Daughter of a Roman consul and denounced as a Christian, Tatiana was condemned to be hung from a gallows, her body ploughed and exposed with iron combs. The executioners outraged her by shearing her hair, and finally, she was decapitated.
Tatiana is such a common name in Russia that one would think that this saint comes from the East. However, it is indeed a Roman saint, and her name is in fact very Latin: it is the feminine form of Tatianus, itself derived from Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines in the 8th century BC.
Saint Tatiana (or Tatiana) was arrested in Rome during the persecution of the Severe Emperor Alexander (who reigned from 222 to 235). She was condemned as a Christian by the prefect of the praetorium and famous jurist, Ulpian, the second personage of the empire. Attached to the easel, her sides are torn by iron nails. Untied, she is thrown to the lions in the amphitheatre, but the lions respect her innocence. The judge orders her to be thrown into the fire, but the blaze refuses to consume her. After she was shaved, the executioner's sword put an end to the horror of these tortures by beheading her, obtaining for her the glorious crown of martyrdom. It was January 12, 226.
By rather fortuitous circumstances, St. Tatyana became the patron saint of Russian students.
On January 12, 1724, Peter the Great founded the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg, but it was on January 12, 1755 (the 25th in the modern calendar) that his daughter Empress Elizabeth I chose to found the National University of Moscow, a project that had been proposed to her by two great men of Russian culture, Mikhail Lomonossov and Prince Shuvalov. It is said that the prince wanted to give the university as a gift to his mother, named Tatyana, for her birthday, and so he asked the empress to sign the ukase on that particular day. Thus, Saint Tatyana, who during her life had no connection with science, became the protector of Russian students.
The saint had her church in the university, and the students came to attend the divine solemn liturgy on the morning of her feast day, which was followed by the award ceremony.
In the West, St. Tatiana is traditionally represented with the instruments of her martyrdom: iron combs, lion or sword. This is what the Roman Martyrology says on January 12:
In Rome, St. Tatiana, a martyr who, under Emperor Alexander, was torn with nails and iron combs, exposed to the beasts, and thrown into the fire, but was not harmed; finally, having perished by the sword, she went to heaven.