By St. Alphonsus de Liguori
1. The Martyrdom of the Cross.
Some were crucified in an erect posture, as was our Lord Jesus Christ; others with the head downwards, as St. Peter, according to Eusebius, who relates this on the authority of Origen; others in the manner in which the martyrdom of St. Andrew is represented. Many were made to pass their arms under the transverse beam of the cross, and head their hands nailed upon the upper part. Some were suspended from a tree by their hands, their arms having been first tied behind their backs, and heavy weights attached to their feet. Women were hung up by the hair, the agony of which torture was sufficient to cause death; others were hung by one or both feet, with the head downwards, and in many cases a large stone tied around the neck; finally, many had their hands nailed to a beam, with enormous weights at their feet.
2. The Martyrdom of Fire.
Some were placed upon gridirons, others plunged into caldrons of boiling oil or pitch. Many were suffocated with smoke, or dressed in a garment smeared with some combustible matter, and so burned at a stake. Some were cast into fiery furnaces; more were crowded into a ship, which was set on fire at sea; others were enclosed in a brazen bull and roasted alive; more were tortured by red-hot plates of iron applied to their sides; some, finally, were thrown upon the earth, and molten lead poured over them or were impaled upon a spit, and roasted before a slow fire.
3. The Torture of the Scourge.
Scourges were of various kinds — of leather, of cane, of the tendons of oxen, of iron links, and sometimes of rods of iron, shaped like thorns, which were called scorpions. The martyrs were generally tied to a post, or between four posts, to increase their punishment; but some were placed in a kind of stock. This stock consisted of two large pieces of wood, one above the other, between which the feet of the sufferers were confined, and in this torture they were sometimes scourged, others were thrown with their backs on a table filled with large nails, then struck with sticks or rods.
[There was another instrument of torture which is called in Latin Nervus. It was a wooden machine destined to confine the feet, and sometimes the neck and the hands; it had several holes at different distances from one another. Hence it is said of certain martyrs that their feet were stretched as far as the fourth or fifth hole.—Ed.]
4. The Torture of the Irons.
These were iron hooks on which the Christians were suspended, and iron claws that served to tear them to the bone and to their very entrails. Other instruments were destined to pull out all their teeth, one after the other. Their flesh was lacerated with iron combs, or they were flayed. They were tied to the ground and were cut with blows of the hatchet, or their members were gradually cut to pieces, from the toes to their thighs, and from the fingers to the breasts, so that nothing was left but the trunk. They were stretched with their backs against a wheel that made them move on sharp irons fixed in the ground; or they were tied upon a table, then disembowelled, and their intestines taken out.
5. Other tortures.
The martyrs were also tortured on the rack, and with other torments. Sometimes they were exposed to the sun, their bodies being rubbed with honey so that they might be stung by the flies and wasps. They were made to die in different ways. They were stoned, beheaded, strangled, drowned. There were some who were tied to two trees that had been bent by main force, which when released would tear them to pieces. Others tied in a bag were thrown into the sea, or thrown to the dogs or wild beasts. Some were made to die under the press; others perished from hunger.
The Martyrs’ triumphs let us sing,
Their blood poured forth for Christ the King,
And while due hymns of praise we pay,
Our thankful hearts cast grief away.
The world its terrors urged in vain;
They recked not the body’s pain;
One step, and holy death made sure
The life that ever shall endure.
To flames the Martyr Saints are hailed;
By teeth of savage beasts assailed;
Against them, armed with ruthless band,
And hooks of steel, their torturers stand.
The mangled frame is tortured sore,
The holy life-drops freshly pour;
They stand unmoved amidst the strive,
By grace of everlasting life.
Redeemer, hear us of Thy love,
That, with the Martyr host above,
Hereafter, of Thine endless grace,
Thy servants also may have place. Amen.
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