Christina of Bolsena, also known as Christina of Tyre, or in the Eastern Orthodox Church as Christina the Great Martyr, is venerated as a Christianmartyr of the 3rd century. Archaeological excavations of an underground cemetery constructed at her tomb have shown that she was venerated at Bolsena by the fourth century.
The existence of Christina herself is poorly attested. Some versions of her legend place her in Tyre (Phoenicia), other evidence points to Bolsena, an ancient town in central Italy, near an Etruscan site called Volsinium, with catacombs in which archeologists have found the remains of an early Christian church and the tomb of a female martyr. Inscriptions found on the site confirm that this martyr had a name like Christina and that the local community was venerating her as a saint by the end of the fourth century. Some corroborating evidence is provided by a sixth-century mosaic in the basilica of St. Apollinare Nuovo at Ravenna, which includes in its procession of virgins a saint named Christina, wearing a martyr’s crown.
Christina is an early virgin Christian martyr. By the ninth century, an account of her martyrdom was composed, which developed many variants. According to these, she was born either in Tyre (Eastern stories) or in Persia (Western stories) during the 3rd century or 5th century.
She was born into a rich family, and her father was governor of Tyre. By the age of 11 the girl was exceptionally beautiful, and many wanted to marry her. Christina’s father, however, envisioned that his daughter should become a pagan priestess. To this end he placed her in a special dwelling where he had set up many gold and silver idols, and he commanded his daughter to burn incense before them. Two servants attended Christina.Saint Christina giving her father’s idols of gold to the poor, 17th-century painting in the National Museum in WarsawMartyrdom of St Christina San Zanipolo Venice, Italy.
According to accounts, one time Christina was visited by an angel, who instructed her in the true faith. The angel called her a bride of Christ and told her about her future suffering. Christina smashed all the idols in her room and threw them out the window. In visiting his daughter, Christina’s father, Urbanus, asked her where all the idols had disappeared. Christina was silent. Then, having summoned the servants, Urbanus learned the truth from them.
Urbanus had his daughter tortured because of her faith, but God thwarted his efforts on several occasions. The nature of the torture varies with each telling, and can include iron hooks, grilling by fire, placement in a furnace, torture on the wheel, assault by snakes, assailment by arrows, and other assorted methods which she survives. After her father’s death, his successor, Dion, continued to torture her. Christina is eventually beheaded.
“The ‘grounding of girls in the virtues of womanhood’ has historically resulted in unchecked violence against women. They were merely helpless creatures exposed to violence and cruelty, including death. Any opposition or rebellion against the imposed patterns often ended tragically. If someone dreams of returning to the times and patterns of the rightfully past, he is a sadist with complexes, who cannot find his place in the contemporary world. The mere fact of wearing pants does not give absolute power over anyone or anything.