Arcadius of Mauretania
January 12, Saint.


Roman martyrology: Saint Arcadius, martyr, illustrious by his noble birth and miracles.


At the beginning of the fourth century, Christians in the Roman Empire were so viciously persecuted that Arcadius, a prominent citizen of Caesarea in Mauretania (near Algiers), hid away in the countryside to avoid being forced to worship idols on pain of death. His absence was soon noticed by the persecutors. Worse, they caught one of his relatives and threatened him in order to persuade him to reveal where Arcadius was hiding.

The saint would not allow anyone to suffer in his place, so Arcadius freely presented himself in an attempt to secure the liberty of the other. "Release this innocent man," he told the judge, "since I have appeared in person before you and he did not know where I was hiding."

The judge promised to release Arcadius, too, if only he would offer a sacrifice to idols. Arcadius, of course, refused, though he knew he would now be tortured. "Invent what torments you please," he declared. "Nothing shall make me betray my God. The fear of death will never make me fail in my duty."

In a rage the judge decided that he would make Arcadius actually desire to die. As he boasted to the saint what tortures were now to be inflicted, all Arcadius would say was, "Lord, teach me your wisdom."

Usually Christians at this time were beheaded, if they refused to make sacrifice to idols. At the place of execution, Arcadius was surprised that this did not happen. Instead, his limbs were cut off, joint by joint, so hat even his executioners were moved to tears. All Arcadius repeated was, "Lord, teach me your wisdom."

Eventually all that remained were his trunk and head. Then a remarkable thing happened. The dying saint looked around at all the pieces of him, hacked off, and lying on the ground. He could still speak, and he cried out, "You are happy, my members. Now you really belong to God. You have all been sacrificed to Him."

His last words were addressed to the onlookers. "Learn from my torments," He shouted. "Your gods are nothing. The only true God is the one for whom I am suffering and about to die. To die for him is to live".

Arcadius is portrayed in art as an early Christian martyr with a club in his hand. Sometimes he is shown with a lighted taper or on a rack or with his limbs chopped off.


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