The story of Saint Natalia reads like something out of a romance novel. Her hagiography is closely tied to the life of her husband, Saint Adrian -- sometimes called Hadrian -- who was martyred in the 4th century. When they married, Adrian was a pagan and she was a Christian, a sure recipe for a tale of star-crossed lovers. She's considered a martyr even though she died of natural causes.
Not much is known about Natalia before her marriage to Adrian. She is always described as a Christian, although sources differ on whether or not Adrian, a pagan, was aware of her religious beliefs. They lived in Nicomedia, which is in modern-day Turkey and was an important city in the Eastern Roman Empire during the 4th century. There's some debate over whether Maximian or Diocletian was emperor at this time. Adrian was the head of the praetorium, or court of law.
Imprisonment of Adrian
In the course of his job, Adrian saw many Christian martyrs and was impressed with their courage and faith. At one point, he declared himself Christian, and was immediately arrested. Natalia was extremely supportive of Adrian's decision to martyr himself for his new-found faith, even going so far as to refuse to let him into the house when he was released from prison because she thought he'd renounced his faith. He hadn't; he'd come to tell her his execution had been scheduled. According to one source, Natalia stayed with him in prison and administered to the sick there along with the other Christian wives.
Martyrdom of Adrian
There is some confusion over how exactly Adrian was martyred. According to some accounts, he was burned on a pyre. In most versions of his hagiography, however, he and the other martyrs executed with him had all their limbs cut off, or possibly broken before they were burned alive. Either way, Natalia is usually said to have placed his limbs on the anvil herself, and to have snatched up one of his amputated hands and secreted it away in the folds of her skirts.
After Adrian's death, Natalia -- still apparently a secret Christian -- was courted by a Roman army commander who was both young and handsome. However, she had no intention of marrying another pagan, and ran away to Argyropolis, taking Adrian's hand with her. She was fearful the Emperor would force her to marry. She died on the 1st of December, 311, which is now her feast day. Although she died of natural causes, she is considered a martyr and was buried among other Christian martyrs in Argyropolis.
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