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Saint Apollonia (c. 200-249 CE)

Apollonia is believed to have been a Christian woman who lived in Alexandria around 200 CE. It is claimed she was captured and tortured in 249 CE, and that her torture involved having her teeth extracted and shattered before she was burned to death by the Roman authorities.

Following her martyrdom, Apollonia was made a saint by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Christian churches. She was made the patron saint of tooth problems by the Catholic church, and medieval sufferers of toothache were often advised to address a well-known prayer to her. Importantly, historical research has shown that this advice was dispensed by physicians - showing that medical practice in this period involved a combination of natural remedies and spiritual advice.

The island of Mauritius was initially named Santa Apolonia in her honour by Portuguese navigators in 1507. Different relics believed to be remains of St Apollonia are held in several churches across Europe, including a reliquary containing a tooth in Porto Cathedral, Portugal.

Related Themes and Topics



L T Olsen, ‘Charms and Prayers in Medieval Theory and Practice’, Social History of Medicine, 16 (2004), pp 343-366


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