Chapter 66 of the Golden Legend by Jacobus Voragine (1275), translated by William Caxton, 1483. This "reader's version" of the text provides section headings, paragraph breaks, and explanatory notes.

This chapter in Graesse's edition of the Golden Legend is unlike the others in some ways. It lacks a study of the saint's name at the beginning but adds a doxology at the end. The style is generally more florid, and there is a strong emphasis on virtues appropriate to the monastery. It is not in Caxton's translation and so may have been absent from his source.

When a great persecution against the servants of God began in Alexandria in the time of the Emperor Decius, a certain wretched consort of the devils named Divinus whipped up the superstitious people against the Christians, making them thirsty for the blood of the pious. First they rounded up male and female religious and beat some of them to pieces with cudgels, gouged out their eyes with sharp sticks, and ejected them from the city. Others they dragged to the idols and demanded that they worship. These members of Christ's household however refused, and they cursed the idols. So they were put in irons and dragged to the public squares, where they suffered vile and horrendous tortures.

Now at this time there was an admirable virgin of advanced age named Apollonia. She was distinguished for her chastity, sobriety, and spiritual cleanness, like a sturdy column made strong by the Spirit of the Lord, and God saw that for her merits and virtues she was worthy to be the admiration of angels and a model for men. When the raging multitude broke into the homes of God's servants and dragged them all away in cruel hostility to their impious tribunal, Apollonia in her simple innocence and stalwart virtue had nothing to offer but the constancy of her intrepid mind and the purity of her inviolate conscience. She offered her devout soul to God and gave her chaste body to those who would persecute her with torments. Once they had her, the raging persecutors knocked out all her teeth first, then gathered wood to make an enormous pyre. They threatened to burn her alive if she did not partake in their impieties. But when she saw them light the pyre she took thought for only a moment and then broke free from their impious grasp and of her own free will leapt into the very flames they had threatened her with. These authors of cruelty were themselves terrified when they saw that this woman would rather die than suffer at their hands.

Though she had been afflicted by all sorts of torments, neither the pain of those tortures nor the fire prepared by those savage persecutors could prevail upon this strongest of Christ's martyrs. For her mind had long burned with the ardent flame of truth. Fire made by mortal hands could not drive out the unquenchable warmth of heart that God had infused in her.

O the great and miraculous witness of this virgin, who by the grace of the merciful God burned and yet was not burned, as if she had never been given over to torments and fire. She could have opted for freedom, and there would have been no glory in fighting back. Disdaining the delights of this world and despising worldly prosperity, desiring instead to please Christ her spouse, Apollonia the powerful virgin martyr of Christ stood firm in her virginity amid the worst of torments.

The merits of this virgin outshine the martyrs, so glorious and propitious is her triumph. A greater deed than theirs was done by her manly virtue, for her frailty did not fail before the terrors of her trial. She drove earthly fear from her heart through heavenly love and won the prize of Christ's Cross. Armed with faith more powerful than the sword, she fought against earthly desire and every sort of torture, and she had the victory. May he deign to grant such strength to us who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Golden Legend Table of Contents

Christian Iconography Home Page

St. Apollonia's attribute is a tooth extractor. (See the description page for this image and the page explaining the iconography of images of this saint.)

Translation by Richard Stracke. The drop initial (first letter of the text) is from the Isabella Capitals font by John Stracke. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes, and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the sources. No permission is granted for commercial use.