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Who was Polycarp? Martyrdom of Polycarp

Since the early centuries, there have been severe persecutions against Christians. The event with the Martyrdom of Polycarp took place in 156 AD. Before being martyred, he travels to Rome to resolve the issue of the date of Easter. At that time, there were differences in the celebration of Easter: some celebrated the Lord’s Resurrection on 14 Nisan, regardless of which day of the week it fell on, thus at the same time as the Jewish Passover, and others on the first Sunday after 14 Nisan. Although the two did not reach an agreement, they remained united.

Saint Polycarp was ordained deacon and priest by Saint Vol. The bishops present at St. Vol’s funeral ordained him, Bishop. He was born in a dungeon, around the year 70, in Ephesus, because his parents had been imprisoned for not renouncing their faith in Christ. At his baptism, he received the name Pangratia. From the writings of St. Irenaeus, we learn that St. Polycarp was a disciple of St. John the Apostle. Before his parents were martyred, he was given into the care of Calista, a rich and faithful woman. About Polycarp’s martyrdom, we know that he was burned alive. A few days before he was martyred, he had a vision: he saw the pillow on which he was sleeping burned in the fire. That’s how he understood that he would be thrown into the fire.

Because he refused to sacrifice to the gods, he received the punishment of being thrown into the fire. Because the fire would not touch him, he was pierced with a sword, but so much blood flowed from him that it extinguished the fire. In addition, at the Jews’ request, his lifeless body was burned.

Who is Polycarp?

Bishop Polycarp, however, guilty of the crime of being a Christian, was caught by the persecutors in a house. The old Bishop saw the guests trying to capture him and welcomed them properly into his home on the Saturday before Easter 155. In the key of human thinking, Polycarp’s life could have been saved by a simple confession, but that would have meant apostasy from Christianity.

Martyr Polycarp is regarded as one of the most luminous figures of ancient Christian literature, his exemplary life as a Christian and Bishop. Therefore his irreproachable teaching and martyrdom made him the teacher of Asia and the father of Christians. Saint Polycarp is a witness and witness of the apostolic faith and life. On 23 February 155, St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, received the crown of mutiny under the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius.

So the Martyrdom Acts collection preserves the letter sent by the Church of Smyrna to the Christian community of Philomelion. Also, it was the first Greek-language document to reproduce the martyrdom of a holy mukemaker. Finally, from this letter, we learn that St Polycarp was the twelfth martyr to suffer in the city of Smyrna.

Biography of Polycarp

Full name:Polycarp
Date of birth: 0072 AD
Death day:June 1, 0156 AD
The thread of life:84 years
Place of birth:Smyrna, the modern city of Izmir in Turkey
Father's name:Pangratie
Mother's name:Theodora
Spouse:He was never married
Physical appearance:of medium height, with a long beard and the appearance of a monk
Summary of life:He was born in an insurrection and dedicated the rest of his life to Christ.
Life lessons:To all the arguments by which they tried to make him renounce his faith, Saint Polycarp replied with one of the most beautiful confessions of Christianity: "For eighty-six years I have served Him and He has done me no harm. How can I curse my King, the One who saved me?"
Life accomplishments:He dedicated his whole life to God and as he stood in the arena in front of the fire ready to be thrown, Saint Polycarp raised a prayer to God.
Death cause:MARTYRDOM.
He was thrown into the fire to be burned alive.

Places from the times of Polycarp

  1. The Aegean Sea- The exact location of The Sea
  2. Izmir- Is Izmir in Turkey?
  3. Smyrna- Was Smyrna a safe location for Christians?

What is Polycarp known for?

Polycarp sat and hid, driven by humble self-distrust. Discovered in a barn and brought back to the city, he still knew how to show the serene courage of his faith in the moment of trial. We know the poignant end of his life from a document that bears the date of the year following St Polycarp’s death.

Polycarp is known for his martyrdom in 0156 BC and as Bishop of the city. He was also known for being a man of God born in prison. Because his parents were imprisoned for their faith in Jesus Christ which they did not want to renounce. Polycarp was, above all, a man of leadership. He was not endowed with the qualities of St Ignatius as a writer and thinker, nor did he wish, like Ignatius, to be torn apart by circus beasts to reach God.

