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The first Christian woman in Europe

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Lydia of Philippi is a first-century merchant living in the Macedonian city of Philippi and converted to Christianity by the Apostle Paul. Lydia is revered as a saint in both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, and is considered the first Christian in Europe. The name is of Greek origin. According to historians, this is not the real name of the saint, but means that she is a Lydian, a native of Lydia. She was Filit’s wife. Various Orthodox churches honor the memory of Lydia of the Philippines on May 20, March 27 or June 25.

The Orthodox biography of the saint tells that Lydia was a cloth seller and listened to the Apostle Paul with other women during her mission in their city. She and her entire family became Christians and accepted St. Paul the Apostle to live in their home.

Because of their faith, Lydia and Phyllus were captured, tortured, and brought to justice. An angel appeared in their dungeon, inspiring them to endure suffering. The couple was immersed in a cauldron full of oil and sulfur. However, Lydia and Philith survived, began to pray and thank God. Then they died.

Lydia is mentioned in the 16th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. During his second missionary journey, the Apostle Paul sailed from Troas by ship and arrived in the Roman province of Macedonia, entering Europe for the first time, and the city of Philippi was the first European city to preach Christianity and Lydia the first baptized European.

“And so, as we set sail from Troas, we came straight to Samothrace, and the next day to Naples, and thence to Philippi, which is the first city in this part of Macedonia, a Roman colony. We stayed in this city for several days. And on Saturday we went out of the city by a river, where they used to pray, and when we sat down, we talked to the gathered women. And there was a devout woman of the city of Thyatira, named Lydia, who sold dyed cloth, and listened; and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful unto the Lord, come in and dwell in my house. And he invented us. ”- Acts 16: 11-15. “

The name Lydia means “Lydian”, ie originating from the historical region of Lydia in Asia Minor. The city of Thyatira, near the modern city of Akhisar in Turkey, is in Lydia, near the border with Moesia and has been one of the important centers for the production of wool, fabrics and purple since ancient times. The fact of the production of purple in Thyatira is epigraphically confirmed. The purple fabrics are dyed in Thyatira not with the help of purple mollusks as in Tire, but with the help of a dye brooch. This production existed in this region until the 19th century, when it was replaced by aniline dyes.

Not surprisingly, after moving from Thyatira to Philippi, Lydia continued to run her usual business, as the purple trade was a lucrative business. Lydia is probably richer than others who believed in Paul’s sermon, and it is easier for her to shelter the apostles.

The term “God-fearing” has a special meaning in the Acts, as Luke calls the “quasi-proselytes,” meaning that Gentiles who worship the God of Israel accept monotheism but do not become proselytes and do not enter the Jewish community.

According to legend, Lydia became the first Christian deaconess in Philippi. A chapel and the church of St. Lydia were built on the supposed site of Lydia’s baptism, just outside the northwestern gate of Philippi and a few meters from the foundations of a Roman bridge over the Zigactis River.

In the Catholic Church, Lydia was included in the Roman Martyrology by Caesar Baroni, where the date of August 3 is marked “Philippis in Macedonia sanctae Lydiae purpurariae, quae praedicante ibidem S. Paulo Apostolo, prima omnium credidit Evangelio” Historiae veritatem restitutum. Venetiis, Apud Antonium Zalterium, MDXCVII. P. 345). Its revised edition of 2001 puts it on May 20 and writes “Remembrance of St. Lydia of Thyatira, who, trading in purple in Philippi, Macedonia, today in Greece, listening to the sermon of St. Paul the Apostle, first believed in the Gospel (Martyrology of the Roman Reformed Order of the Vatican Ecumenical Council II and promulgated by Pope John Paul II. Vatican City – Rome, Vatican Editorial Board – Foundation of the Religious Santi Francesco di Assisi and Caterina da Siena, 2004).

Photo: The chapel at the supposed site of Lydia’s baptism: just outside the northwestern gate of Philippi and a few meters from the foundations of a Roman bridge

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