Baring-Gould’s Lives of the Saints – Saints Julian, Basilissa, Celsus and Companions, Martyrs

Article

(about 310)

[Roman Martyrology and Greek Mensea. Authority: The Acts of these martyrs. They are referred to by Saint Eulogius, the martyr, who flourished about A.D. 850. They have been inserted by Metaphrastes in his collection of the lives of the Saints, in Greek. Saint Aldhelm of Sherboume, wrote a panegyric on these Saints, in Anglo-Saxon, in 700; and Saint Venantius Fortunatus wrote a hymn in honour of them in 620. The Acts purport to have been written by an eye-witness of the martyrdom, for he says: — " We write the Acts of the Saints from what we saw with our eyes, wherefore we hope to receive some little share in future blessedness." The writer survived to the time of Constantine the Great, for he speaks of churches erected to the memory of these martyrs. Nevertheless, the Acts cannot be regarded as genuine. They are nothing but a religious romance, possibly founded on fact. Such re- ligious romances were common in the 5th cent,, written to supply Christians with wholesome reading in place of the sensual fictions of Heliodorus, Achilles, Tatius, &c. As there are no less than thirty-six Julians in the Roman Martyrology, and of these seven are commemo- rated in January, there is great liability to confusion. Saint Julian seems to have suffered on the 6th January; but on account of the concurrence of the Epiphany, his memorial was transferred to different days in different dioceses, and this again has proved an element of confusion.]

Saint Julian was born at Antinoe, in Egypt, of noble parents. The love of God, and God alone, filled his heart from earliest childhood. At the age of eighteen his parents re- quired him to marry. This troubled him much, for he had read the saying of Saint Paul, ” He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” i Cor. vii. 32, 33. He besought his parents to allow him to defer giving them a final answer till he had well considered their proposal during seven days. He now fasted, and watched, and prayed, revealing to God the desire of his heart, to keep his body in virginity, and his soul devoted to God alone. At the end of the seven days he saw Christ in a vision, who said to him, ” Fear not, Julian, to take thee a wife, and to fulfil the desire of thy parents. As virgins ye shall serve me, and I shall not be separated from you, and as virgins shall ye enter into my kingdom.” Then Julian was filled with great joy, and he considered whom he should choose. Now there was one maiden, Basilissa by name, who was well-known to his parents, and with whom he had been acquainted from childhood, and whom he loved for her whiteness of soul. Therefore he told his father that he consented to marry Basilissa. And she, on her side, was glad to be the wife of Julian, but her timid soul shrank from the cares and respon- sibilities of marriage, for she was as yet young and fresh to the world.

The marriage took place with all the boisterous merriment and display, usual then as now; and evening approaching, the young bride was led by the maidens, who were her fellows, to the nuptial chamber. Now when Julian entered, there came an odour in the apartment, as of lilies and roses, though the season was mid-winter, and an awe fell on their young hearts. And they put their hands together, and promised to serve God together in purity and fervour, with singleness of heart all their days. Then they were aware of One present in the room, and kneeling down, they fell prostrate, and besought Him to accomplish the good work He had begun in them. And when they looked up, the chamber was full of light, and they saw Jesus and Mary, and an innumerable company of virgin Saints. Then the Lord said, “Thou hast conquered, O Julian, thou hast conquered!” And the Blessed Virgin said, “Blessed art thou, Basilissa, who hast thus sought with single heart the glory that is eternal.”

Then said Jesus, “My soldiers, who have overcome the wiles of the old serpent, rise and behold what is prepared tor you!” Thereupon came two clothed in white robes, and girded about the loins with golden zones, having crowns of flowers in their hands, and they raised them from the ground and showed them an open book seven times brighter than silver, inscribed with golden letters, and round about it stood four elders, having vials in their hands of pure gold, from which ascended diverse odours. And one, answering, said, “In these four vials your perfection is contained. For out of these daily ascends an odour of sweet fragrance before the Lord. Therefore, blessed are ye, because ye haye rejected _the unsatisfying pleasures of this world to strive after those which are eternal, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.”

Then Julian looked, and beheld his name, and the name of his wife, Basilissa, written in the book. And the elder said, “In that book are written the chaste and the sober, the truthful and the merciful, the humble and gentle, those whose love is unfeigned, bearing adversities, patient in tribulation, and those who, for the love of Jesus Christ, have given up father and mother, and wife and children, and lands, for his sake, lest they should impede the progress oi their souls to perfection, and they who have not hesitated to shed their blood for his name, in the number of whom you also have merited to be written.”

Then the vision passed. But Julian and Basilissa spent the night in prayer, and singing joyful praises to the Lord.

And when his parents were dead, Julian divided his house and made it into a hospital, and all his substance he spent in relieving the necessities of the sick and suffering. He ruled over the portion devoted to the men, and Basilissa, his wife, at the head of a number of devout virgins, governed the women’s department.

Many men placed themselves under the guidance of Saint Julian, and assisted him in his works of charity, and laboured for the advancement of God’s glory, and the salvation of their own souls. It is from the circumstance of Saint JuHan having been the first to establish a hospital for the sick, that he has been called by distinction Julian the Hospitaller.

After many years, Basilissa died in peace; her husband Julian survived her. In the persecution of Diocletian he was seized and subjected to cruel tortures. The governor, Marcian, ordered him to be dragged, laden with chains, and covered with wounds, about the city. As the martyr passed the school where Celsus, the son of the governor, was being instructed, the boys turned out into the street to see the soldier of Christ go by. Then suddenly the lad exclaimed, “I see angels accompanying, and extending a glorious crown to him. I believe, I believe in the God of the Christians!” And throwing away his books, he fell at the feet of Julian, and kissed his wounds. When the father heard this, he was filled with ungovernable fiiry, and believed that the Saint had bewitched the boy; he ordered them both to be cast into the lowest dungeon, a loathsome place, where the corrupting carcases of malefactors lay, devoured by maggots. But God filled this hideous pit with light, and transformed the stench into fragrant odours, so that the soldiers who kept the prison were filled with wonder, and believed. That same night, a priest, Antony, who lived with seven little boys, orphans committed to his care by their parents, summoned by God, came with these seven children to the prison. An angel went before them, and at his touch the gates flew open. Then Antony, the priest, baptized Celsus and the believing soldiers.

On the morrow the governor, supposing that the night in the pit had cured his son, sent him to his mother, and the boy, having related to her in order all he had seen and heard, she believed with her whole heart, and was baptized by the priest.

The governor, Marcian, ordered all these converts to death. The soldiers were executed with the sword, the seven boys were cast into the fire, the rest were tortured to death.

Relics, at Morigny, near Etampes, and in the church of Saint Basilissa, at Paris.

Patron of hospitals.

In art, Saint Julian and Saint Basilissa are represented holding the same lily stalk, or looking on the Book of Life wherein their names are written.

MLA Citation

  • Sabine Baring-Gould. “Saints Julian, Basilissa, Celsus and Companions, Martyrs”. Lives of the Saints, 1897. Saints.SQPN.com. 8 January 2014. Web. 23 July 2014. <>