St. Julian and St. Basilissa, Martyrs
ACCORDING to their acts, and the ancient Martyrologies, though engaged in a married state, they by mutual consent lived in perpetual chastity, 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, if we may credit their acts, they sometimes entertained a thousand indigent persons: Basilissa attend those of her sex, in separate lodgings from the men, of whom Julian took care, who from his charity is surnamed the Hospitalarian. Egypt, where they lived, had then begun to abound with examples of persons, who, either in cities or in deserts, devoted themselves to the most perfect exercises of charity, penance, and contemplation. Basilissa, after having stood severe persecutions, died in peace; Julian survived her many years, and received the crown of a glorious martyrdom, together with Celsus a youth, Antony a priest, Anastatius, and Marcianilla the mother of Celsus. They seem to have suffered in the reign of Maximin II. in 313, on the 6th of January; for, in the most ancient lectionary used in the church of Paris, under the first race of the French kings, quoted by Chatelain, 1 and several ancient calendars, their festival is marked on that day, or on the eve. On account of the concurrence of the Epiphany, it was deferred in different churches to the 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 27, 28, or 29th, of January; 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 24, or 27th of February; 20, 21, or 22nd of June; or 31st of August.
The menology, published by Canisius, places the martyrdom of St. Julian and his companions, at Antinopolis in Egypt; certain ancient MS. copies of the Martyrology, which bear the name of St. Jerom, say more correctly Antinous: by mistaking the abbreviation of this name in some MS. copies, several Latins have read it Antioch; 2 and the Latin acts say, these martyrs suffered at Antioch in Egypt: but no town of that name is ever mentioned in that country; though Seleucus, the son of Antiochus, gave it to sixteen cities which he built in Asia, as Appian takes notice. Many churches and hospitals in the east, and especially in the west, bear the name of one or other of these martyrs: at Antioch, in Syria, our St. Julian was titular saint of a famous church, and St. Julian of Anazarbus, of two others. Chatelain 3 proves from ancient images and other monuments, that four churches at Rome, and three out of five at Paris, which bear the name of St. Julian, were originally dedicated under the name of St. Julian the hospitalarian and martyr; though some of these latter afterwards took either St. Julian bishop of Mans, confessor, or St. Julian of Brioude, martyr, for patron. The same has happened to some, out of the great number of churches and hospitals in the Low Countries, erected under his invocation; but the hospitalarian and martyr is still retained in the office of the greater part, especially at Brussels, Antwerp, Tournay, Douay, &c. In the time of St. Gregory the Great, the skull of St. Julian, husband of St. Basilissa, was brought out of the east into France, and given to Queen Brunehault; she gave it to the nunnery which she founded at Etampes; part of it is at present in the monastery of Morigny, near Etampes, and part in the church of the regular canonesses of St. Basilissa, at Paris. 4 1
Note 1. Notes sur le Martyrol. 6 Jan. p. 106. Mabill. Lit. Gallic. l. 2, p. 115, 116.
Note 2. The abbreviation Antio for Antinous, found in a MS. copy mentioned by Chatelain, p. 106, was probably mistaken for Antioch, a name better known. Certain circumstances related from the false acts of these martyrs, by St. Antoninus, gave occasion to the painters in Italy to represent St. Julian as a sportsman, with a hawk on his hand; and in France, as a boatsman, in a barge; and the postillions and bargemen keep his feast, as of their principal patron. [back]
Note 3. Notes on Jan. 6. p. 109. [back]
Note 4. See Chatelain, notes on Jan. 6. p. 110, from a MS. at Morigny.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.