May 28 Saints of the Day – Heliconis of Thessalonica and Margaret of Salisbury

On this date in 1503, a Treaty of Everlasting Peace was signed between Scotland and England. It lasted ten years.

Heliconis of ThessalonicaHeliconis (d. 244) moved from her hometown of Thessalonica to Corinth just in time to get caught up in the persecution of Christians. No shrinking violet (or Thessalonican violet equivalent), she began exhorting pagans to abandon their unhearing, unseeing, etc., idols and convert to Christianity. Predictably, this led to her arrest, and soon she was standing before Governor Perinus, who predictably tried to (in turns) entice and threaten her to sacrifice to idols.

When all that failed, he had her thrown into a “hot” (what? no adverbs?) furnace, from which she emerged without so much as a glow, due to a handy angel coming to cool the flames. This convinced the governor that she was a sorceress. Something of a sadist (a not uncommon property in these governors, as we’ve seen), he had her subjected to a number of gruesome tortures, then when none of those caused her to apostatize, offered her honors and titles if only she’d just burn a li’l ol’ bit of incense to the gods.

“Okay, take me to the temple,” she said, and they thought they had won their woman. She was escorted to the goditorium with drums and trumpets. “Let me be alone with the gods a while,” she requested, so they closed the door and did whatever it is pagan priests do when they’re waiting for somebody else to worship their statues.

“She’s been in there a while,” they finally said. When they opened the door, she was wiping the dust from her hands — every idol had been cast down and smashed to bits in a feat of superhuman strength. “She’s a witch! Kill her!” they screamed, while she softly sang, “I am Christian woman, hear me roar.” They tossed her in jail, where her wounds were personally healed by our Lord Jesus Christ and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. After five days, she was dragged out to be devoured by three ferocious lions, who came and laid down by her feet and purred softly. “She’s a witch! Kill her!” roared the crowd, which so angered the lions (“Hey, this is our friend you’re talking about”) that they leapt into the stands and made havoc among the fleeing people. We have no detailed casualty report from this event, but I’m guessing it wasn’t pretty.

Perinus finally had Heliconis beheaded, which is how these things usually end. Her body was recovered, and reverently buried by the Christians of Corinth.

Margaret PoleMargaret Pole (née Plantagenet), Eighth Countess of Salisbury (1473 – 1541), had more royals in her family tree than Kansas City has in its baseball stadium on Alumni Appreciation Night. She was the niece of Edward IV and Richard III, and first cousin once removed to Henry VIII, who made her Countess of Salisbury “in her own right” when her husband Richard Pole died. She served as governess to Hank’s daughter Mary, but incurred his ire when she spoke out against his marriage to Anne Boleyn. (Harry just didn’t understand why people opposed this match – “She’s got such a good head on her shoulders,” he would say.)

When Margaret’s son Reginald Cardinal Pole (yes, that kind of Cardinal) wrote a negative review of the Act of Supremacy, the family’s days were numbered. Since Reggie was in France at the time, Harry had Margaret, her son the Duke of Montague, and another close relative the Marquis of Exeter, arrested. The men were executed, and all three had their rights and lands stripped. Margaret was found guilty of treason by virtue of a silk tunic which had the Five Wounds of Christ embroidered on it, and which may have been planted among her effects, perhaps by Cromwell. She was thrown into the Tower with a suspended death sentence, which was executed two years later after an uprising in York which nobody even pretended she had anything to do with. She walked calmly to the block, and suffered terribly under an apprentice headsman, who took ten strokes to get the job done. She was beatified in 1886 by Leo XIII.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

May 28 (Wikipedia)
Martyr Heliconis of Thessalonica (OCA) – Main source
Blessed Margaret Plantagenet Pole (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (Wikipedia)
Blessed Margaret Pole (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Blessed Margaret Pole (SQPN)
MARGARET POLE, Countess of Salisbury (England under the Tudors)
HENRY POLE, Lord Montague (England under the Tudors)
Reginald Pole (Catholic Encyclopedia)


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

2 comments on “May 28 Saints of the Day – Heliconis of Thessalonica and Margaret of Salisbury

  1. Good stuff, as always.

    On a pedantic note: Margaret cannot have been a niece of both Richard III and Edward VII without an accident involving a contraceptive device and a time machine (h/t Douglas Adams). Ed IV seems a likelier suspect!

    Keep up the good work.

    • Hmm. I’ll have to look at that. The Wikipedia article on this was so convoluted it was hard to follow, and as you can see I used a lot of other pages to make sure I got it straight — obviously not enough, or not carefully enough. The wkp page has Montague and Exeter executed in January 1539, then threatened with execution in June of the same year. Oy.

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