In 363 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate, Apronianus was appointed as the Governor of Rome. This era marked the beginning of a brutal persecution of Christians, one of whose victims was Saint Bibiana. She was born into a devout Christian family; her father, Flavian, was a Roman knight, and her mother, Dafrosa. Tragedy struck early when Flavian was tortured and exiled, ultimately succumbing to his injuries. Dafrosa faced a grim fate too, being executed by beheading.

Saint Bibiana and her sister Demetria, orphaned and impoverished, devoted themselves to a life of piety, fasting, and prayer in their home. However, their steadfast faith caught the attention of Apronianus. When summoned before him, Demetria declared her faith and mysteriously died on the spot, leaving Bibiana to face further trials.

Bibiana was handed over to a merciless woman named Rufina, who tried unsuccessfully to corrupt her. Despite facing both physical abuse and temptation, Bibiana’s faith remained unshaken. Frustrated by her resilience, Apronianus ordered a more severe punishment. Bibiana was bound to a pillar and savagely beaten with lead-weighted scourges until she succumbed to her injuries. Throughout this ordeal, she maintained a joyful spirit, meeting her martyrdom with unwavering faith.

Following her execution, Bibiana’s body was left unburied, a prey for wild beasts. However, after two days, a priest named John secretly interred her near the palace of Licinius. Her grave later became a revered site. In 465, Pope Simplicius built a church, named Olympina in honor of a benefactress, over her tomb. Centuries later, in 1628, Pope Urban VIII ordered the church’s reconstruction due to its dilapidated state. During this renovation, the relics of Saint Bibiana and her family, long hidden, were rediscovered and rehoused in the newly restored church, ensuring the lasting legacy of their faith and martyrdom.

Photo credit: Sailko via Wikimedia Commons

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