On December 28, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the 20,000 Martyrs who were burned alive in the year 303 AD.
At the beginning of the fourth century, during the reign of emperor Maximian (284-305), the Christian faith flourished in Nicomedia. Seeing the large number of Christians enraged him, that he gave orders to destroy Christian churches, burn service books, and to deprive all Christians of rights and privileges of citizenship.
At this time, St. Cyril was the bishop of the city of Nicomedia, and by his preaching and life contributed to the spread of Christianity. Many of the members of the Emperor’s court were also secret Christians.
As the feast of the Nativity of Christ was approaching, the Emperor ordered that on that day, the church be surrounded by soldiers and set alight, as all Christians gathered in the church on that feast day.
Emperor Maximian told the Christians they could escape punishment if they renounced Christ, otherwise he promised to burn the church and those praying in it.
Priest of the church, St.Glycerins told Maximian that Christians would never renounce their faith, even under the threat of torture. The emperor hid his anger as he exited the church, and commanded that St.Glycerins be arrested and put on trial.
The executioners tortured St.Glycerins, who did not cease to pray and to call on the Name of the Lord. Unable to force St. Glycerius stop confessing Christ, Maximian ordered him to be burned to death.
The church was set alight and Martyrs were burned alive praying.
Those who had not burnt in the church were captured and tortured to death.
Besides those burnt in church the following, who were slayed in the same persecution, are commemorated today: Indus, Gorgonius, and Peter who were casted into the sea; Glycerius the Presbyter and Mardonius who were burned; Dorotheus the Prefect and Zeno who were beheaded; Theophilus the Deacon who was stoned; Mygdonius who was buried alive; and Domna, who had been a priestess of the idols, believed in Christ and was baptised, was beheaded and casted into the fire.