Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna (69-156)
Polycarp was born into a Christian family in Smyrna around 69. He became a disciple of the apostle John and was ordained Smyrna’s bishop by him. He was the second bishop of Smyrna, following bishop
Voukolus. Polycarp talked with disciples who had been with Jesus and was a ministry companion of bishop Papias of Hierapolis. If the book of Revelation was written in 95, Polycarp would have been around twenty-seven years of age when it was received in Smyrna.
Bishop Ignatius of Antioch visited Polycarp in Smyrna on his martyrdom journey to Rome around 110. Ignatius wrote a personal letter to Polycarp from Troas. The only writ- ing of Polycarp we have today is a pastoral letter that he sent to the church at Philippi. Around 150, Polycarp sent his disciple Irenaeus to Lyons in southern Gaul (modern France) to serve as an elder among the Christian emigrants from Asia Minor. In the early 150s, Polycarp made a special visit to bishop Anicetus of Rome, to discuss the differences that existed between Asia and Rome concerning the date to celebrate Easter. In 156, at the age of eight-six, Polycarp was martyred in the amphitheater of Smyrna during the reign of emperor Antoninus Pius (86-161).
The Martyrdom of Polycarp
The eyewitness account of the martyrdom of Polycarp was written by the church of Smyrna around 160 and sent to the church of Philomelium (modern Akşehir). From Philomelium, the letter was sent to other churches. It is the earliest description of a martyrdom outside the New Testament.
The Church of Polycarp
The small French community in Izmir built the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Polycarp in 1620. Enclosed by a high wall, the church is one of the oldest churches in Izmir and has an elaborate interior, including a beautiful mural illustrating the martydom of Polycarp. It is open to the public by reservation.