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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world


The Martyrdom of *Euticius (priest and martyr of Ferento, S01228) is written in Latin at an uncertain date, perhaps in the 9th c. It narrates Euticius’ celebration of liturgy at the tomb of the martyrs *Gratilianus and Felicissima (martyrs of Faleri, S01477), his arrest, tortures endured, death, and his burial by the bishop Dionysius in a crypt fifteen miles outside Ferento, where later, according to an appendix, a church with a miraculous spring is built.

Evidence ID

E02493

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom

Martyrdom of Euticius (BHL 2779-2780)

Summary:

§ 1: There is a great persecution of Christians under the emperor Claudius: all are required to sacrifice and those who refuse are to be tortured and killed. The priest Euticius (
Eutitius) is instructed by an angel to travel from the city of Ferento (civitas Ferentina) to Faleri (civitas Faleritana), and celebrate there vigils with hymns and the Eucharist, at the tomb of the martyrs Gratilianus and Felicissima, who are buried in a new sarcophagus. He is also instructed to come back to Ferento to be martyred.

§ 2: Euticius celebrates the mysteries at the bodies of the saints in Faleri. Relatives (
parentes) of Gratilianus come to him and thank him for having converted them and Gratilianus. Euticius instructs them about the faith and the teaching of Jesus Christ, then he returns to Ferento. He is arrested by soldiers of the tribune Maximus for having disregarded the emperor’s order and acted against the gods.

§ 3: Euticius is interrogated by Maximus and rejects the idols, underlining that all things have been created and are governed by Jesus Christ (quoting
Proverbs 8:15). Maximus orders him to be placed in custody.

§§ 4-6: Maximus orders a tribunal and all sorts of instruments of torture to be prepared. The bishop of the city Dionysius pleads in favour of Euticius but Maximus orders him to be beaten with cudgels and thrown out of the city. Then Maximus interrogates Euticius, who again speaks against worshipping idols, quoting Psalm 113:8. Quoting further passages from the Gospels (Matthew 10:19, 16:25, 19:29), he emphasises that he is ready to speak out and suffer for Christ in order to obtain eternal life. Maximus tells Euticius that either he can sacrifice and be made wealthy by Claudius, or refuse and die under torture. Euticius refuses to sacrifice, again condemning worshippers of the gods, who he says will suffer forever in hell. Maximus orders him to be beaten with cudgels.

§§ 6-7: Euticius is further tortured but asks for Christ’s help and rejoices in the Lord. Then Maximus, seeing that tortures do not work, orders Euticius to be brought not far outside the city and beheaded. Before dying, Euticius prays to God:

Deus omnipotens, pater Domini nostri Jesu Christi, accipe spiritum meum, & numera me inter sanctos Martyres, quia tempus est ut condat terra corpus meum. Precor te, Domine, ut omnes qui nomen meum invocaverint & ad te conversi fuerint, habeant partem nobiscum in æterna secula, & in isto seculo de quacumque tribulatione digne ad te clamaverint, petitiones suas impetrare mereantur, & nobis frui in futuro, quia tu es Deus, manes & regnas in secula seculorum. Amen

‘Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit, and number me among your holy martyrs, since it is time for earth to bury my body. I pray you, Lord, to grant that all those who invoke my name and turn towards you may share eternity with us, and that those who worthily call upon you in this world for any sort of distress may merit their prayers to be fulfilled, and through us delight in the time to come, since you are God, remain and reign for ever and ever’.

Euticius is beheaded on the Ides of May, that is the 15th day of May.

§ 8: This is the martyrdom of the saints who were martyred together, the priest Euticius, the priest Valentinus, the deacon Hilarius, Gratilianus and Felicissima, and others [
this passage is at odds with the rest of the text and corresponds, according to Dufourcq, to remains of the end of an original longer cycle from which our martyrdom was extracted]. At night the bishop Dionysius comes with clerics and collects Euticius’ body with prayers and hymns and buries it in his own small estate (praediolus) and crypt (crypta), around fifteen miles from Ferento. They fast in that place and hold vigils for some days, thanking the Lord who performs many miracles there: the blind are given sight, demons are expelled and the infirm are healed.

The text is followed by an appendix (BHL 2780) at
§§ 9-10 describing later cult buildings around Euticius’ burial place: it notably states that after the end of the persecutions a church was built, as well as a deep crypt, reaching water underground that is drunk with an invocation to Euticius as a remedy. In the right (eastern) part of the crypt Euticius is buried with other saints, the tomb being covered with marble slabs (tabulae marmoreae). On the left side there is an altar with decorated marble for *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030) and other saints.

