term for those who died for the sake of the Christian faith.
This title was originally
used for all witnesses to faith in Jesus Christ. It was later applied
to those who had suffered during the persecutions and was finally restricted
to those who gave their lives for the sake of the faith. In the early
church martrydom was accorded high honor and martyrs were sometimes thought
of as having experienced a second baptism in blood. The practice of commemorating
martyrs on the day of their deaths led to considerable elaboration of
the liturgical calendar. Martyrs were often thought of as able to intercede
for the living and this was a powerful impulse in developing the cult
of the saints. Places associated with the death and burial of martyrs
early became shrines and places of pilgrimage. Relics
of martyrs were greatly prized, a development which led to the increasing
veneration of relics in the middle ages and later. Polycarp
of Smyrna, Justin Martyr, Perpetua,
and Felicity were among the prototypical martyrs of the early church.