I understand that Foxe's Book of Martyrs (first published in English in 1563) is an exhaustive account of Christian martyrs, both pre- and post-Reformation. However, at a daunting 1,570 pages in length, my need is for a more concise overview. Also, my assignment specifically focuses on the early Church Fathers.

So far I've got Ignatius of Antioch (martyred circa A.D. 110), Justin Martyr (A.D. 165), Irenaeus of Lyon (circa A.D. 202) and Origen of Alexandra, who was persecuted, tortured, imprisoned and after his release, died A.D. 254.

Eusebius of Caesarea fled persecution and witnessed the martyrdom of Christians (circa A.D. 300) and John Chrysotom died while in exile A.D. 407. No mention of them dying as martyrs, though.

Is there a link to a credible source of information about the early Church Fathers who were martyrs?

  • 1
    My 2004 edition only has 373 pages. Much has been left out. I assume that all and any references given by Foxe could have taken up many pages and were omitted. I could only find one vague source regarding the martyrdom of the apostle James. Foxe says there was an eminent primitive writer, Clemens Alexandrinus, who said his accuser repented saying James should not die alone, sought his pardon, and was beheaded alongside him (A.D. 44). But no proper reference is given. Foxe only makes scant mention of pre-Reformation martyrs, majoring on the Inquisition onward. Catholic sources would suit better
    – Anne
    Mar 7 at 15:39
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    While in Switzerland, Foxe published a work on martyrs of the early church, first in Latin (1554) and then in English (1563). Because so many English Protestants were martyred during Catholic Queen Mary the firsts reign, Foxe added to his work to include more recent (post-Reformation) history. I can only assume the book on the early church martyrs is a separate book.
    – Lesley
    Mar 7 at 18:02

2 Answers 2

  • Polycarp of Smyrna is one omission from the list in the OP, although the letter attributed to him is disputed. He left no other writings but is nevertheless considered one the apostolic fathers.

  • Clement of Rome is another. Like Polycarp he left only one letter but he is counted both as a pope and an apostolic father.

  • Another is Cyprian of Carthage. He left many writings - although more than a few are considered inauthentic - and he is one of the most important early church fathers.

  • Maximus the Confessor may also be mentioned. He was not technically a martyr, but he was tortured for his faith and later died in exile.

This article from Wikipedia provides a useful list of early martyrs but does not indicate which ones are "fathers of the church" and which are not.

  • That Wikipedia link is very useful, thank you.
    – Lesley
    Mar 7 at 18:03
  • Early church fathers (up till A.D. 325) are fairly easy to identify so I will focus on them.
    – Lesley
    Mar 8 at 8:10

Which Church Fathers were martyred?

The most well known ones are St. Polycarp of Smyrna, St. Clement of Rome, St. Cyprian of Carthage and St. Maximus the Confessor.

Still others exist.

St. Pamphilus of Cæsarea a Church Father and martyr was put to death in 309 for simply being a Christian.

The Church Father Origen although not recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church died as a direct result of being tortured for his faith. In my understanding death that is a direct result of injuries suffered in prison in hatred of the faith does constitute a martyrdom. The Catholic Church has canonized other martyrs who have died as a direct result of being ill treated while in prison.

Origen founded the Christian School of Caesarea, where he taught logic, cosmology, natural history, and theology, and became regarded by the churches of Palestine and Arabia as the ultimate authority on all matters of theology. He was tortured for his faith during the Decian persecution in 250 and died three to four years later from his injuries.

Origen is often noted for being one of the few Church Fathers who is not generally regarded as a saint. Nevertheless, there are notable individuals who referred to Origen as St. Origen. This includes Anglicans such as Edward Welchman, John Howson and Sir Winston Churchill; Calvinists such as Pierre Bayle, Georges-Louis Liomin and Heinrich Bullinger; American scholar and Orthodox Christian David Bentley Hart; Oriental Orthodox such as Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, Fr. Tadros Yakoup Malaty and the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States. Origen's father, Saint Leonides of Alexandria, has a feast day on April 22 in the Catholic tradition, and the Evangelical Church in Germany celebrates April 27 as Origen's feast day.

  • I'd never heard of Pamphilus of Caesarea so thank you for that additional information.
    – Lesley
    Mar 10 at 16:06

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