When the proconsul Statius Quadratus urges him to deny Jesus, old Polycarp, shaking his head, replies: For 86 years I have served him, and he has done me no harm, how could I insult my King who redeemed me? Indeed, I have the power to command that you be burned alive, adds the proconsul. Yet, the fire you threaten me with, Polycarp replies. It burns and roasts for a moment but then passes: I fear the unquenchable fire of eternal damnation and flames.

What is Polycarp the patron saint of?

Saints all have certain obligations they must fulfill. Polycarp is declared a saint and must intercede for spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit makes the mind victorious over the sufferings, more than the natural virtues, makes it loving to men, wise, the more so, as some evil deeds are not only the work of man. But of evil spirits. But the Holy Spirit strengthens faith and prays with us the prayer that pierces the heavens. He is also the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and power, good faith, and the fear of God. But all these gifts are useless unless we strive to work with the Spirit.

The church recognizes Polycarp as the patron saint of spiritual gifts. The gift of the Holy Spirit is of the heart and is not received only where the heart is in doubt. However, he gives it freely to all who ask for it. The gifts have as their source the Holy Spirit of God through the Word of the Saviour Christ and are for the improvement of the Church.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts to men and talents, which are also multiplied by the power of the Spirit through the prayer and watchfulness of man. Each one has skills from Christ according to his ability, and each one with his mind can wisely put to work what God has put in his heart but can also neglect them if he stifles the voice of his conscience: the gifts can be used selfishly, the light can be placed under the obstruction.

Key Verse related to Polycarp

“Eighty and six years have I served Christ, nor has He done me any harm. How, then, could I blaspheme my King who saved Me?… So I bless Thee for deigning me worthy of this day and this hour. I may also be among Thy martyrs and drink the cup of my Lord Jesus Christ.”


Read also: The great fire of Rome. Why did Nero burn Rome?

What does martyrdom mean in the Bible?

Martyrdom cannot be removed from church life, regardless of mentalities, time, and place. So every Christian is a witness to the Truth, for he preaches to God by word and deed. Then, the believer is always persecuted by the unbeliever, whether in society or his own family. The former is enlightened and strengthened by God’s grace, while the latter, without being aware of it, is used by the devil.

According to Christian writings, martyrdom in the Bible means sacrificing your life for faith in Jesus Christ. Confessing faith with strength is done primarily by enduring many torments for the Savior Christ. Only through tribulation and pain our faith and love for God are revealed.

However, the Apostle Paul says: I am sure that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy of the greatness that shall be revealed to us. So who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Or affliction, or again distress, or persecution, or famine, or again lack of clothing, or peril, or sword? As it is written: For Thy sake, we are slain all the day long, counted as sheep for the slaughter. But in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, life, angels, principalities, powers, height, depth, or any other works shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What was the role of martyrdom in early Christianity?

The persecution of Christians began under Nero’s command and rule. Christians also suffered imprisonment, chains, fire, and countless mockeries. Paul was also among the first martyrs of the Christian church with faith in Jesus Christ. So for decades, persecution continued with fury and a desire to wipe Christianity off the face of the earth.

The role of persecution and Christian martyrdom in the early era of Christianity was to fulfill the words of the Savior: for my name’s sake, you will be delivered into the hands of the judges, and you will be killed. He foretold all that was to come. All the horrors and horrors that his followers would experience.

Until the end of the world, the martyrs will bear witness that, by the grace of God. Man can follow the example of Jesus Christ in his relationship to suffering and death. The faithful and God-loving soul fears nothing, for there is no fear where God is.

When was Polycarp martyred?

The martyrs could only ensure the torments because they were not alone in those moments but together with Christ. The consciousness of absolute union with Christ, especially in the furnace of pain, a martyr defines it thus: “There, amid the beasts, another will be in me who will suffer for me, because I will suffer for him.” This is why Polycarp was also entrusted to deserve death for Christ.

According to biblical records, Polycarp was martyred in June 0156 BC. Unexpectedly, the body is ruined by years, and suffering falls into ashes. While in the middle of the arena of Smyrna, he was burnt alive “not like meat that is roasting, but like bread that is baking” the martyr raised a splendid prayer to the Lord, short but intense: “Blessed forever, O Lord, may your name worthy of worship be glorified throughout all ages by Jesus Christ the eternal and almighty priest, and to you, together with Him and the Holy Spirit, be glory forever and ever.”

