Workshop of Piero della Francesca; Saint Apollonia, before 1470; Samuel H. Kress Collection; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Apollonia was born in Egypt in the 3rd century, and died in the year 249. She was an elderly deaconess, living in Alexandria, who lived in a refuge for Christians. She was martyred for not renouncing her faith during the reign of Emperor Philip. The account of the life of St. Apollonia was written by St. Dionysius to Fabian, Bishop of Antioch. One night, angry pagans began a riot and violently attacked believers of the faith. Apollonia had all her teeth knocked out after being hit in the face by a Christian persecutor. After she was threatened with fire unless she renounced her faith, Apollonia said a prayer and jumped into the flames voluntarily”which St. Augustine adamantly defended as an act of heroic faith and not suicide, which would be unsaintly. She is considered the patron of dental diseases and is often invoked by those with toothaches. Ancient art depicts her with a golden tooth at the end of her necklace. Also in art, she is seen with a pincers holding a tooth. Parts of her jaw and many of her teeth are presently housed in churches across Europe. Her feast day is February 9th.