November 7, 2017

The Four Holy Crowned Martyrs (Quattuor Coronati)

The Four Holy Crowned Martyrs

The history of these holy martyrs, also referred to as the Quattuor Coronati, is very confusing. The Roman Martyrology has this: "At Rome on the Via Lavicana the day of the death of four holy martyrs, the brothers Severus, Severianus, Carpophorus, and Victorinus. Under Emperor Diocletian they were scourged to death with lead rods. Their names were first made known many years later through a divine revelation. As no one knew their names previously, the annual feast day (November 8th) to their honor was celebrated under the title: The Four Crowned Brothers. The designation was retained even after the revelation."

The Basilica of the Four Crowned Martyrs also contains the relics of five sculptors who under Diocletian refused to make idols or to venerate sun-god pictures. Reports say they were scourged, placed in led coffins and submerged in a stream (c. 300). According to Christian legend, they were named Claudius, Castorius, Simphorianus and Nicostratus, and were secretly devoted to Christianity.

Hagiographers are trying to disentangle the conflicting statements on the relation of these two groups to one another, whether two groups actually existed, and whether they in fact were Pannomians or Romans, soldiers or stone-masons, etc.

Pope Leo IV (847 - 855) had a great devotion to the four martyrs, as told in the Histoire des Papes et Souverains Chefs de l’eglise, by Francois Duchesne (1653): "He had an affection with and a particular devotion to the saints so named the Quattuor Coronati. For that reason, he searched for their bones; and after having found them with difficulty, he put them in the basilica bearing their name. He organized this before he received the pontificate. He moved apparently the holy bodies of Claudius, Nicostratus, Simphorianus, Castorius and Simplicius..." Pope Leo IV enlarged the old basilica, named in memory of the four crowned martyrs.

Almighty ever-living God, who adorned your pilgrim Church with the blood of the Four Holy Crowned Martyrs, a most fruitful seed of Christian witness and courage, grant that we may be defended by their help and profit from their example and intercession. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you together in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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