And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

Revelation 6:9-10

The year 177AD was a particularly black period for the Christians of Southern France. The city of Lyons suffered terribly as a consequence of a local policy.

The brutality was sickening, even by Roman standards, and it certainly unmasks the kindly intellectual facade of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. As the bodies of Christians filled the streets, they were incinerated with the ashes scattered in the Rhone. The Bishop of Lyons, ninety year old Pothinus, was not spared. Abused and tortured he was left in die in a dismal dungeon.

The most heart wrenching story of this period concerns the life of Blandina, a young slave girl. Subjected to the most severe psychological and physical torment she refused to renounce her faith. Eventually she was tied in a net and suspended above a bull where she was mercilessly gored before her persecutors slit her tender throat. Torturing and killing Christians become a Roman sport in these depraved times!

The intense persecution, in what was then Gaul, was in itself a testimony to the steady growth of Christianity. The sheer volume of death speaks not only to the number of believers but also to their strength of purpose and resolve. Eventually even the Romans grew tired of the slaughter, passively admitting their failure, and so the killing subsided.

The year of our Lord; One, Seven, Seven,
Young Blandina departed for heaven,
Tortured,then murdered by the cruel Roman,
Gored by the bull; Faith remained strong,
Leaving poverty and slavery,
Receiving the riches of Glory;
Farewell to this world of pains,
Entering the Kingdom where Jesus reigns.

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