Martyrs in the History of Christianity

by Franklyn J. Balasundaram (ed.)

Rev. Dr. Franklyn J. Balasundaram was Professor in the Department of the History of Christianity , United Theological College, Bangalore, India.

Published by the Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Delhi, India 1997, for The United Theological College. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


(ENTIRE BOOK) A biographical account of many Christian martyrs through the centuries, some not well known in the West. Each article is written by a student of Dr. Balasundaram as a project from his class based on the subject at The United Theological College in Bangalore, India. Despite the shortcomings of the text, the bravery of the great Christian martyrs comes through prominently.


  • Preface

    The reasons for martyrdom in antiquity, in the Classical Period, and in the twentieth century.

  • Chapter 1: The Martyrdom of Polycarp — Bishop of Smyrna, By Priscilla Singh

    Christians, a rapidly growing group, claimed on moral and spiritual grounds exclusive loyalty to Christ and opted when confronted with loyalty to the Emperor for the Heavenly king they worshipped. Bishop Polycarp’s martyrdom makes it clear, however, that despite the intense hostility of an apparent majority, the persecutions of Christians in the region of Asia was limited and selective.

  • Chapter 2: The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, by By L.H. Lalpekhlua

    In our context today where millions of people are in hunger and live in sub-human conditions on account of the unjust socioeconomic and political strictures of our country (India), Polycarp’s faith in Jesus Christ challenges us to identify ourselves with the struggles of the poor and the oppressed for justice and liberation.

  • Chapter 3: The Martyrdom of Prominent Martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, by M. Reginold

    Many Christians in Lyons and Vienne were martyred after being assaulted, beaten, stoned and tortured. They were charged with incest, cannibalism and murder and subject to the most cruel and inhuman treatments before dying.

  • Chapter 4: The Martyrdom of Appollonius, by Hudson Christopher

    Appollonius inspired the Christian communities of his times by refusing to makes sacrifices to the statue of the Emperor Commodus, despite the fact that many of Appollonius’ motives were selfish. (e.g. he believed in the rewards of a faithful life, thus not helpful to his neighbor in need.)

  • Chapter 5: Vibia Perpetua and Felicitas by Thomas John

    The martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, though in their early adolescence and females — who are usually considered to be the weaker sex — yet because of their faith in Jesus Christ and their constant dependence on His sustaining grace and power were able to face the discouraging pleas of a father, the sadistic mob and the wild animals in the amphitheatre at Carthage.

  • Chapter 6: The Martyrdom of Cyprian of Carthage (Ad 200-258), by Vijoy T. Oommen

    For Cyprian of Carthage persecution is seen as an opportunity to testify ones faith and hope, a wellspring of the highest example of generous devotion, love and freedom.

  • Chapter 7: The Martyrdom of St. Cyprian, by James Jacob

    This writing deals with a biographical sketch including Cyprian’s life history, priesthood, martyrdom, writings and the author’s reflection on St. Cyprian.

  • Chapter 8: The Martyrdom of Crispina, by Varneihthangi

    Crispina is a mother who, like all mothers, was willing to sacrifice her all for her children, but her love for Christ, comes above all else thus she was willing to even give up her life with her children for Christ’s sake.

  • Chapter 1: The Martyrdom of John Wycliff (1324-84), by Philip George

    Wycliff is considered as the morning star of Reformation. He initiated and shown forth a bright light of moral and doctrinal reform of the church and society in a time of darkness. Many of the ideas of the later Reformers were reflected in these predecessors. At a special synod in 1382, the Archbishop of Canterbury took strong action against his doctrines. However, he was allowed to end his days in peaceful retirement at his Lutterworth presbytery.

  • Chapter 2: The Martyrdom of John Huss (1374-1415), by K.P. Thomas

    John Hus was a Bohemian reformer with strong reformation views. The Council at Constance (November 1, 1414) condemned Hus. The archbishop ex-communicated him and he was burned at the stake despite his denial of some views attributed to him.

  • Chapter 3: The Martyrdom of Joan of Arc (1412-1431), by Varneihthangi

    For Joan of Arc, It was “better to obey the voice of Heaven than that of man.” It was her passionate love of freedom that made her ready to sacrifice her life. She was burned at the stake as “Heretic, backslider, apostate, idolater…” at the age of 19.

  • Chapter 4: The Martyrdom of Thomas More (1478-1535), by Mathew Kuruvilla

    Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor of England and a humanist, disagreed with the King on his divorce issue and he refused to take the oath to the Act of Supremacy. He was tried for treason for refusing to the King his titles. He was tried on 1st July 1535 and executed. The Roman Catholic church canonized him in 1935. But in fact the reason for his martyrdom cannot be confined only to the refusal of recognizing the king as the head of the Church of England. As a humanist his words and deeds were the main reasons for his martyrdom.

  • Chapter 5: The Martyrdom of Thomas Muentzer, by John George

    Muentzer saw in the rebellion of the peasants war (1524-25) the dawn of a new age in which God would rule through the sword and the elect. For this, and other’s of his views , he was arrested, tortured and beheaded. His head was exhibited, with others, as a warning to the living.

