“I AM A CHRISTIAN” - The Martyrs of Lyon, 177 AD The Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls, translated as “Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules”, was an early first century amphitheatre in Lyon. Whilst the city was founded in approximately 44 BC, the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls is thought to have been constructed in around 19 AD. It was here that in the second century AD that 48 Christians were martyred in the course of the campaign of persecution against Christians at the time, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Christians were tormented in the arena as a cheap form of public entertainment. The post in the middle of the arena commemorates this event. While what remains are a section of its walls, its northern gate and some of its foundations, the courageous voices of the martyrs are still crying from the grounds today. It was the year 177 in Lyons, Gaul (modern France). Christianity had first come to Lyon over 25 years earlier when Polycarp (a disciple of the apostle John) of Smyrna (in modern Turkey) had sent Pothinus as a missionary to Gaul. Christians endured all kinds of shame and personal injuries. When believers were arrested and examined by the city authorities, they boldly confessed their allegiance to Christ. Some were placed in stocks; others were placed in a hot-iron seat where their flesh was burned. This was literally a human barbecue where the victim was chained onto a grate over burning coals. It seemed impossible that any could live, having been tortured so cruelly, yet they were strengthened by the Lord, and they exhorted and encouraged each other in the faith. Pothinus, the 92-year-old bishop of Lyons, died in his prison cell two days after his torture at the judgment seat. Sanctus, a deacon from Vienne stood firm in his faith, repeatedly confessing, “I AM A CHRISTIAN” even after red hot plates were fastened to the most tender parts of his body and he was one complete wound and bruise. Among the group was the slave girl Blandina, who had already endured every imaginable torture and cruelty. Blandina was suspended on a stake and exposed to the wild beasts. Because she appeared to be hanging on a cross and because of her intense prayers, she inspired the other Christians. When they looked at her they were reminded of Christ who was crucified for them and that everyone who suffered for the glory of Christ would enjoy eternal fellowship with the living God. None of the beasts touched Blandina at the time! She was pressed to deny Christ and although she was tortured in a horrible manner, so that even the executioners became exhausted "as they did not know what more they could do to her", still she remained faithful and repeated to every question "I AM A CHRISTIAN and we commit no wrongdoing.” She was taken down from the stake and cast into prison. On the last day of the contests in the amphitheater, Blandina was again brought in with Ponticus, a boy of about 15. Every day they had been brought to witness the sufferings of others and pressed to deny their faith and swear by idols. Ponticus died first, and Blandina remained the last. She had encouraged many others and saw them go on before her to Jesus. It was reported: After the scourging, after the wild beasts, after the roasting seat, she was finally enclosed in a net, and thrown before a bull. And having been tossed about by the animal, but feeling none of the things which were happening to her, on account of her hope and firm hold upon what had been entrusted to her, and her communion with Christ, she also was sacrificed. "May we be found faithful to the end Papa. Glory to the Father!