With the continuing unrest in Egypt since the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi Christians continue to be persecuted.

This persecution of Christians is not new.  Their persecution began in Alexandria under the reign of Emperor Philip around the years 244-249.  While Christians fled the city, an old deaconess named Apollonia was seized.  She was beaten by the crowd knocking out all her teeth.  She was to be thrown into a fire if she did not disavow her God.  Rather than turn her back on God, she voluntarily threw herself into the fire.  She has since become a martyr of the Christian church.  The violent removal of her teeth was such a big part of her story that she is now the patron saint of dentistry, and people suffering with dental pain often ask for her intercession.  There is a prayer in F. Martinez’s book on dentistry published in Spain in 1557:

Illustrious Virgin martyr, Apollonia
Pray to the Lord for us
Lest for our offenses and sins we be punished
By diseases of the teeth.

She is pictured in artwork with pincers holding a tooth.

The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches celebrate the feast day of St. Apollonia on February 9th.  In Germany she is one of the 14 patron saints of daily life, protectress against toothache.

After her martyrdom, parts of Apollonia’s body were scattered throughout Europe. In the Middle Ages objects claimed to be her teeth were sold as toothache cures.

In Cervante’s Don Quixote, published in 1615, the following dialogue occurred:

“Be in no pain then,” replied the bachelor,” but go home, in Heaven’s name, and get something warm for breakfast and on your way repeat the prayer of St. Apollonia if you know it.”

“Bless me!” replied the housekeeper, “the prayer of St. Apollonia, say you?  That might do something if my master’s distemper laid in his gums, but alas! It is all in his brains.”

So pray if you wish to St. Apollonia when you have dental problems, but if that doesn’t work, give us a call.  We’ll be glad to help in a more secular way.

Dr. Jack Churchill