Text:
Acta Sanctorum, Mai., III, 460-461. Summary M. Pignot.
Liturgical Activities

Service for the saint
Eucharist associated with cult
Liturgical invocation
Chant and religious singing

Festivals

Saint’s feast

Cult Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics
Burial site of a saint - sarcophagus/coffin
Cult building - independent (church)
Holy spring/well/river
Descriptions of cult places

Activities accompanying Cult

Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Non Liturgical Activity

Prayer/supplication/invocation
Visiting graves and shrines
Vigils
Fast
Construction of cult buildings
Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings
Composing and translating saint-related texts
Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Miracles

Miracles experienced by the saint
Healing diseases and disabilities
Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Exorcism

Relics

Bodily relic - entire body
Construction of cult building to contain relics

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Relatives of the saint
Soldiers
Officials
Angels

Source

Epic martyrdoms
The
Martyrdom of Euticius is an anonymous literary account of martyrdom written long after the great persecutions of Christians that provide the background of the narrative. It is part of a widely spread literary genre, that scholars often designate as "epic" Martyrdoms (or Passiones), to be distinguished from earlier, short and more plausible accounts, apparently based on the genuine transcripts of the judicial proceedings against the martyrs.

These texts narrate the martyrdom of local saints, either to promote a new cult or to give further impulse to existing devotion. They follow widespread stereotypes mirroring the early authentic trials of martyrs, but with a much greater degree of detail and in a novelistic style. Thus they narrate how the protagonists are repeatedly questioned and tortured under the order of officials or monarchs, because they refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods but profess the Christian faith. They frequently refer to miracles performed by the martyrs and recreate dialogues between the protagonists. The narrative generally ends with the death of the martyrs (often by beheading) and their burial. These texts are literary creations bearing a degree of freedom in the narration of supposedly historical events, often displaying clear signs of anachronism. For these reasons, they have been generally dismissed as historical evidence and often remain little known. However, since most certainly date from within the period circa 400-800, often providing unique references to cult, they are an essential source to shed light on the rise of the cult of saints.

The Martyrdom of Euticius
BHL 2779 is the main text of the Martyrdom, while BHL 2780 is an appendix describing Euticius’ tomb, probably composed at a later date. The database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta (bhlms.fltr.ucl.ac.be) only lists a single 16th or early 17th century manuscript for BHL 2779 (Rome, Biblioteca Vallicelliana, codex H. 03, f. 365r-368r).


Discussion

Early evidence about Euticius' cult outside our text is found in Gregory the Great's Dialogues 3.38 (E05259) mentioning the martyr's tomb in a church dedicated to him.

There is no clear evidence for the dating of the
Martyrdom. It is dated to the 6th century in repertories of Latin sources (Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2186; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 64). For Dufourcq, followed by Lanéry, the text of the Martyrdom is a fragment, probably reworked, of a broader cycle centred around Euticius, including a number of other saints among whom were Gracilianus and Felicissima (whose grave is mentioned in § 1), and perhaps Valentinus and Hilarius. For Dufourcq, this cycle would have been composed in the 7th century, while for Lanéry it should be situated in the 8th century. Vocino dated the text (BHL 2779 and 2780) to the 9th century, connecting it to an inscription from the first half of that century referring to the embellishment with marble slabs of the saint’s tomb found in Soriano nel Cimino. This inscription would recall the description of Euticius’ tomb provided in the appendix (BHL 2780).

The identity of the martyred priest Valentinus and deacon Hilarius, mentioned in § 8, is uncertain. Valentinus cannot be the martyr of nearby Terni (S00434), because the latter was a bishop. Possibly he was Valentinus, the priest and martyr of Rome (S00434).


Bibliography

Edition (BHL 2779):
Acta Sanctorum, Mai., III, 460-461.

Further reading:
Dufourcq, A., Étude sur les Gesta martyrum romains, vol. 3 (Paris, 1907), 156-158.

Lanéry, C., "Hagiographie d'Italie (300-550). I. Les Passions latines composées en Italie,” in: Philippart, G. (ed.),
Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. V (Turnhout, 2010), 15-369, at 308-309.

Vocino, G., “L’Agiografia dell’Italia centrale (750-950),” in: Goullet, M. (ed.),
Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. VII (Turnhout, 2017), 95-268, at 144-145.


Record Created By

Matthieu Pignot

Date Last Modified

24/05/2019

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00030Stephen, the First MartyrStephanusCertain
S00433Valentinus, priest and martyr of RomeUncertain
S01228Euticius, presbyter and martyr of Ferento, central ItalyEutitiusCertain
S01477Gratilianus and Felicissima, martyrs of Faleri in central ItalyGratilianus, FelicissimaCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Matthieu Pignot, Cult of Saints, E02493 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E02493