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Serial Martyrdom in Cordoba

Roman Bridge, Córdoba, Espana by James (Jim) Gordon at Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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THE MIDDLE of the ninth century witnessed a series of unusual martyrdoms in Cordoba, Spain. At this time, the Moors had conquered the region. Although they tolerated the practice of Christianity and even allowed Christians to ring church bells, they would not tolerate criticism of Mohammad.

The first of the martyrs was a monk named Isaac. He presented himself to a cadi (magistrate) and said he would convert to Islam if the cadi would give him an account of the religion and instruct him in it. Having listened to the story of Mohammad’s visions, he exclaimed, “The wretch lied in all this!” He attributed Muhammad’s doctrines to the devil and declared that anyone who followed them would burn with the prophet in hell. The astonished cadi struck him, sent him to prison, and asked Caliph Abderahman what to do with him. Abderahman ordered him beheaded at once. Two days afterward, a young man named Sancho appeared before the cadi to proclaim the same message and the Moors promptly executed him. Two others named Sisenand and Paul followed with the same message and met the same fate.

Next appeared two young women. Flora was the daughter of a Muslim man and Christian mother. While her brother was Muslim, she was Christian. When she fled home to escape the harassment of her brother, he brought pressure to bear on the Christian community until Flora returned. He brought her before the cadi who whipped her head and sent her home. Afterward she escaped to a safe haven. However, she felt obliged to testify to the cadi and returned to confront him. On the way she met a nun named Maria, who had received a revelation commanding her to bear witness against the prophet Mohammad and his religion. The pair challenged the cadi. Because of their gender, they were imprisoned rather than executed. When they continued in their utterances against the prophet, their captors threatened to force them into prostitution.

They wavered until they encountered a priest named Eulogius who was also in prison. Eulogius was well-educated for that day and vehemently feared the flow of Islamic ideas into Christianity. Therefore he encouraged the martyrs, while other clergymen in Cordoba were trying to ease the tension and deter Christians from throwing away their lives in what they saw as senseless suicide. Eulogius urged the young women to stand firm. They did and were beheaded on this day, 24 November 851. Eulogius was released.

Two secretly-Christian couples who had visited Flora and Maria in prison now openly attended church and were called to account. The Muslims executed them with George, a young monk. Monks named Leovigild, Christoval, Rogellius, Serviodeo, Jeremias, and Emilia next came forward and paid the penalty. Two months later, more witnesses came forward. Then after ten months of quiet, still more emerged, about thirty in all.

Eulogius compiled all their stories into two books. Eight years later the Muslims arrested him for hiding a Christian girl, Leocricia, who had pretended to convert to Islam in order to escape from her parents. Because of the priest’s learning, the Muslims offered to free him, but when he declared that Islam was full of errors they decapitated him, too. The line of self-selected martyrs ended with Leocricia, martyred four days after Eulogius.

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