Friday, October 9, 2015


St. Juliana of Nicomedia
Feast day: February 16

Died at Cumae or Naples, 305 or 304.
Patron of sickness

The veneration of the virgin martyr Juliana, a maiden of Nicomedia (Izmit, Turkey), is very ancient in the east and the west. The earliest extant account of her martyrdom was written less than three centuries after her death,  A Christian convert, Juliana refused to marry a pagan, thereby incurring the wrath of her pagan father and a pagan suitor. She was thereupon imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded. While in prison, she is said to have been subjected to a vision of a demon, pretending to be an angel of light, urging her to sacrifice to the pagan gods. Recognizing the deception, Juliana cried out, "Lord God of heaven and earth, do not desert me, nor permit your handmaid to perish." She vanquished the tempter, who admitted to her that the devils particularly suffer when Christians attend Mass. Saint Juliana has traditionally been invoked for the safe delivery of women in labor and for protection from fever and contagious diseases.

Juliana's struggle with the devil was one of the favorite stories of the medieval Church. What still fascinates is its deep psychological meaning: for the devil is said to have appeared to the saint as an angel of light. His aim was to persuade her that what she had renounced in this world was in fact good. On the face of it, the devil was right, for Juliana had turned against both her father and her suitor, a Roman prefect named Evilasius.

 Her father, Africanus, an ambitious functionary in the Roman legions, despised her simply because she had become a Christian. When her suitor realized that she would not become his wife, he decided that she should be no one's bride. Her calling left her without a family of her own. Both men, failing to get their own way with this determined saint, treated her brutally: Juliana's father scourged and tortured her. Evilasius flung her into jail where she was seen to be fighting with the disguised devil, finally binding him and throwing him to the ground.

 Juliana died a martyr's death. First she was partially burned in flames; then she was plunged into a boiling cauldron of oil; finally the long-suffering saint was freed from the torments of this world by the mercifully instantaneous act of beheading.

 The Roman Martyrology describes Juliana's suffering at Nicomedia in Asia Minor, but it is more probable that she died in Naples, perhaps Cumae, where her relics are said to be enshrined. Some of them are now in Brussels, Belgium, in the church of Our Lady of Sablon. Though her story was the source of many romantic tales, Juliana is clearly an historical figure as attested by Saint Gregory the Great, who requested relics of her from Bishop Fortunatus of Naples for an oratory that a lady had built on her estate in Juliana's honor, and others. Her cultus in England dates back to Bede's martyrology, and her feast was on the Sarum Calendar.

 In art, Saint Juliana is hung up naked by her hair. Sometimes she may be shown in a cauldron, leading the devil in chains, or crowned wearing a cross on her breast. She is invoked against infectious diseases. 

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