The story of Polycarp’s martyrdom is the earliest recorded account of a Christian martyr.
Polycarp was a disciple of St. John the apostle. While still quite young, he became the bishop of Smyrna and was one of the most respected leaders in the first half of the second century. St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Irenaeus spoke highly of him, and people loved him very much.
Polycarp was a Christian leader in a pagan world. He spoke clearly and simply, fearless in love and defense of Christ, even though persecutions raged around him. He sough only to hand on the message he had been given by John. Even as Polycarp prepared for martyrdom, his joy and confident trust were evident to all.
Polycarp was seized for being a Christian. Persecution and death would not tear him away from Jesus now. Polycarp was led into the stadium of Smyrna. The crowd demanded that he be left to the lions, but instead he was sentenced to death by fire. An eyewitness account claims that the flames didn’t harm him. He was finally killed by the sword, and his body was burned.
The community of believers celebrated the anniversary of Polycarp’s death with great joy, for in him they had seen an outstanding example of love and patience. He had held strong and had won the treasure of eternal life. Polycarp is remembered as an Apostolic Father, one who was a disciple of the apostles.
from Saints Kit
Image credit: Saint Polycarp by Michael Burghers, 1685. Public Domain via Wikimedia.