I. Thecla of Iconium
The reputed pupil of the Apostle Paul, who is the heroine of the apocryphal
Acta Pauli et Theclae (cf. APOCRYPHA). Our knowledge of her is derived
exclusively from these Acts, which appeared about 180. According to this
narrative Thecla was a virgin of Iconium who was converted to Christianity and
led to dedicate herself to perpetual virginity by the preaching of the Apostle
Paul. Miraculously saved from death at the stake to which she had been condemned,
she went with St. Paul to Antioch in Pisidia where she was thrown to the wild
beasts and was again saved from death by a miracle. After this she went to Myra
where the Apostle was, and finally to Seleucia where she died. With the consent
of St. Paul she had acted as a
female Apostle in proclaiming the Gospel.
Notwithstanding the purely legendary character of the entire story, it is not
impossible that it is connected with an historical person. It is easy to believe
that a virgin of this name who was a native of Iconium was actually converted by
St. Paul and then, like many other women of the Apostolic and later times,
laboured in the work of Christian missions (cf. Harnack,
Die Mission und die
Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten, 2nd ed., I, 295;
II, 58). In the Eastern Church the wide circulation of the Acts led to a great
veneration of Thecla. She was called
Apostle and protomartyr among women. Her
veneration was especially great in a number of Oriental cities, as Seleucia
where she was buried, Iconium, and Nicomedia. Her cult appeared very early also
in Western Europe, particularly in those districts where the Gallican Liturgy
prevailed; there is direct proof of this in the fourth century. Her name is
given with various topographical comments (Nicomedia, Seleucia, Asia) on several
days in the
Martyrologium Hieronymianum. Thus Thecla is mentioned in this
martyrology on 22 February, 25 February, 12 September, 23 September, and 17
Mart. Hieron.. ed. de Rossi-Duchesne, 24, 36, 120, 124, 144). It
seems certain that on all these dates, and probably also on 20 and 21 December,
the same St. Thecla, the pupil of St. Paul, is meant. In Bede's Martyrology (cf.
Martyrologes historiques du moyen âge, 93) her name is mentioned with
a brief notice taken from the Acts on 23 September, the same date as that on
which her feast is given in the present Roman Martyrology. The Greek Church
celebrates her feast on 24 September and gives her the title of
among women and equal to the Apostles (cf. Nilles,
ecclesiae, I, 283 sq.). See bibliography of APOCRYPHA; HOLZHEY, Die
Thecla-Akten, ihre Verbreitung u. Beurteilung in der Kirche (Munich, 1905).
II. We possess historically accurate accounts of the
martyrdom of a Christian of Gaza in Palestine named Thecla. According to
De martyribus Palestinen., 3) she was condemned to death in the
second year of the great persecution (304-05) together with a Christian named
Agapius and was torn to pieces in a horrible manner by the wild beasts to which
she was thrown. The present Roman Martyrology gives the feast of this saint
under thc date of 19 August.
Martyrologium Hieronymianum mentions a
Thecla in connection with a Zosimus among the martyrs whose feast was celebrated
on 1 June; these two saints were commemorated at Antioch. Whether this Thecla
was a local saint of the Oriental metropolis is not known.
IV. A catacomb of St. Thecla on the Via Ostiensis, not far from the burial place of St. Paul, is mentioned in the seventh-century itineraries to the graves of the Roman martyrs. A church stood on this spot on a hill over the catacomb where the body of the saint rested. St. Thecla must be regarded as a Roman martyr. Armellini believes that he has found the cemetery of St. Thecla (cf. Marucchi, Les catacombes romaines, Rome, 1903, p. 91 sqq.).
V. The Martyrology of St. Jerome mentions under 31 May (69), in connection with two martyrs buried on the Via Aurelia, a group of martyrs named Tertulla, Lupus, Justa, and Thecla. It is very possible that besides the St. Thecla buried on the Via Ostiensis another Roman female martyr bearing the same name was buried on the Via Aurelia. Still we have no further account of this group of martyrs, and just as little of a number of Roman martyrs, among whom the name of a Thecla also occurs, that are given under 26 March in the present Roman Martyrology.
VI. In the
Martyrologium Hieronymianum (58, 78) a long list of the names of
African martyrs is given under the dates of 10 May, l3 and 14 June, and each
time a Thecla is mentioned. Nothing further is known of this saint. In the
legend of the twelve brothers and martyrs, Donatus, etc. (cf. Acta SS., Sept., I,
138-41), the parents of the brothers are called Boniface and Thecla, and these
two are also given in the present Roman Martyrology as martyrs under 30 August.
Apart from the purely legendary Acts just mentioned nothing is known of them.
VII. In the
Acts of St. Hermagoras, which are equally legendary (Baronius,
Martyr. Romanum cum notis Baronii, Venice, 1609, p. 494) a St. Thecla of
Aquileia is mentioned together with several other martyrs who are only known
through this legend. Their feast is observed on 3 September.
HAUCK, Kirchengesch. Deutschlands, I, 476-79.
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