In the third century, amidst the fervent persecutions of Diocletian, three devout Christian virgins, Saint Archelais, Saint Thecla, and Saint Susanna, hailed from Italy’s Romagna region. In defiance of the era’s brutal oppression, they adopted an audacious disguise, donning men’s attire, cropping their hair short, and embarking on a pilgrimage to Campagna, a province in Italy. There, secluded from the world’s tumult, they devoted themselves to a life of rigorous asceticism, marked by steadfast prayer and fasting. Their piety was rewarded with divine grace, bestowing upon them the miraculous ability to heal. Through their compassionate ministrations, they not only tended to the ailing locals but also illuminated the path of faith for many pagans, guiding them towards the light of Christ.
Word of their extraordinary healings eventually reached the district’s governor, prompting him to summon these virtuous women to Salerno. Upon their arrival, St. Archelais was presented with a dire ultimatum: renounce her faith and worship lifeless idols or face the horrors of torture and death. Unshaken, St. Archelais boldly rejected the governor’s demands, deriding the absurdity of idolatry. Enraged, the governor decreed that she be devoured by ravenous lions. However, the anticipated savagery never ensued; instead, the ferocious beasts, subdued by a divine presence, humbly laid at her feet. Infuriated by this defiance of his will, the governor ordered the lions slain and imprisoned the holy maidens.
The following day, a more gruesome torment awaited St. Archelais. Bound to a tree, she endured the excruciating pain of her flesh being torn by iron implements and seared by scalding tar. Amidst her agony, her prayers rose fervently, invoking a celestial light that enveloped her and a divine voice that reassured, “Fear not, for I am with you.”
Miraculously safeguarded by divine intervention, St. Archelais remained unscathed when an immense stone, intended to crush her, was divinely redirected, annihilating her tormentors instead. Faced with this heavenly defiance, a judge commanded the execution of the saintly trio. Yet, even the soldiers, awestruck by the palpable sanctity that enveloped these women, hesitated to raise their swords. It was only after the saints themselves admonished the soldiers, insisting on the fulfillment of the decree to preserve their honor, that the soldiers, reluctantly and with profound reverence, carried out the ultimate sacrifice. Thus, in 293, Saints Archelais, Thekla, and Susanna embraced martyrdom, their legacy etched forever in the annals of faith.
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