  • Chapter 1: The Martyrdom of Paul Ni Tsiong-Hoi of Korea, by F. Pachhunga

    We do not know the exact date, month and year of Paul Ni Tsiong-Hoi’s date of birth or where he was born. Moreover, the sources do not tell us in which year he died. All we know about him is that he died in prison at the age of 36. We do not know how he died. Details are given of his conversation with the governor and others as he stood firm as they tried to get him to deny his faith.

  • Chapter 2: The Martyrs of Madagascar (1835-1861), by Alex P. John

    In time, early missionaries were stripped of all influence and had to depart from Madagascar leaving behind a small handful of Christians. Although they witnessed and won many, all were ultimately persecuted and martyred. Their martyrdom holds a special place in the memory of the protestant churches of Madagascar.

  • Chapter 3: The Martyrdom of David Livingstone, by Philip George

    Livingstone was criticized severely for apparently doing more exploring than missionary work, yet probably no missionary had ever preached to so many blacks and did so much to open Africa for the world to see.

  • Chapter 4: The Martyrs of Uganda (1885-1887) by R. Sashikaba

    Christian missionaries were at first invited to Uganda, but when the colonial division in Africa occurred the missionaries were identified as White conquerors and persecuted. But still local Christians increased in numbers. Nevertheless, many of these were martyred under the most cruel conditions. These martyrs were “crazy for God,” and did not give in to human weaknesses.

  • Chapter 5: The Martyrdom of Marie Skobtsova (1891 — 1945), by Chanda Sahi

    It was to the Russian émigrés working the factories of the suburbs of Paris, in the mines and steel works, who had sunk their lives in alcohol and drugs, that Marie Skobtsova was called. When World War II broke out she helped the Jews, but the SS arrested and imprisoned her. The exact nature of her death is unknown but she died in the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

  • Chapter 6: The Martyrdom of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe (1941), by Manas Ranjan James

    Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest, offered his life in substitution for that of a father of a family who had been condemned to die in the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz. The father lived; Kolbe died in his place. He was a man who was not concerned for his own future but looked ahead for the future of others.

  • Chapter 7: The Martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Biji C. Markos

    Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor, a theologian and a great realist. He steadfastly opposed Nazi inhumanity and moved in the direction of Christian humanism inspired by the vision of Jesus as “the man for others.” On 5th April 1943 he was arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion that he was involved in the attempt on the life of Hitler at Smolensk. He spent 18 months in prison at which time he wrote his famous Letters from Prison. He was finally taken to the concentration camp at Fiossenburg, and was hanged on the morning of 9 April 1945.

  • Chapter 9: The Martyrdom of Archbishop Romero, by Moses Billygraham Raj

    Archbishop Romero was a resolute defender of human rights and was known as “The Prophet of the Poor.” The government became so repressive that he called from his pulpit: “In the name of God and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise daily more loudly to heaven, I plead you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God : Put an end to this repression.” The next day he was murdered by an assassin as he was standing at the Altar.

  • Chapter 10: The Martyrdom of Archbishop Romero, by M. Reginold

    The assassination of Archbishop Romero in March 1980 shocked the world. Oscar Romero lived all his life in the midst of poverty and injustice in Latin America. As the archbishop of San Salvador, he became the leader of the church, and he also became a man who stood for the poor. He became their voice when they were voiceless. He suffered and gave his life for them.

  • Chapter 11. The Martyrdom of Martin Luther King Jr., by Sunny, P.

    The purpose of this writing is to share the Christian faith of Martin Luther King, Jr. and to find out whether those means and methods are rightly used to bring about social change in our context today.

  • Chapter 12: The Martyrdom of Martin Luther King Jr., by John Roberts

    Although Martin King’s failed to establish freedom in his existing situation, he prevented despair from becoming the defining characteristic of his life by looking forward to God’s eschatological freedom which was to come. Although he had to face the threat of death daily, King denied that it had the last word.

  • Chapter 13: The Martyrdom of Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, by G.J.B. Theophilus

    For the Church to be alive in Poland as nowhere else under the Communist rule several priests had to lose their lives. Among them the most prominent was Father Jerzy Popieluszko. He died as a martyr for the cause of human dignity and freedom.

  • Chapter 14 The Martyrs of Karamchedu and Tsunduru, by K.L. Richardson

    An examination of the two historic atrocities on Dalits that took place in Karamchedu and Tsunduru in 1985 and 1991 respectively.

  • 1: The Martyrs of Punnappra Vayalar Struggle, by Saji, K.V.

    The Punnappra Vayalar struggle is a chapter which was written by blood in the history of the independence struggle of Kerala and India. The blood of the martyrs of Punnappra and Vayalar was shed to control the autocratic reign of a ruler and to begin the process of humanizing people, the people who were once no people!

  • 2: The Martyrdom of a Working Class Hero: Sankar Guha Niyogi, by Vijoy T. Oommen

    Sankar Guha Niyogi was an activist organizer of manual workers of various sorts and an aggressive trade Union Leader under severe and repressive tactics of industry and government. His activities became irksome to the establishment which led to harassments and arrests. On September 20th, 1991, he was murdered by an assassin.

  • List of Contributors

    A biography of each contributor to "Martyrs in the History of Christianity"