About her it is said she was born to a mother who was barren as long as she prayed to her heathen gods, but conceived when she resorted to Christian intercession.
Around ad 249, during the reign of Emperor Philip “The Arabian,” Roman citizens throughout the empire celebrated the first 1,000 years of the existence of the city-state. (Tradition says Rome was founded around 750 BC.) As part of the big bash, the people offered sacrifices to their pagan gods.
Apollonia of Alexandria had become a Christian as a teen and eventually a deaconess in the church of Alexandria. After Metras, Quinta and Serapion were killed after cruel tortures she went to comfort other Christians who were in prison, reminding them that suffering here is temporary, but the joy of living with Christ is eternal. Her courage cost her her bodily life. According to tradition, Apollonia was seized by the mob on this day, February 9, 249.
First she was beaten on the jaw so hard all of her teeth were broken. Then a large bonfire was built and she was threatened to be burned alive unless she renounced Christ and repeated blasphemous words after them. Perhaps Apollonia pretended to think it over. She asked them to loose her for a moment and they did. Rather than risk betraying Christ, she immediately sprang into the fire of her own accord.
Those who saw this were astonished. How could faith give her such courage in the face of so cruel a death?
Some became Christians. The early church respected her faith and courage, but a few wondered if her action were not a form of suicide. Eventually, Augustine of Hippo decided that her death was no more to be questioned than Samson’s when he pulled down a pagan temple on himself to kill his enemies with strength God had restored to him in answer to prayer.