Martyrs at Nicomedia
The martyrdom of, according to the Greeks, 20,000 Christians at Nicomedia on Christmas day in the year 303 is thus recorded by the Roman Martyrology: "At Nicomedia the passion of many thousands of martyrs, who came together for the Lord's service on Christ's birthday. The Emperor Diocletian ordered the doors of the church to be shut and fire to be made ready round about it and a tripod with incense to be set before the door: and then that a herald should proclaim so that he could be heard that they who wished to escape the fire should come outside and offer incense to Jupiter. And ehrn they all with one voice declared that they were ready to die for Christ's sake, the fire was kindled and they were consumed therein. And so they merited to be born in Heaven on that very day whereon Christ for the world's salvation was pleased to be born on earth."
There is historical record of the church at Nicomedia being wrecked - not burned - on February 23, 303, by order of Diocletian, but nothing is said of people being killed; on the other hand, there was no feast of Christmas kept there so early as the beginning of the fourth century.
This has been taken over into the Roman Martyrology from a Greek source. The Synaxary of Constantinople, as edited for the Acta Sanctorum, commemorates on December 28 (cc. 349-352) 20,000 martyrs burned to death at Nicomedia, adding details corresponding to the above. The number is, of course, wildly exaggerated, but there is much evidence both in Eusebius (bk vi, chs 5-8) and in the Syriac breviarium that Nicomedia was a hotbed of persecution in the year 303.
Butler's Lives of The Saints, Herbert J. Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater
Nihil Obstat: PATRICIVS MORRIS, S.T.D., L.S.S., CENSOR DEPVTATVS.
Imprimatur: E. MORROGH BERNARD, VICARIVS GENERALIS
WESTMONASTERII: DIE XXIII FEBRVARII MCMLIII