DISCOVERY OF HER BODY AND THE SYMBOLS
The blessed body of St. Philomena was found, in 1802, on the 25th of May, during annual excavations in Rome. During nearly fifteen centuries, these sacred relics had lain buried and concealed from the world in the catacombs of St. Priscilla, on the new Salarian way where many of the remains of the early martyrs were buried. The first thing discovered was the sepulchral stone, which was remarkable and unique. It was of baked earth, and distinguished by several symbols alluding to virginity and martyrdom. It also contained an inscription with the following words, but the first and last letters appearing to have been effaced by the workmen when they detached it from the tomb
(Fl) LUMENA, PAX TECUM FT (AT) meaning:
Filumena, peace be with thee, Amen.
The removal of this stone revealed the sacred relics of the holy martyr and close beside, a broken vase whose sides were incrusted with dried blood. This blood was a sure sign that martyrdom had taken place and had been piously collected by the early Church who greatly venerated the remains of the martys including the saving of their blood in this way. Blood offered generously in imitation of Him who shed His sacred blood upon the cross for our salvation.
THE SYMBOLS OF HER MARTYRDOM
The first of the figures on the stone which would indicate the kind of martyrdom the saint underwent (and which were all later substantiated reportedly by the saint herself) is an anchor; a symbol not only of strength and hope, but also of the nature of the martyrdom she underwent. One perhaps such as that to which the Roman emperor Trajan condemned St. Clement the second Pope, casting him into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck.
The second is an arrow, which, upon the tomb of other martyrs always signified the torment of being shot with an arrow similar to that by which the emperor Diocletian tried to put to death the generous Roman soldier, St. Sebastian.
The third is a palm, placed almost in the middle of the stone which is the sign of a brilliant victory gained over the cruelty of the persecuting judges, and the fury of the executioners.
Underneath is represented a lash, used to scourge criminals, and which was made of thongs of leather, loaded with lead. With an instrument such as this the body of Christ was scourged as well as those of the innocent Christians who were often beaten unto death.
After this are two arrows, so arranged that the first points upward and the other downward. The repetition of this may perhaps mark a repetition of the torments or some kind of miracle
Lastly, a lily appeared, the symbol of innocence and virginity, which, with the palm and blood-stained vase already spoken of proclaims a two-fold triumph of St Philomena for the early Church who thus invited us to honor her under the traditional and glorious titles of Martyr and Virgin.