Polycarp lived between 70 and 155 A.D., and was a disciple of St. John so he heard firsthand accounts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. He embraced Christianity at a young age. Polycarp became one of the most important Christian leaders of the early church as Bishop of Smyrna. He was one of the first Christians whose writing (Letter to the Philippians) survives.
After decades of serving as Bishop, Polycarp was arrested at the age of eighty-six. To save his life he had only to say that Caesar was Lord and to denounce Christ. He refused. "Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" Because he stayed true to his Christian faith, Polycarp was burned alive. Some who saw the execution said that the fire made a wall around the martyr's body and did not burn him. A soldier stabbed him to death.