The Twenty-Third of February
155: Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, is martyred. Reportedly a disciple of the Apostle John, at age eighty-six he was taken to be burned at the stake.
"You try to frighten me with fire that burns for an hour and forget the fire of hell that never burns out," he said.
The flames, legend says, would not touch him, and when he was run through with a sword, his blood put the fire out.
303: Diocletian begins his "Great Persecution," issuing edicts that call for church buildings to be destroyed, sacred writings burned, Christians to lose civil rights and clergy to be imprisoned and forced to sacrifice to the Roman gods. The following year he went even further, ordering all people to sacrifice on pain of death.
1455: Johannes Gutenberg publishes the "Bible," the first book ever printed on a press with movable type.
1685: George Frederick Handel, composer of the oratorio "Messiah," is born. He died in 1759, having spent the last six years of his life in total blindness.