ere followeth the Lives of Saint Nazarien and Saint Celsus, and first the interpretation of their names.
Nazarien is said of Nazareus, that is as much to say as consecrate or clean, or departed or flowered, or keeping. In a man be found these five: Cogitation, affection, intention, action, and locution or speech. Cogitation or thought ought to be holy, affection clean, intention right, action just, and locution or speech moderate. All these things were in Saint Nazarien. He had an holy cogitation or thought, and thereof he is said consecrate. He had affection clean, and thereof he is said clean. He had intention right, and thereof he is said departed. Intention is that departeth works, for of a simple eye cometh a bright body. Of a shrewd eye is made a dark body. He had action just, and thereof he is said flowered, for a just man shall flower like a lily. Speaking or locution moderate, and thereof he is said keeping, for he hath kept his ways in such wise that he had not trespassed in his tongue. Celsus is as much to say as high, for he enhanced him above himself, when he overcame his childish age by virtue of his courage. It is said that Ambrose, in the Book of Gervase and Prothase, hath rehearsed the life and passion of them. In some books it is read that there was a philosopher having devotion to Nazarien that wrote his passion, which Ceracius, which buried the bodies of the saints, laid it at the head of them.
Of Saint Nazarien and Saint Celsus.
Nazarien was son of a nobleman named Africanus, but he was a Jew, and of Saint Perpetua, a most christian woman, and come of the noblest of the Romans, and had been baptized of Saint Peter the apostle. When he was nine years old he marvelled greatly seeing his father and mother so greatly to vary in the observation of their religion; for his mother kept the law of baptism, and his father followed the law of the Sabbath, wherefore to whom he might follow of them he doubted much, for they both laboured to draw him to their faith. At last by the will of God he followed the law of his mother, and received the holy baptism of Saint Linus the pope. Which, when the father knew, he began to exhort and draw him from his holy purpose, and rehearsed to him by order all the manner of torments that were ordained for christian men, but he might not withdraw him from his holy purpose. That which is said, that he was baptized of Linus the pope, it is to understand that Linus was not then pope, but afterwards he was pope.
Nazarien lived after his baptism many years, as it shall appear hereafter, which suffered martyrdom under Nero, which crucified Peter the last year of his reign. Then when Nazarien would in no wise assent to his father, but preached Christ most constantly, his kindred dreaded lest he should be slain, and at their request and prayer he departed out of Rome, and took with him seven sumpters charged and laden with riches and goods, which all he gave to poor people in the parts of Italy to which he came. And the tenth year that he departed from Rome he came to Placentia, and from thence to Milan, and found there Gervase and Prothase holden in prison, whom he comforted. And when it was known that Nazarien had comforted and encouraged the said martyrs, he was anon taken and brought to the prefect. And he, always abiding steadfastly in the faith and knowledging of Christ, was beaten with staves, and so cast out of the city; and as he went from place to place, his mother, which then was dead, appeared to him, and comforted him, and warned him that he should go into France, and so he did. And when he came into a town of France, which that hight Gemellus, and had converted much people to the faith of Jesu Christ, there was a noble woman which offered to him her son named Celsus, which was an elegant and fair child, praying him that he would baptize him and take him with him. And when the prefect of France heard thereof, he took him and the child Celsus, with their hands bounden behind them, and a chain on their necks, and put them in prison for to torment them on the morn.
Then the wife of the prefect sent to him, affirming that it was not rightfully done that he should slay the innocents, but the gods almighty should presume to avenge them. By which words the prefect was corrected, and delivered the innocents, but charged and warned them that they should no more preach there. Then he came to the city of Treves and he was the first that preached Christ and converted many to the faith, and there edified a church. And when Cornelius, lieutenant of Nero, heard thereof, he sent thither an hundred knights for to take him. And they found him in an oratory that he had made, and took him and bound his hands, saying: The great Nero hath sent for thee; to whom Nazarien answered: The king all out of order, hath also knights out of order. Why came ye not honestly and said: Nero calleth thee? and I would have come. Then they led him bounden so to Nero; and Celsus the child weeping, they smote and buffeted him and constrained him to follow, and when Nero saw them he commanded to put them in prison till they there died by torments. And on a day when Nero sent his hunters to take wild beasts, suddenly a great multitude of wild beasts brake their ordinance, and entered the garden of Nero, where they slew and all torent many men, that Nero, all troubled, fled, and hurt his foot that unnethe he might come to his place, and after lay many a day, and might not remove for the pain of the wound. At the last he remembered of Nazarien and Celsus, and supposed his gods were wroth with him because he suffered them to live so long. Then, by the commandment of the emperor, knights beat them both and brought them tofore the emperor. Nero saw their visages shine like the sun, and he supposed that they had done it fantastically, to mock him by magic, and commanded them to put away their enchantments, and offer to the gods. Then was Nazarien led to the temple, and prayed that all men should go out. And then he made his prayers to God, and all the idols fell down and were broken. And when Nero heard that, he commanded to cast him into the sea. And if it happed that he escaped, they should follow and take him and burn him, and should take the ashes of him, and cast it into the sea.
Nazarien then, and the child Celsus, were put in a ship and brought into the middle of the sea, and were both cast in, and anon about the ship arose a great tempest, and about them was great calm and tranquillity. When they then that were in the ship were afraid to be perished, and repented them of the harm and wickedness that they had committed on the saints, Nazarien with the child Celsus, walked upon the sea and appeared to them with a glad cheer and entered into the ship to them, and then, they believing, by his prayer the sea was appeased. And from thence they sailed and came to a place six hundred paces beside Genoa, where they long preached, and after came to Milan where they found Gervase and Prothase in the place where they had left them. And when Anolinus the provost heard that, he sent him in exile, and Celsus the child abode in the house with a noble woman. Nazarien then came to Rome and found his father, then old and christian, and enquired of him how he was christened, which said that Peter the apostle had appeared to him and bade him believe as his wife and son did. Then from thence he was exiled of the bishops unto Milan again, from whence tofore he was exiled to Rome, and was now compelled again with wrong to go to Rome, where he was presented to the provost with the child Celsus, which then was led out of the gate of Rome, which is named three walls, with the child Celsus, and there was beheaded. Whose bodies christian men took up and by night buried them in a garden. And the next night they appeared to a holy saint named Ceracius, saying that he should bury their bodies in his house more deeper for dread of Nero. To whom he said: I pray you first my lords that ye make my daughter whole of the palsy, which anon, when she was whole, he took the bodies, and as they commanded he did.
Long time after this, God showed their bodies to Saint Ambrose, and he left Celsus Iying in his place, and took up the body of Nazarien with as fresh blood as he had been buried the same day, smelling a marvellous sweet odour, incorrupt, with his hair and his beard, and brought it to the church of the apostles, and there buried it honorably, and after took up the body of Celsus and buried it in the same church. They suffered death about the year of our Lord fifty-seven. Of this martyr saith Ambrose in his preface: O thou holy noble champion and blessed martyr, shining by the shedding of thy blood, thou hast deserved to have the kingdom of heaven, which by the innumerable assaults of torments hast overcome the woodness of the tyrant by the constancy of faith, and hast gathered together a multitude of people to everlasting life. O thou martyr, of whose health the church joyeth more than the world joyed in his punishing: O thou blessed mother of her children glorified with torments, which led them not with wailing ne sorrowing to hell, but departing hence followed her with perpetual laud unto the heavenly kingdoms. All this and more saith Saint Ambrose.