The History of St. Apollonia
There is very little about the life of St. Apollonia, the patron saint of dentistry. Her birthdate is not recorded, but legends say that she was born to wealthy parents. It is said that they were barren, but Apollonia was born after they prayed to Mother Mary for a child. She grew in her faith and became a nun in the church. Nothing more is written about her life until her death in 249.
Apollonia’s death is recorded in a letter written between two bishops of the time – St. Dionysus, Bishop of Alexandria and Fabian, Bishop of Antioch.
During the reign of Emperor Phillip the Arab, prior to the persecution of Decius (a Roman Emperor), around the year 249, there were celebrations for the Rome’s millennium. These festivities resulted in the crowds that became restless causing riots all over the empire. There was an uprising against the Christians. The authorities made no effort to protect the Christians or their homes from pillaging and death.
The letter explained that a Christian man and woman, Metras and Quinta, were seized by an unruly mob and put to death by torture. Houses of several others were ransacked and destroyed. Many died at the hands of these men. At the time, Apollonia, held in high esteem in the church, was also seized. She was struck, repeatedly and with such force, that all her teeth were shattered, broken, and violently removed.
The angry mob went on to build fires and threatened to burn her if she did not renounce her faith and say blasphemous things against her God and her religion. She jumped into the fire of her own accord rather than turn against her faith. According to the letter, the fire did not burn her, but the mob later decapitated her.
She has been painted in a scene by the French Court painter Jehan Fouquet called “The Martyrdom of St Apollonia”. A statue of her is in Locronan, France. There was a church dedicated to her in Rome, but the church no longer stands. Where the church was located is now a square called “Piazza Sant’ Apollonia”. Her image can also be found in the coat of arms of The British Dental Association.
The Feast day of St. Apollonia is February 9th, celebrating the life of this patron saint of dentists and dental problems. A prayer to Saint Apollonia that can be said in order to help in times of dental trouble and toothache.