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Orthodox icon of Saint Alexandra, Wife of Diocletian. Copy of a contemporary icon
Commemorated April 23.
The Holy Empress Alexandra was the wife of Emperor Diocletian. Her supposed death was described in the Martyrdom of St. George, which was written immediately after his death. The empress, however, received the crown of martyrdom several years later, in 314.
Many events occurred during these years. In 305 Emperor Diocletian resigned the throne and power passed to his co-ruler Maximian Galerius, a fanatic pagan, as well as a coarse and fierce soldier. His wife was St. Valeria, the daughter of the holy Empress Alexandra, whom Diocletian had given in marriage against her will.
St. Alexandra raised her daughter in Christian piety. When Galerius died, Emperor Maximinus sought her hand in marriage. When he was refused, he banished St. Valeria to Syria, where she lived with her mother.
After the death of Maximinus in 311 the mother and daughter arrived in Nicomedia, trusting in the mercy of Emperor Licinius. Together with St. Constantine, Licinius had subscribed to the Edict of Milan, which gave Christians freedom of religion, but he secretly remained their enemy.
Licinius gave orders to execute the holy Empress Alexandra and her daughter, Valeria. They were beheaded, and their bodies thrown into the sea.