Irene, along with her sisters, Agape and Chionia, of Thessalonica, Macedonia, were convicted of possessing texts of the scriptures despite a decree issued in 303 by Emperor Diocletian naming such possessions a crime punishable by death. When they further refused to offer sacrifice to pagan gods the governor, Dulcitius, had Agape and Chionia burned alive. When Irene still refused to recant, Dulcitius ordered her sent to a house of prostitution. There, when she was unmolested after being exposed naked and chained she was put to death either by burning or by an arrow through her throat. In art she is always depicted removing the arrows from St. Sebastian, who was eventually Matryred in 288 because tradition has it that she was the one who did so, although the woman was never formally named. Perhaps she is thought to be this woman because of her association with the arrow. All we know for certain is that she and her two sisters are Martyrs as is Sebastian and that, indeed a pious woman is known to have come to his aid. The woman on the left, holding the lamp may be St. Agape.
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