Patron Saint of Dental Workers

Today the church remembers one of those 3rd Century Christians who retains some notoriety in certain circles: Saint Apollonia, Martyr, Deaconess, and Patron Saint of Dental Workers.

Saint Apollonia was a follower of that very early church, born in the first half of the 3rd Century. She lived in Alexandria, Egypt, and was known as a prophet and Deaconess, serving the poor and the needy on the streets.

In those days at the tail end of Emperor Philip the Arabian, the Roman Empire found this new little faith to be an easy target to appease a people who were unpleased with much of Roman rule, scapegoating them and encouraging violence against them.

In the year 249 at around the millennial celebration of Rome’s founding, a mob arose in Alexandria and, after a prophecy of doom for the Empire, began rounding up Christians to torture them.

Saint Apollonia was caught in the mob massacre and beaten and tortured. According to Bishop Dionysus of Alexandria (in a letter sent to Saint Fabius, Bishop of Antioch), Apollonia’s wounds resulted in the loss of all of her teeth. Her assaulters built a large fire and threatened to burn her unless she recanted the faith. Bloody and bruised, Apollonia fought back, got from their grips, and jumped voluntarily into the fire, preferring to give herself to God rather than suffer any more abuse.

Due to her injuries and the story by Bishop Dionysius, Saint Apollonia is now regarded the patron saint of all dental workers. For this reason she is often shown holding dental pliers, or holding a giant tooth. She has quite the following in Britain, and remains one of those early saints that, while largely a footnote in hagiographical lore, is a testament to how that first church held women in high esteem as fellow-laborers and leaders in the church.

Saint Apollonia is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that we must remember our history to empower our present. There is no reason to bar women from the roster‚Ķthe first church didn’t.

Let those with ears to hear, hear.

-historical bits from Daily Magic by Judika Illes, and public sources.

-icon written by Yolande Denneulin

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