Martyrs did not choose death for the faith so much out of a desire to pass more quickly into eternal life, but rather because God chose them as His witnesses to strengthen the Church and His glory. Martyrdom, then, is a gift from God.

How was Polycarp martyred?

The angry crowd demanded that a lion be released to tear the saint apart. But as the beast fights were over, they cried out to burn him alive. Just like in the case of Jesus Christ with the episode of Barrabas. In a flash, the Jews and non-Christians gathered wood and bindings from the nearby workshops and baths. When the pyre was ready in the middle of the stadium, Polycarp laid down all his garments as if he had made the holy sacrifice and wanted to dismount but could not because the faithful were always eager to kiss his feet.

Polycarp’s tragic end is recounted in various apocryphal sources. He was martyred by being cut down with a sword and thrown alive into the fire. Seated on the stake as a sacrifice ready to be sacrificed, he raised his eyes to heaven and gave glory to God in the last prayer. When he said Amen, the horse riders lit the fire. A great flame rises, but a miracle! The fire unexpectedly appeared like a vault, like a ship’s sail inflated by the wind, surrounding the martyr’s body like a defensive wall. It stood not like a burning body but like bread baking or gold or silver burned in a furnace, spreading a smell of incense or other precious spices.

If the unbelievers saw that the saint could not be destroyed by fire, they commanded the horseman to pierce him with the sword. So the blood soaked up that it quenched the fire, leaving the crowd speechless with amazement.

who was polycarp

Map Legend

  1. Green– strengths of Roman- Christian countries in the second century
  2. Pink (and also the Mauve area)- Non-Christian population areas of the second century
  3. Red- strengths of Roman- Christian countries in the second century
  4. Green and red bullets- The presence of a small minority of Christianity

Prayer to St Polycarp

Holy, blessed by God, Polycarp, in your eternal prayers, grant us that. By the outpouring of God’s mercy upon us, we may be given, most fruitful, the life-giving fruits of the Spirit: love in the heart: with eyes looking to God, in mind the joy of the spirit; in mind filling it with unceasing prayer, peace in our soul; in the breast sighing for sins, in all patience.

To the inward face, goodness; in the hands, doing good; in the ears, obedience to the Holy Scriptures. And on the tongue, confession of the truth, steadfast in the right faith; to the language, gentleness; the belly, sealed with temperance, and in the whole body, purity. We may be heirs of everlasting joy and partakers of the kingdom of heaven.


5 Characteristics of Polycarp through 5 Bible Verses

Polycarp was an accomplished saint who knew all the demons of the deep. The brilliance of his holiness and his teaching made many souls, lost by the heresies of Valentinus and Marcion, convert to the true faith. In Rome, St. Irenaeus recounts, St. Polycarp met the heretic Marcion; he asked him if he knew him. Polycarp answered him: I do not know the firstborn of Satan.

The actual characteristics of God’s chosen Bishop, Polycarp, can be found in 5 biblical passages:

1. True believer for the whole world. (Ephesians 1:1)
2. Steadfast and unchanging faith. (Revelation 12:17)
3. He was a saint. (1 Peter 1:15-16)
4. Brother of God. (Hebrews 2:11)
5. Martyr of the faith. (John 17:14)

To better understand his character’s five characteristics, they are described in the following lines, with strict reference to the martyred Bishop.

1. True believer for the whole world. (Ephesians 1:1)

 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.” 

Ephesians 1:1 (NIV)

Saint Polycarp has taught his Church and all the nations in the apostles’ spirit for more than fifty years. Around 155, when he was a burdened older man, he made a trip to Rome to discuss with Pope Anicetus the disagreement between Rome and the Churches of Asia concerning the date of Easter and to defend the true faith against heresies.

2. Steadfast and unchanging faith. (Revelation 12:17)

“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.”

Revelation 12:17 (NIV)

Even on the brink of death, Polycarp had unwavering faith. So with a large crowd of wood and vines ready, Polycarp took off his girdle and stripped off his clothes. He also took off his shoes, and the tormentors prepared irons and spikes to spike Polycarp lest he escaped the fire. The saint said to them, “You shouldn’t trap me, for He who will give me patience in the fire will also give me the courage not to move from my place or turn aside.”

