The Saint Martyr Anastasia was born in 281 A.D. in Rome to a very wealthy family. Her father Pretestatus was a Senator. Her mother Fausta was Christian. However, during these times to be a Christian could mean giving up your life. With this in mind, Fausta christened her daughter in secret and chose Chrysogonus, a Christian gentleman, as her tutor. As a young girl she visited the catacombs with him and began to develop her Christian identity. In a strange twist of fate, Anastasia would later marry Publius, a pagan, who prohibited her from helping the poor and Christian people persecuted in Rome. However, her husband died during a violent storm. After his passing, Anastasia was now able once again to practice freely her Christian charity.
After her mentor, Chrysogonus was arrested and martyred she moved to Sirmio which was the capital of North Illyria, in Orient. There she carried out her acts of charity and helped the Christian prisoners endure their sufferings, curing their sores and injuries and bringing them food. She used to pay the jailers in order to carry out her merciful service.
Later on, Anastasia was discovered and accused in front of the Prefect Probus. He interrogated her but failed to make her renounce her Christian beliefs, so he shackled her by her feet for one month and then had her placed on a damaged ship, along other people convicted to death, in order to drown them.
But the ship didn’t sink and finally came to rest on the shores of Palmaria Island, where all the survivors who by then had converted to the Christian belief, were killed. Anastasia, after being crucified on four poles, was burned and subsequently beheaded. Her remains were gathered by a woman, Apolonia, who buried them in a vineyard in 304. According to the calendar of the Saint Martyrs, this happened on the 25th of December. In 314, when practicing the Christian religion was allowed by the Emperor Costantinus, a church was built in Sirmio in honor of Anastasia.
The veneration of Anastasia spread across the provinces of Illyria and Pannonia and arrived up to Byzantium, where her remains were moved in 467. According to some sources, these mortal remains were lodged in the basilica of the Resurrection of the Saviour; while according to other sources, in the church of Panagea of Blaferne in the Imperial Palace.
She was beatified in 467 and her remains were transferred to Constantinople and deposited in the Basilica of the Resurrection of the Saviour (the Anastasis). Soon her veneration spread up to Rome. There, a church located near the Palatino was dedicated to her and became one of the most important basilicas in the city. Still now this church exists and is the Church that our own Church is named after.
Since the age of Pope Gregorio Magnum, the three Christmas Masses were celebrated there. The second of them was dedicated to St. Anastasia and was celebrated by the Pope himself; nowadays, the celebration has been reduced to a memory called Aurora, given the importance of Christmas.
From the fifth century to fifteenth century, St. Anastasia has gained a great veneration in the whole Mediterranean, Alpine and Danubian Europe: in particular, in the eleventh century the Benedictine Monks dedicated to Anastasia many churches and chapels in Italy, France and Germany.
In Russia the veneration to Anastasia arrived in the tenth century from Constantinople, in conjunction with the diffusion of the Christian belief. In the Balkans she was venerated by the forebears of the current Serbians, Croatians and Bosnians. In Greece she was called Farmacolitria (which means Healer of poisons), and in Russia Uzoreshiteljnitza (The one who relieves the ties): a symbolism that combines the image of the cure of the diseases and the image of the dissolution of the demoniac trickory. In Orient and Occident she was venerated as procuress of the victims of the earthquakes and of the pregnant women. She was also considered a symbol of the Resurrection (according to the meaning of her name, from the Greek Anastasis).
In the Catholic world until the nineteenth century, the memory of her martyrdom was celebrated on the 25th of December, while in the Orthodox world on the 22nd of December, gathering the symbolism of the birth of Christ and the Resurrection.
At the beginning of the sixth century Anastasia was upgraded to the rank of Megalomartyr (that means Great Martyr, according to the Christian belief) and included among the fifteen Martyrs nominated in the First Canon of the Mass, called Eucharistic Canon of the Church of Orient.
Her character against the war has become the symbol of the reconciliation of the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian populations, intended as the Peacemaker and the Ambassador of Dialogue in Europe and in the future she could be declared Patron of the all people of Europe. Nowadays, Saint Anastasia is a perfect symbol of Peace, humanity and solidarity. She is a symbol of dialogue and collaboration between the two parts of Christianity, given that she has been recognized as Great Martyr both by the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.