Saint of the Day – 9 December – Saint Leocadia of Toledo (Died c 304) Virgin Martyr – Patronage – Toledo and its Archdiocese.
St Leocadia was a native of Toledo and was apprehended by an order of Dacian, the cruel governor under Diocletian in 304. Hearing of the Martyrdom of St Eulalia, she prayed that God would not prolong her exile but unite her speedily with her beloved Lord in His glory. By order of the governor, Decianus, described in the martyrology as the most furious persecutor of the Christians in Spain, she was seized and cruelly tortured in order to make her apostatise but she remained steadfast. She sent back to prison, where she died from the effects of the torture. Thus her prayer was answered and she went happily to meet her beloved Lord.
A Cathedral was built over her grave and later three famous churches in Toledo also bear her name. She is honoured as the principal Patroness of that city. In the Cathedral of Saint Leocadia most of the councils of Toledo were held.
She was buried in the local cemetery, near the Tagus, where soon a cult sprung up around her grave. It is thought that the Cathedral was built in the fourth century and later improved upon in 618 by St Sisebut. The seventh century saw a flourishing of her cult.
During the reign of Alfonso X of Castile, the prison where she is said to have been incarcerated still carried proof of her habitation. A contemporary witness records: “There still existed and we touched it, a sign of the cross impressed in the stone because the martyr constantly touched the walls with her fingers that sign of our redemption.”
During the ninth century, her relics were moved during the persecutions of the Moors. They were moved to Oviedo where St Alfonso the Chaste erected a Basilica there in her honour. In the eleventh century, a Count of Hainault arrived in Spain as a pilgrim to Compostela. He fought alongside Alfonso VI of Castile in campaigns of the Reconquista and received, in recompense, the relics of Saint Leocadia and Saint Sulpicius. Thus, her relics were taken out of Spain.
Her relics were known to have been located at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Ghislain, in present-day Belgium and were venerated there by Philip the Handsome and Joanna of Castile, who recovered for Toledo a tibia of the saint. The Abbey of Saint-Ghislain suffered depredations in the wars of the 16th century. Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba attempted unsuccessfully to rescue the rest of her relics. However, a Jesuit named Miguel Hernández, a native of Toledo Province, found her relics in 1583. After many travels, he brought them to Rome in 1586. They were brought to Valencia by sea and then finally brought to Toledo from Cuenca. Philip II of Spain presided over a solemn ceremony commemorating the final translation of her relics to Toledo, in April 1587.
The small town of Leocadia, near Samaraes, between Braga and Guimarães in Northern Portugal, is named after her.