In honor of the feast day of St. Irenaeus today I have reposted a blog from several years ago when we were filming our documentary on Apostolic Fathers, Handing on the Faith. Here is the story…

“We finished getting all our work done in Lyon for St. Irenaeus. It was very cold and windy — with snow hampering our efforts. We shot video footage for our upcoming DVD in the Footprints of God video series. This installment will be entitled APOSTOLIC FATHERS: HANDING ON THE FAITH.

(Click on pictures for larger images. Church of St. Irenaeus with the remains of his bones; the theatre in Lyon where St. Irenaeus’ parishioners where martyred)

We shot footage at the old and mostly forgotten Church of Irenee on the hillside of Lyons France. Under the church is the tomb of a man that had an incredible influence on me converting to the Catholic Church. Unhappily, in 1527 the Calvinists destroyed his tomb and threw his bones into the river. Only a few fragments remain.

We also found this ancient Roman Amphitheater which was rediscovered only in 1957. You don’t see it now, but in the 2nd century, this arena floor was soaked with the blood of Christians.

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In 177 about 45 of our brothers and sisters in the faith were gruesomely tortured and killed here in front of jeering crowds. A woman named Blandine was publically tortured for two days as the crowds cheered.

The soldiers exhausted themselves with every ingenious torture they could devise. They cut and inflicted and mutilated her naked body for days.

Blandine never caved in. When they jeered “Deny your Christ and live!” she would only say back “I am a Christian!”

(Click on Timeline for a larger copy to print)

The Christians were placed in a iron chair with a raging fire beneath. The smoke and stench of their burning bodies filled the arena. Yet they never caved in. These Martyrs of Lyons and Vienne were true heroes and champions of the Faith. They wrestled to the death and won crowns of life.

I was extremely moved in this location. You can read the full story in Eusebius’ History of the Church. We are grateful to Eusebius for preserving this story of Christian martyrdom and heroism. Here is our DVD Apostolic Fathers, Handing on the Faith with its 28-page Study Guide. I also have a talk on St. Ireneaus to download as an MP3.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Shane Schaetzel


    I just wanted to complement you on your blog. It’s been a while since I checked up on you. Looks like you’ve really upgraded. Love the books. Please keep them coming. It’s been seven years now, and I’m still working on getting my family to understand why I converted to Catholicism. They did come to both my kids’ baptism, so I guess that’s progress.


  2. Walter LaRoche

    I ran across your site looking for pictures of St Just and Irénée churches in Lyon. For those who are interested and can read French: I also noticed your picture of the Roman Amphitheater, which is technically correct, but there is more to the story. This is the place where the alter to Augustus (and Rome) was placed for the Gallic Tribal leaders to use before their meetings. Lyon was the place where three regions of Gaul met. The alter is featured on many coins minted in Lyon. The two pillars (pink granite from Egypt I think) were sawn in half at some point and are now the 4 main structual supports in one of the older churches in Lyon. The names of some of the tribes or the leaders are still visible underneath some of the seats. The theatre sits at the base of a large hill near la station “Croix-Paquet” (served by Line C of the Lyon, France Métro). When I was in Lyon 8 or 9 years ago and took the line to the top of the hill to station Croix Rousse and walked down the “steps” and streets to the theatre. Beautiful view.

    By the way, over 300 years ago, the protestant LaRoche family left France (Béarn) for Britain and then the Georgia Colony. Some of my wife’s family were Huguenots who migrated to South Carolina (Trapier, Fleury, Cordes among others). We are members of an Anglican parish (not Episcopal Church USA). A week ago marked the anniversary of L’Édit de Nantes, which of course passed unnoticed here. One is tempted to observe “Est-ce que c’est par leçon que nous devons continuellement apprendre ?” But then to think it answers the question.

    Another, oh by the way, I spent three years at U of M in Ann Arbor — so it is indeed a small world. Finally, great job on your site and I very much appreciate your thoughtfulness.

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