Gaza was known to be a place hostile to early Christians. Several had suffered martyrdom there in the persecution of Diocletian and Julian. The Christian Basilica had been burned and Christians had been put to death. The people of Gaza were so hostile to Christians the church had to be built safely away from the city, outside the city walls. Christian bishops were called bishops of the churches near Gaza. There were about 280 Christians in the Gaza community.
Saint Porphyrius was born around 345 in Thessalonica, Greece. His parents were wealthy. Saint Porphyrius received a great education. He was interested in living a monastic life. He left Greece for Egypt. He lived under the guidance of Saint Macarius the Great. He also met Saint Jerome, who was then visiting the Egyptian monasteries. He went to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places. Then he moved into a cave in the Jordanian wilderness for prayer and ascetic deeds.
After five years, Saint Porphyrius became ill. He decided to go to the holy places of Jerusalem to pray for healing. As he lay half-conscious at the foot of Golgotha, Saint Porphyrius fell into a sort of trance. He saw Jesus Christ descending from the Cross and saying to him, “Take this Wood and preserve it.”
Coming out of his trance, he found himself healthy and free from pain. Then he gave away all his money to the poor and to several churches. He then worked as a shoemaker for a while.
St. Porphyry was appointed bishop at the age of 45. He safely arrived in Gaza. The next year a drought followed. The people of the city said a pagan god said the feet of Porphyry had brought bad luck to the city. Concerned, St. Porphyry sent Marcus, his deacon to Constantinople in 398 to get permission to close the pagan temples of Gaza. Hilarious, an official arrived with soldiers to close the temples. However, the Marneion remained open because Hilarius was bribed with a large sum of money. There was not much change in the people. Christians were refused politically appointed jobs and were treated as slaves.
Then St. Porphyry then went to Constantinople during the winter of 401–402, to convinced the Empress, Eudoxia, to ask the Emperor to destroy the pagan temples at Gaza. In May, 402, eight temples to Aphrodite, Hecate, the Sun, Apollo, Kore (Persephone), Tyche (Tychaion), the shrine of a hero (Heroeion), and even the Marneion, were destroyed. There were many other idols and private libraries of magic books in the houses and in the villages were also destroyed. The upper classes who had those things fled from the city. Paganism officially ceased to exist in Gaza.
A large church called the Eudoxiana was built in her honor and dedicated on April 14, 407.
Saint Porphyrius defended Christianity in Gaza to the very end of his life. Through the prayers of the saint, numerous miracles and healings occurred. The bishop guided his flock for more than twenty-five years. He died in 420 at 73 years old.