3. He was a saint. (1 Peter 1:15-16)

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy because I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)

All Christians were called to the consecration. Undoubtedly, this is how the apostle Paul encouraged the people. And Polycarp followed his advice. In each of the world religions, before the rise of Christianity and afterward, one can pursue with interest the attention paid to saints and holiness. Indeed, there is no religion without the idea of saints and holiness. And if there were any without these two notions, it could no longer be called religion.

4. Brother of God. (Hebrews 2:11)

“The one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” 

Hebrews 2:11 (NIV)

Therefore, like each of us, Polycarp was called a brother of God. For He indeed who sanctifies and those who are blessed are one. Consequently, He is not ashamed to call them brothers. What can be more wonderful than to be called a brother of the highest God? Or even as Abraham, a friend of God?

5. Martyr of the faith. (John 17:14)

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, for they are not more of the world than I am of the world.”

John 17:14 (NIV)

Jesus affirmed and prophesied what would happen to Polycarp and other Christians. And he declared that I gave them thy word, and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am not. But Polycarp was of the word of Christ, not of the pagan world. So he had to endure martyrdom for the greatest eternal reward, the crown of glory.

Read also: Irenaeus of Lyon. Irenaeus Against Heresies

Primary Takeaways

  • While Christ’s priceless disciples endured all sorts of hardships to be finally fed to the beasts, the holy Polycarp kept his usual quiet and even wanted to stay in town so as not to leave his talking flock.
  • Saint Polycarp wrote clearly to the Christians of Philippi to congratulate them on the reception of Saint Ignatius and the martyrs: “you have surely received the followers of true love, and you have accompanied. Just as you were bound to do, so those who are endued with chains worthy of saints, which are the diadems of those who were with our God and our Lord,” indeed chose
  • The body of Polycarp was placed by the centurion in the middle and burned. And so the Christians could lay hands on his precious bones for the kingdom of heaven. They were put in a suitable place where they gathered every year to celebrate the day of his birth in Heaven with joy.


Saint Polycarp, according to Eusebius, is the twelfth of those who received the mutiny at Smyrna, but of course, of all. Polycarp was born in the city of Ephesus to well-to-do parents named Pangratia and Theodora. Having been betrayed by the town’s lord, they were brought before him and, confessing Christ, were beaten and imprisoned.

Theodora gave birth to the Saint in the dungeon, and God also sent His angel who, after having tamed the parents and embarrassed them. Accordingly to Bible, he took the child and brought it to a rich and Christian older woman named Calista, who gave it to her care. He lived his life as a bishop of Christ. And he died for the faith and will indeed receive his crown of life at the second coming of Jesus.

If you enjoyed reading our article, play the following Quizlet to test your knowledge about Polycarp and his martyrdom. Have a good day, and thank you for your time!

Quizlet about Polycarp

who was polycarp

Quizlet about Polycarp

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Who was Polycarp?

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Where was he born?

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How did he die?

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How old was he when he died?

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Why did Polycarp wanted to die?

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At what age was he baptized?

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His mother name was ____?

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Who was his father?

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He was considered a by the Roman state because he was a Christian.

10 / 10

Polycarp, was by birth and growing up a son of the city of _____.

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  • Barnes, T. D. (1967). A note on Polycarp. The Journal of Theological Studies, 433-437.
  • Den Boeft, J., & Bremmer, J. (1985). Notiunculae Martyrologicae III. Some Observations on the Martyria of Polycarp and Pionius. Vigiliae christianae39(2), 110-130.
  • Hill, C. E. (1999). The Epistula Apostolorum: An Asian Tract from the Time of Polycarp. Journal of Early Christian Studies7(1), 1-53.
  • Moss, C. R. (2010). On the Dating of Polycarp: Rethinking the Place of the Martyrdom of Polycarp in the History of Christianity. Early Christianity1(4), 539-574.
  • Norris, F. W. (1976). Ignatius, Polycarp, and I Clement: Walter Bauer Reconsidered. Vigiliae Christianae, 23-44.