Feast Day : September 23
The story of Thecla is told in the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, written in the second century. Thecla probably was a real person, a maiden of Iconium (now in Turkey) who was so impressed by the preaching of St. Paul that she converted, took a vow of virginity and gave up her betrothal in marriage. Acts records her sufferings, adventures, tortures, miraculous cures and interactions with Paul. In Antioch she was condemned to be thrown to wild beasts, but the lioness that was supposed to kill her merely licked her feet. She was then stripped naked and thrown to two lions, but the beasts killed each other instead of her. Released, she went to Seleucia, where she became a hermit. She died at age 90. Thecla’s story probably is mostly fiction. Tertullian said that Acts had been forged by an Asian priest. Thecla’s story was popular during the early centuries of the Church and was considered to be genuine history. It was cited by many Church fathers and eminent theologians, among them Eusebius, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom and Severus Sulpitius. The description of Paul in Acts matches iconographic tradition: He was “of a small stature with meeting eyebrows, bald [or shaved] head, bow-legged, strongly built, hollow-eyed, with a large crooked nose; he was full of grace, for sometimes he appeared as a man, sometimes he had the countenance of an angel.” Because of doubts about the historical validity of the account of her life, however, her cult was suppressed in 1969.