Thecla the name of several saints of the Romish Church.
1. The daughter of people living at Iconium, who is occasionally mentioned by Epiphanius, Ambrose, Augustine, and other Church fathers, and of whom tradition relates that she was converted through the preaching of Paul in the house of Onesiphorus, and that she thereupon renounced all worldly possessions and separated from her betrothed, a wealthy man named Thamyris. No arguments or appeals could change her course. Both she and Paul were imprisoned; and she was condemned to death by fire, while the apostle was banished. A cloud, however, extinguished the fire, and Thecla, uninjured, accompanied Paul to Antioch. To escape the persistency of a second wooer of noble rank named Alexander, she took refuge with a noble widow whose name was Tryphaena. Again she was condemned to die, this time by the teeth of wild beasts, and again she escaped uninjured, the animals crouching at her feet or being killed by thunder-bolts. She now assumed male clothing and followed Paul to Myra, where she received direction from him to teach the heathen the truths of Christianity. She thereupon returned to her native city, and afterwards went to Seleucia, where she succeeded in converting many people and in healing large numbers of the sick. A shining cloud accompanied her as she went about. When she died, many miracles were wrought at her grave and by her relics. Her day is variously given-May 18 or 19, or Sept. 23 or 24. A treatise entitled Περίοδοι Pauli et Thelae, probably the work of an Asiatic presbyter, was in circulation as early as the 3rd century. It mentioned her missionary tours in the company of Paul, and her miracles; recommended the celibate state, and asserted its holiness; inculcated the duty of praying for the dead, and belief in purgatory; and was branded as Apocryphal by Tertullian, Jerome, and pope Gelasius I. See Acta S.S. 23. Sept. (Antw. 1757), 6:546-568; Baronins, Annal. Eccl. (Colossians Agrip. 1609), 1, 398-402; Unschuld. Nachr. v, alten u. neuen theolog. Sachen (Leips. 1702), p. 136 sq. SEE THECLA AND PAUL (Acts of).
2. A reputed native of Sicily of noble rank. She was instructed in Christianity by her mother, Isidora, aided many persecuted Christians, and gave burial to the bodies of many martyrs, which she had purchased. For this she was brought to trial, but escaped the threatening danger. Afterwards she instructed many heathen people, built a number of churches, and endowed with a rich income a bishopric which she founded. Jan. 10 is consecrated to her memory.
3. An alleged martyr, the associate of Mariana, Martha, Mary, and Enneis. She is reported to have lived near Asa, in Persia. A priest named Paul endeavored to persuade these virgins to renounce the Christian faith, and when they refused he caused them to be terribly scourged and then beheaded. Soon afterwards be became himself the victim of a violent death, as they had predicted. The memory of these martyrs is honored on June 9. See Asführl. Heil. —Lexikon (Cologne and Frankf. 1719), p. 2132 sq. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.