the last. She had encouraged many others and saw them go on before her to Jesus. Now she was ready to hasten after them. She faced her death rejoicing-as if being called to a marriage feast rather than wild beasts. The report stated: After the scourging, after the wild beasts, after the roasting seat, she was finally enclosed in a net, and thrown before a bull. And having been tossed about by the animal, but feeling none of the things which were happening to her, on account of her hope and firm hold upon what had been entrusted to her, and her communion with Christ, she also was sacrificed. After the bodies of the witnesses were exposed for six days, they were burned to ashes and thrown into the Rhone river. The bodies of those who had suffocated in prison were thrown to the dogs, and guards were stationed to prevent the remaining Christians from burying them. The pagans hoped to prevent even the hope of resurrection for the Christians.”
An ancient letter that recorded the persecution in Lyons was included in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius and stated: “While we were all trembling, and her earthly mistress, who was herself one of the contending martyrs, was apprehensive, lest, through the weakness of the flesh, she should not be able to make a bold confession, Blandina was filled with such power, that her ingenious tormentors, who relieved and succeeded each other from morning till night, confessed that they were overcome and had nothing more that they could inflict upon her. They were amazed that she continued to breathe after her whole body was pierced and torn asunder. In the midst of her sufferings, as she for a moment revived, she repeatedly exclaimed, ‘I am a Christian; no wickedness is carried on by us!’”
Blandina honored her God by her faithfulness and courage in the face of danger and ultimately death. She and her contemporaries are memorialized by a marker at the place of their martyrdom in the ancient amphitheater. You can visit this marker in Lyons , France today.