Saint Thecla was a saint of the early Christian Church, (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) and reported follower of Paul of Tarsus in the 1st century A.D. She is not mentioned in the New Testament, but the earliest record of her comes from the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, probably composed in the early 2nd century.
According to the Acts of Paul and Thecla, Thecla (St. Taqla) was a young noble virgin who listened to Paul's "discourse on virginity" and became Paul's follower. Thecla's mother, and fiancée, Thamyris, became concerned that Thecla would follow Paul's demand "that one must fear only one God and live in chastity", and punished both Paul and Thecla. She was miraculously saved from being burned at the stake by a storm, and traveled with Paul to Pisidian Antioch. There a nobleman named Alexander desired Thecla and attempted to take her by force. Thecla fought him off, assaulting him in the process, and was put on trial for assaulting a nobleman. She was sentenced to be eaten by wild beasts, but was again saved by a series of miracles. No other early account of Thecla exists.
Cult of Saint Thecla of Iconium
In the Eastern Church, the wide circulation of the Acts of Paul and Thecla is evidence of her veneration. She was called "Apostle and protomartyr among women" and even "equal to the apostles". She was widely cited as an ascetic role model for women. Her cult flourished particularly at Seleucia, (todays Silifke at Mersin, Turkey, where she was said to be buried), Iconium (present day Konya, Turkey), and Nicomedia (todays Izmit near Istanbul). The cult also appeared, at least as early as the fourth century, in Western Europe. In Bede's martyrology, Thecla is celebrated on the 23 September, which is still her feast day in the Roman Catholic Church. The Orthodox churches commemorate her on 24 September.
A local martyr legend, of Tecla, may have inspired this episode, in which she was connected to Paul of Tarsus. "It is otherwise difficult to account for the very great popularity of the cult of St. Thecla, which spread over East and West, and made her the most famous of virgin martyrs," wrote M.R. James, the editor of this Acta, (James 1924).
In Maalula, Syria, there is a monastery of St. Thecla, built near what is said to be her cave. Santa Tecla is the patron saint of Tarragona, Spain, where her feast day is the major fiesta of the city and the cathedral is dedicated to her. In Spain, she is sometimes facetiously referred to as the patron saint of computers (tecla means "key" on a keyboard in Catalan and Spanish).
A Roman Catholic parish in Pembroke, Massachusetts is named for Saint Thecla.
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