26 September – St Natalia of Nicomedia (4th Century)


26 September – St Natalia of Nicomedia (4thCentury).
St Natalia[1]was married to St Adrian, the head of the Praetorium.  He was a pagan and one of his duties was to record the names and responses of Christians who were being tortured in Nicomedia.  This was probably in the time of Emperor Galerius Maximian (305-311). 
Twenty-three believers hid in a cave near Nicomedia, they were caught, tortured and urged to offer sacrifices to the gods.   As their names were being recorded Adrian asked them how they expected to be rewarded by their God.  They answered Adrian
What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him”[2]
 Upon hearing their testimony and seeing the way they bore their sufferings he decided to become a Christian and he told the scribe to add his name also.   Upon this Adrian was imprisoned but Natalia, his wife who was also a secret believer was able to visit him and encourage him as he faced death for his new found faith. 
Adrian and the other Christians were sentenced to having their arms and legs placed on an anvil then broken with a heavy hammer.  Somehow St Natalia managed to take one of the hands of her husband and secrete it amongst the folds of her robe. 
The executioners tried to burn the bodies but a storm arose and blew the fire out and struck and killed some of the executioners. 
Natalia was afraid that she would be pressured into re-marrying once Adrian was dead, before her husband’s martyrdom she asked him to pray that this wouldn’t happen.  When after Adrian’s martyrdom an army commander wanted to marry Natalia, she left Nicomedia and went to Argyroupolis, which was near to the city of Byzantium.  Later Adrian appeared to his wife in a dream and warned her of her impending death, thought to have been brought on by her sufferings.  Shortly after St Natalia fell asleep in the Lord. 
In the pre-Constantine era Christians in Asia Minor, suffered persecution under Emperor Diocletian (284-305) and Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus (305-11).  Persecution came to an end after Constantine became the Emperor of both the Eastern and Western Empire.  In 312, just before the battle of Milvian Bridge, he had a vision of the Chi(X) Rho(P), the first two letters of Christ[3]which influenced his decision to allow Christian worship in the Empire.
Nicomedia was a major city in the Eastern Empire, particularly in Diocletian’s time when it became ‘the adorned Eastern capital of the Empire’[4].  During the turbulent years of Diocletian’s reign there were several persecutions and many martyrs from Nicomedia.  Nicomedia is now the Turkish city of Izmit. 
The hymns about Saint Adrian and Natalia emphasize the cooperation of husband and wife and exalt them as a model married couple. In one hymn, the third Sticheron of Vespers, Natalia is contrasted favourably with Eve, as exhorting her husband to godliness rather than tempting him to sin. In the fourth Sticheron of Lauds she is also likened to the wise pilot of a storm-tossed ship (her husband), bringing him safely into the heavenly harbour. 
Troparion (Tone 4) [1]
Your holy martyrs Adrian and Natalia, O Lord,
Through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God.
For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries,
And shattered the powerless boldness of demons.
Through their intercessions, save our souls!
Kontakion – (Tone 4)
Martyr of Christ, Adrian,
You kept the words of your godly and devoted wife Natalia in your heart.
With her you accepted every kind of suffering and obtained the crown of victory![5]
Both Natalia and Adrian are referred to as martyrs but in practice it seems as if only Adrian was killed for his faith. 

[1] One of my daughters is named Natalia which has drawn me to this saint.  Although I would have preferred the Russian spelling – Natalya – used by the wife of a famous 20th century writer.  Picture from:  https://orthodoxwiki.org/Adrian_and_Natalia
[2] 1 Cor 2:9
[3] John Julia Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries (London: Penguin Books, 1990) p. 10
[4] Lectant. De mort. Pers. 17.2-9 quoted in http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=nicomedia
[5] https://orthodoxwiki.org/Adrian_and_Natalia


Copyright © 2018 Rev Ros Wilkinson