During the summer of AD 177, Irenaeus, who was the pastor of the church in Lyons observed that the persecution against Christians in his community was growing. Christians were first prohibited from entering any public place like the baths or the market place. Second, Christians were being attacked openly for expressing their faith. They were publicly beaten, assaulted, and even stoned. Finally, Christians were condemned to death in the public arena.
When individuals were accused of being a Christian and they confessed to be, they were put into prison, tortured and sentenced to death. Everyday, Irenaeus began to watch as professing Christians in his church in Lyons and in the neighboring town of Vienne were arrested and brutally tortured in prison.
August 1st was named a holiday to celebrate the greatness of Rome and the emperor, (Augustus.) This holiday included the governor of various cities to put on displays of public entertainment such as hiring professional gladiators, boxers, wrestlers, and swordsmen. The year before, believe it or not, the Roman Senate had passed a law to help defray the cost of such debacles which enabled criminals who were non-Roman citizens to be tortured and ordered to fight in these duels to the death rather than pay higher wages to professional gladiators.
One of those Christians who was arrested for professing her faith in Christ was a slave woman by the name of Blandina. Listen to an eye witness account of Blandina's arrest and martyrdom for confessing Christ.
All of us were in terror; and Blandina's earthly mistress, who herself was among the martyrs in the conflict, was in agony lest because of her bodily weakness she would not be able to make a bold confession of her faith. Yet Blandina was filled with such power that even those who were taking turns to torture her in every way from dawn to dusk were weary and exhausted. They themselves admitted that they were beaten, that there was nothing further they could do to her, and they were surprised that she was still breathing for her entire body was broken and torn.
Nevertheless, broken and torn, Blandina, the account goes on to say, along with some companions named Marturus, Sanctus, and Attalus were forced into the amphitheater in Lyons. This is the account of her martyrdom:
Blandina was hung on a post an exposed as bait for the wild animals that were let loose on her. She seemed to hang there in the form of a cross, and by her fervent prayer she aroused intense enthusiasm in those were were undergoing their ordeal...But none of the animals touched her, and so she was taken down from the post and brought back to the jail to be preserved for another ordeal...tiny, weak, and insignificant as she was, she should give inspiration to her brothers...Finally, on the last day of the gladiatorial games, they brought back Blandina again, this time with a boy of fifteen named Ponticus. Every day they had been brought in to watch the torture of the others while attempts were made to force them to swear by pagan idols. And because they persevered and condemned their persecutors, the crowd grew angry with them, so that...they subjected them to every atrocity and led them through every torture in turn.
The account states that after Ponticus had suffered by being whipped, mauled by animals and forced into an iron seat suspended over a fire designed to burn flesh he died. Blandina had survived the same tortures was finally tossed into a net and placed in the ring with a bull. She was finally killed by the animal as it tossed her about, goring and stomping her.
So Blaninda died, keeping her faith and causing the pagans to admit that no woman had ever suffered so much. Blandina honored her Lord and Savior and as her life was stolen from her by those who thought they could destroy her and her faith. Steal it? No, they only thought they had, she willingly offered herself as a living sacrifice as her Lord had once done for her, and for me...