36: Martyrdom of Cyprian

The memory of the just is blessed

Proverbs 10:7

Valerian ruled the empire from from 253 – 260 AD. It was only during the last three years of his reign that he enacted a policy of persecuting the Church. While many suffered during this period the martyrdom of Cyprian stands out largely because of his prominence and fame both among the Christians and the society of Carthage particularly.

Valerian began his policy in a bloodless manner by exiling the leaders of Christ’s Church, confiscating their property and prohibiting all public gatherings of Christians. During this phase Cyprian was removed from his flock and sent away for eleven months.

Realising the failure of his policy Valerian instituted yet another cruel period of executing the people of God. Cyprian was recalled from exile to face charges which led to his sentence of death by beheading.

His submission was calm and dignified. Among his final acts was paying the executioner with his own gold piece and a prayer of gratitude to God before blindfolding himself. His Christian friends took away his body for burial.

It was token of the high esteem in which he was held, that the Christians subsequently built two chapels over the place where he died and that memorials were held in honour of Cyprian for many years after his passing.

When we are called to part, 
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

John Fawcett

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