Saint Sabinus and his Companions
Bishop of Spoleto and Marytrs
When the cruel edicts of Diocletian and Maximin Hercules were published against the Christians in the year 303, it required more than ordinary force in the bishops and clergy, to encourage the people to undergo martyrdom rather than apostatize. All were forbidden even to draw water or grind wheat, if they would not first incense idols placed for that purpose in the markets and on street corners.
Saint Sabinus, Bishop of Spoleto, with Marcellus and Exuperantius, his deacons, and several other members of his clergy who were worthy of their sacred mandate, were apprehended in Assisi for revolt and thrown into prison by Venustianus, Governor of Etruria and Umbria. He summoned them before him a few days later and required that they adore his idol of Jupiter, richly adorned with gold. The holy bishop took up the idol and threw it down, breaking it in pieces. The prefect, furious, had his hands cut off and his deacons tortured on the rack and burnt with torches until they expired.
Saint Sabinus was put back into prison for a time. He was aided there by a Christian widow of rank, who brought her blind nephew to him there to be cured. Fifteen prisoners who witnessed this splendid miracle were converted to the Faith. The prefect left the bishop in peace for a month, because he himself was suffering from a painful eye ailment. He heard of the miracle and came to the bishop in prison with his wife and two sons, to ask him for help in his affliction. Saint Sabinus answered that if Venustianus would believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized with his wife and children, he would obtain that grace for him. The officer consented, they were baptized, and he threw into the river the pieces of his broken statue. Soon all the new converts gave their lives for having confessed the Gospel, sentenced by Lucius, whom Maximus Hercules sent to Spoleto after hearing of their decision, to judge and condemn them.
As for Saint Sabinus, he was beaten so cruelly that on December 7, 303, he expired under the blows. The charitable widow, Serena, after seeing to his honorable burial near the city, was also crowned with martyrdom. A basilica was later built at the site of the bishop’s tomb, and a number of monasteries in Italy were consecrated under his illustrious name.
Reflection: How powerfully do the martyrs cry out to us by their example, exhorting us to detach from a false and wicked world!
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14