Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of

August 29
St. John the Baptist was beheaded by King Herod because he had denounced Herod's marriage to Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Philip (Luke 3:19, 20), an illegal union according to Jewish law. Herodias' daughter by a former marriage, by legend called Salome, pleased Herod so much with her dancing that he swore to give her whatever she wanted. At her mother's urging she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter (Matthew 14:3-12). Herod, grief-stricken over having let himself be maneuvered into killing a good and innocent man, later had the head concealed within the palace walls to spare it any further indignities. It remained there until after the discovery of the holy cross by St. Helena, an event which drew many pilgrims to Jerusalem. Two of them found the head after St. John appeared to them in a vision.
The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist—also known as the Feast of the Beheading in the Eastern Orthodox Church—has been celebrated by Christians since the fourth century. The observance started at Sebaste (Samaria), where the Baptist was believed to have been buried.
See also Exaltation of the Cross; St. John's Day
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 152
OxYear-1999, p. 349
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.