Saints of the Day – Photinus (Pothinus) and Companions

stained glass window of Saint Photinus of Lyons, church of St-Pothin de Lyon, artist unknown; photographed on 5 August 2010 by GO69; swiped off WikipediaArticle

Died 177. Photinus, Sanctus (Sanctius), Vetius, Epagathus, Maturus, Ponticus, Biblides, Attalus, Alexander, Blandina (see separate entry), and companions, were martyrs in Lyons, France, which was the center of trade and government for Roman Gaul. The authentic acta of these martyrs was preserved in a letter from the churches in Vienne and Lyons to those of Asia. The author is believed to have been Saint Ireneaus.

At first they were set upon by an angry pagan mob, whose harsh handling of the 90-year-old Bishop Pothinus left him with wounds that caused his death in prison. Pothinus was raised in Greece and instructed in the faith by the successors to the Apostles. He was sent to Gaul to evangelize Lyons and become its first bishop. On his arrival he was warmly welcomed by the Lyonnaise who were of Greek heritage and built a church and underground crypt on the site of the present-day Saint-Nizier Church. For the next 20 years he preached the Gospel to an ever-growing flock.

The persecutions began under Marcus Aurelius with social ostracism. Christians were prevented from purchasing goods in the market, visiting the public baths, or using other public services. The incident in which Photinus was mortally wounded was just one of many in which gangs of bullies insulted and assaulted the Christians as they moved about town.

Once the mob was finished with Photinus and 57 of his followers, they were arrested and taken into the forum where, after a summary questioning, they were ordered to prison. A young Christian named Epagathus openly protested the injustice of the procedure. He asked to be allowed to defend the others from the absurd and slanderous charges of cannibalism and incest brought against them, but he was silenced and arrested. Ten of the Christians apostatized, but the rest remained steadfast.

Two men, Maturus and Sanctus, were roasted to death on an iron chair. Attalus suffered a similar fate. Alexander, a physician who had encouraged the martyrs, was arrested and summarily condemned to be thrown to the wild beasts. All 48 martyrs suffered tortures of equal viciousness. On the last day only the slave girl named Blandina, whose mistress had already been killed, and the young boy Ponticus remained. The boy was tortured first as Blandina urged him to remain steadfast. Then Blandina was tortured and finally enmeshed in a net and tossed by a wild bull until she perished, kept repeating the simple words, “I am a Christian.” So great was her faith and firmness in her hope of salvation that she seemed to feel no pain. After she was beheaded by the sword, “the pagans themselves saying that they had never seen a woman show such courage.” Not one of the martyrs wavered in the faith.

The bodies of the martyrs were left in the arena for a week and then thrown into the Rhône (Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 20 June 2020. Web. 3 December 2021. <>