medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Saturninus of Carthage (d. 200?; also Saturninus of Rome and, from his Acta, Saturninus the Old / the Elderly) is a Roman martyr of the cemetery of Thraso, recorded under this date in the _Depositio martyrum_ of the Chronographer of 354. His verse epitaph by pope St. Damasus I (ed. Ferrua, no. 46) tells us that he was a Carthaginian who became a Roman citizen by shedding his blood under savage persecution by an official named Gratianus. A Roman prefect of that name is attested for the year 200, leading some to suppose that Saturninus was a victim of the persecution of Septimius Severus. As that persecution seems to have left Rome largely unscathed (though it created famous martyrs in Roman Africa), others think it more likely that Saturninus perished under either Decius or Valerian.
Saturninus' gravesite in the vicinity of that of St. Chrysanthus (of the pair Chrysanthus and Daria, buried in the cemetery of Thraso) is recorded in the late sixth-century _Index oleorum_ of abbot John from Monza. The probably earlier seventh-century _Notitia Ecclesiarum Urbis Romae_ (inferentially betw. 625 and 638), a catalogue of the graves of the martyrs, names Saturninus just before Daria and Chrysanthus and identifies him as a martyred pope. An originally late antique basilica at Saturninus' grave was several times rebuilt in the early Middle Ages; ruins of it could still be seen early in the seventeenth century. Saturninus is entered under today in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology, in the Gelasian and Gregorian sacramentaries, and -- on the reasonable supposition that its Saturninus of today is not our saint's homonym of Toulouse -- in the earlier ninth-century Marble Calendar of Naples.
Saturninus' unreliable Acta in the legendary and synthesizing Passio of pope St. Marcellus (BHL 5234) omit his Carthaginian origin -- this datum of course is absent as well from the early calendars and the like -- and make him a Christian prisoner of exemplary patience and fortitude who is condemned with many others to transport pozzolana for the building of the Baths of Diocletian in about the year 304. Among his fellow prisoners is the otherwise unrecorded deacon Sisinnius. The two of them convert many fellow prisoners before undergoing several torments followed by decapitation on this day. A Christian named Thraso buries them on a property of his along the Via Salaria nova. Thus far this Passio, whose account was followed by the early medieval historical martyrologies as well as by the Roman Martyrology prior to its revision of 2001. Thanks to what seems to have been a mistranscription of the Passio's reference to our saint as _Saturninum senem_ ("the elderly Saturninus"), some texts in this tradition give Saturninus yet another otherwise unrecorded companion named Sennes.
Relics believed to be those of this Saturninus were for centuries kept in Santi Giovanni e Paolo al Celio; in 1987 these were translated to his twentieth-century church not far from the cemetery of Thraso.
Views of this translation are here:
A view of those relics' resting place under the church's main altar:
Some period-pertinent images of St. Saturninus of Carthage (or of Rome):
a) as depicted (two bas-de-page scenes) in the early fourteenth-century Queen Mary Psalter (ca. 1310-1320; London, BL, Royal MS 2 B VII, fols. 284v, 285r):
1) brought before a Roman magistrate (fol. 284v):
2) martyrdom (with St. Sisinnius of Rome; fol. 285r):
b) as depicted in a later fourteenth-century breviary of Apulian origin, perhaps from Taranto (New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum, Morgan ms. M.200, fol. 240r):
c) as depicted in the earlier fifteenth-century Breviary of Marie de Savoie (ca. 1430; Chambéry, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 4, fol. 409r):
d) as depicted in a later fifteenth-century breviary for the Use of Rome (after 1455; Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, ms. 366, fol. 300r):
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