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The Forty Holy Martyrs

The Forty Holy Soldiers of Sebaste


The Martyrs were young soldiers, different in origin but united in faith, serving in the Twelfth or “Thunderbolt” Legion of the Roman Army, in the early fourth century. This legion had a history of Christian membership, and was once even saved by a miraculous thunderstorm. At Sebaste, in Armenia, the legion was ordered to sacrifice to idols. The forty refused, and were jailed and tortured. When they persisted, they were sent naked out onto a frozen pond, with a warm bath waiting for any who would apostatize. The soldiers embraced this fate, but soon one of them weakened, and left his comrades to accept the warm bath. As soon as he entered the water, however, the shock killed him. Yet the number of forty was restored by one of the guards, who was struck by a heavenly vision and threw off his armor to join the thirty-nine on the ice. In the morning, the bodies were carted off to be burned. The youngest one remained barely alive, but his widowed mother, filled with zeal, placed him on the cart with his fellows, exhorting him to enter heaven together with them. For centuries these martyrs were honored on March 9th in both East and West, but to make room for St. Frances of Rome the Western feast was moved to the 10th. In the modern calendar the feast is absent entirely.


Traditional Roman Martyrology for March 10th

At Sebaste, in Armenia, forty holy martyrs.

At Apamea, in Phrygia, during the persecution of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Verus, the birthday of the holy martyrs Caius and Alexander, who were crowned with a glorious martyrdom, as is related by Apollinaris, bishop of Hierapolis, in his book against the Cataphrygian heretics.

In Persia, the passion of forty-two holy martyrs.

At Corinth, the holy martyrs Codratus, Denis, Cyprian, Anectus, Paul, and Crescens, who were slain with the sword in the persecution of Decius and Valerian, under the governor Jason.

In Africa, the martyr Saint Victor, on whose festival Saint Augustine delivered a discourse to his people.

At Jerusalem, Saint Macarius, bishop and confessor, at whose request the holy places were purified by Constantine and Helena, and beautified with sacred edifices.

At Paris, the decease of the abbot Saint Droctoveus, who was a disciple of the blessed bishop Germanus.

In the monastery of Bobio, the abbot Saint Attalas, renowned for miracles.

℣. And elsewhere many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.

℟. Thanks be to God.

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