9 March 320AD – 40 Martyrs of Sebaste
Imagine being left out on a frozen lake completely starkers with your bits at the mercy of the icy elements. Enough to make you change your religion huh?
Not so 40 soldiers in 320AD (although some say 306AD), who were subjected to the ultimate form of cold-hearted torture, according to the Orthodox Church.
Their oppressors were the Romans whose sole aim was to make them turn from their beloved Christianity back to paganism led by Emporer Lucinius.
The soldiers were led out to the lake, stripped of their clothes and left stranded to freeze the faith out of them. Fires were then lit by the lakeside and warm baths were at the ready to entice the men away from their beliefs.
Chilly. Will he?
Unable to endure the freezing temperatures it apparently worked for one soldier, albeit briefly. He is said to have turned his back on Christ in favour of warmth. Or did he? And if he did was it shortlived?
In a site dedicated to the martyrs, the narrative suggests that that night there was a God-like experience and one of Lucinius’s soldiers defected and joined the frozen group, bringing the numbers back up to 40. While others say the soldier who wimped out was so ravaged by the cold that he died on his way to warmth across the frozen lake. The final option is that he came to his senses and by the morning he had suddenlt rediscovered God and rejoined his icy mates.
Talking of his mates, sadly the freezing conditions had failed to kill them, so they were defrosted and slowroasted on a huge funeral pyre instead. But not before having their legs anachronistically smashed to smithereens with ‘sledgehammers’.
In case you were wondering, the 40, by some sources’ reckonings, are: Acacius, Aetius, Aglaius, Alexander, Angus, Athanasius, Candidus, Chudion, Claudius, Cyril, Cyrion, Dometian, Domnus, Ecdicus, Elias, Eunoicus, Eutyches, Eutychius, Flavius, Gaisus, Gorgonius, Helianus, Heraclius, Hesychius, John, Lysimachus, Meliton, Nicholas, Pholoctemon, Priscus, Sacerdon, Servian, Sisinus, Smaragdus, Theodulus, theophilus, Valens, Valerius, Vivanus and Zanthias.
Their feast day falls on 9 March in the East and 10 March in the Western world.