The Holy Pelagia lived during the third century in the city of Tarsis in the Cilician district of Asia Minor. She was the daughter of illustrious pagans and when she heard preaching from her Christian acquaintances about Jesus Christ the Son of God, she believed in Him and desired to preserve her chastity, dedicating her whole life to the Lord.
The heir of emperor Diocletian (a youth adopted by him), having seen the maiden Pelagia, was captivated by her beauty and wanted to take her to be his wife. But the holy virgin told the youth that she was betrothed to the Immortal Bridegroom, the Son of God, and therefore she had renounced earthly marriage. This answer of Pelagia caused great anger in the imperial youth, but he decided to leave her in peace for a while, hoping that she would change her frame of mind.
During this same time, Pelagia convinced her mother to send her off to her nurse who had raised her in childhood, secretly hoping to locate the bishop of Tarsis, Klinon, who had fled to a mountain during a time of persecution against Christians, and to accept Holy Baptism from him. In a dream vision there appeared the form of the bishop Klinon, profoundly impressing itself upon her memory. Saint Pelagia set off to her nurse in a chariot, in rich clothes and accompanied by a whole retinue of servants, as her mother had desired her to. Along the way Saint Pelagia, through some particular ordering of events by God, met bishop Klinon. Pelagia immediately recognised the bishop, whose image had appeared to her in the dream. She fell at his feet, requesting baptism. At the prayer of the bishop there flowed from the ground a spring of water. Bishop Klinon made the sign of the cross over Saint Pelagia, and during the time of the mystery, angels appeared and covered the chosen one of God with a bright mantle.
Having communed the pious virgin with the Holy Mysteries, bishop Klinon raised himself up in prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord together with her, and then sent her off to continue her journey. Having returned to the servants awaiting her, Saint Pelagia preached to them about Christ, and many of them were converted and believed. She tried to convert her own mother to faith in Christ, but the obdurate woman sent a message to the imperial youth, saying that Pelagia was a Christian and did not wish to be his spouse. The youth comprehended that Pelagia was lost for him, and not wishing to give her over to torture, he fell upon his sword. Pelagia’s mother thereupon became fearful of the wrath of the emperor, and tied her daughter and led her to the court of Diocletian as being a Christian and also the probable cause of the death of the heir to the throne.
The emperor was captivated by the unusual beauty of the maiden and tried to sway her from her faith in Christ, promising her every earthly blessing and to make her his own wife. But the holy maiden refused the offer of the emperor with contempt and said: “Thou art insane, emperor, telling me such a speech. Know, that I wilt not do thy bidding, and I loath thy vile marriage, since I have a Bridegroom, Christ, the King of Heaven. I desire not thine imperial, worldly, short-durationed crowns, since my Lord in the Heavenly Kingdom has prepared for me three imperishable crowns. The first for faith, since I have believed with all my heart in the True God; the second for purity, because I have entrusted to Him my virginity; the third for martyrdom, since I want to accept for Him every suffering and to offer up my soul because of my love for Him.”
Diocletian thereupon sentenced Pelagia to be burnt in a glowing red-hot copper oven. Not permitting the executioners to touch her body, the holy martyress herself, signing herself with the sign of the cross, went with a prayer into the red-hot oven in which her flesh melted like myrrh, filling all the city with sweet fragrance. The bones of Saint Pelagia remained unharmed and were removed by the pagans to outside the city. Four lions then came from out of the wilderness and sat around the bones, letting neither bird nor wild beast get at them. The lions protected the remains of the saint until such time as bishop Klinon came to that place. He gathered them up and buried them with honour. During the reign of emperor Constantine (306-337), when the persecutions against Christians had stopped, there was built a church at the place of burial of Saint Pelagia.