Today is the feast day of Saint Julian and Saint Basilissa. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Julian and Saint Basilissa, though married, lived by mutual consent in perpetual chastity. While little substantive information is known of the lives of this holy couple, it appears that Julian was forced by his family to marry.
They sanctified themselves by the most perfect exercises of an ascetic life, and employed their revenues in relieving the poor and the sick. For this purpose they converted their house into a kind of hospital, in which they sheltered up to a thousand poor people. Basilissa attended those of her sex in separate lodgings, and Julian, who for his charity is known as the Hospitaler, cared for the men. Others gathered, monks and sisters to work with Julian and Basilissa.
The sisters and monks provided daily food and care to the ill, poor, and dying, and accepted no money in return. As their hospital was located in Egypt, and many were introduced to the faith through their work, conversions were numerous. As word spread of their heroic and Christian work, they attracted the attention of those who were actively persecuting Christianity.
Egypt, where they lived, was in those days blessed with persons who, either in the cities or in the deserts, devoted themselves to the most perfect exercises of charity, penance, and mortification. Conversions were numerous, and persecutions by furious pagans followed as the numbers of Christians increased. Basilissa, after having survived seven of those, died in peace, foretelling to her husband that he would die a martyr. Julian lived afterwards for a number of years, but eventually received the crown of a glorious martyrdom in 313. His interrogation and his tortures were accompanied by astonishing prodigies and numerous conversions.
When Julian died, thirty-one others, died with him, including a priest named Anthony, a new Christian named Anastasius, Celsus. Additionally the seven-year-old son of the judge who sentenced Julian, Marcianilla, the mother of Celsus, who when she came to visit her son was won over to the faith, and many other Christians. Spared by fire and wild beasts, Saint Julian finally was decapitated. His tomb became illustrious by many great miracles, including the cure of ten lepers on the same day.
Many churches and hospitals, in both the East and in the West, bear the name of one or another of these martyrs. Four churches at Rome and three in Paris are dedicated to Saint Julian.
In the “Martyrologium Hieronymianum” they are mentioned under 6 January; Usuard, Ado, Notker, and others place them under the ninth, and Rabanus Maurus under the thirteenth of the same month, while Vandelbert puts them under 13 February, and the Menology of Canisius under 21 June, the day to which the Greek Menaea assign St. Julian of Caesarea. There used to exist at Constantinople a church under the invocation of these saints, the dedication of which is inscribed in the Greek Calendar under 5 July.
Image: Christ with saints Julian, Basilissa, Celsus and Marcionilla, by Pompeo Battoni, 1736-38.
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff