Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Apollonia of Alexandria,patron Saint of dentists

In  one of the great churches of Rome there stood a shrine dedicated to St.Apollonia..Men and women would travel from far away to ask for the assistance of the saint  to give them relief from dental pain.
Prayers were recited to give them refuge from the suffering of the diseases of the teeth .
Who was St.Apollonia?
During the reign of the Emperor Philip when  the persecution of Christians began in Alexandria  ,in  Egypt while most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions,an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.
Legend has it that as she was being consumed by the flames she called out that those who suffered from toothache and invoked her name would be relieved of their suffering.
Following her martyrdom, Apollonia , on February 9th, 249 AD, was born the saint and icon of comfort for any who suffer a toothache. made a saint by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Christian church.
A cult associated with  St.Apollonia developed relatively quickly in Europe,most probably because of the ubiquitousness of dental ills.
Apollonia is always shown holding a forceps with a tooth grasped in its beaks and by studying her iconography we can see that the instruments used then ,are not much different from  the ones we use today.

P.S Apollonia is honored as the patron saint of dentists, but this woman who had her teeth extracted without anesthetic surely ought to be the patron of those who dread the chair!!

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