Very little is known about the life of Saint Thecla. In fact, there is some speculation that she did not even exist. If she did, she would have been born in either Isauria or Lycaonia during the the 1st century.
According to tradition, Thecla was born into a noble house and was prepared for the conventional life of girls of her station. Around the year 45 A.D., however, she heard Saint Paul (c. 5-c. 67) preach about virginity for the sake of the Kingdom. Thecla was so moved that she converted to Christianity and declared that she would remain a virgin.
Supposedly, her parents had already arranged a marriage for her with a nobleman. The young man, who was apparently very lustful, made it clear that, if she did not give in to him, he would have her killed. Thecla refused and, according to legend, ran away to follow Paul during his travels.
In the Martyrology of the Catholic Church, Saint Thecla is listed as a martyr. She is one of the few saints who received this title without actually dying. There are two legendary stories about attempts on her life: the first took place in Rome where she was sentenced to be burned at the stake. After the flames had been lit, however, a thunderstorm developed and put them out. The second attempt took place in her homeland. When her fiancée realized that she would never give in, he turned her over the authorities who were willing to slaughter all Christians regardless of rank.
Thecla was forced to walk naked into an amphitheatre where she would be torn apart by lions. The lions, however, did nothing but lie down next to her and lick her feet.
How and when Thecla died is unknown. It is known, however, that she was able to keep her virginity and that she died peacefully in Isauria. Although her existence has been disputed, she was mentioned by most of the Early Church Fathers and there is some artwork that seems to point to her. Also, the Cult of Saint Thecla is one of the earliest cults of the Christian Church.
Saint Thecla is the patron saint of Tarragona, Spain. Her feast day is September 23.
In Ma’loula, Syria, there is an old Greek Orthodox convent dedicated to Saint Thecla. It is built near a cave that, according to legend, opened up as a hiding place for the holy virgin when she was being pursued by pagans.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints