Saint of the Day – 12 February – St Julian the Hospitaller/St Julian the Poor -The earliest known reference to Julian dates to the late twelfth century. Patron of Boatmen, carnival workers, childless people, circus workers, clowns, ferrymen, fiddlers, fiddle players, hospitallers, hotel-keepers, hunters, innkeepers, jugglers, knights, murderers, pilgrims, shepherds, to obtain lodging while traveling, travelers, wandering musicians, Macerata, Italy and San Giljan, Malta, Ghent, Belgium.
The location of the hospitals built by him is also debated between the banks of the River Gardon in Provence and an island near the River Potenza heading to Macerata. He was known as the patron of the cities of Ghent and Macerata. The Paternoster (Our Father prayer) of St. Julian can be found as early as 1353 in Boccaccio’s Decameron, and is still passed on by word of mouth throughout some places in Italy. The account is included the 13th-century Leggenda Aurea of Genoan Giacomo da Varazze, a Dominican priest. Beautiful stained glass depicting St. Julian by an unknown artist in the Cathedral of Chartres also dates back to the 13th century. Early fresco paintings of him are found in the Cathedral of Trento (14th century) and the Palazzo Comunale di Assisi.
However, little is known of him, he has inspired countless books, poems, paintings, frescos, stained glass windows, and songs, especially during the Middle Ages. Despite the lack of historical facts, the holy (legendary) events of his life may be looked to as inspiration, influencing our choices and actions even today and calling us to service.
Legend suggests that Saint Julian was born into a noble family and raised in Italy, France, or Belgium near the beginning of the first century. He grew up privileged, a counselor and friend to kings. He was an avid hunter and during one such outing, encountered a talking stag. The stag, having been pursued by Julian, turned and predicted that Julian would be responsible for the death of his own parents. Julian was so bothered by the prediction that he left his homeland without warning, traveling far from his parents..
He married a wealthy widow and together then built a noble home. During one trip from his home, Julian’s parents (who had been searching for him) visited without notice. His wife, out of respect, offered the master bedroom to the visitors, and when Julian returned home to find an unknown couple in his bed, legends indicate he slew them (pictured below). Overcome with fear and repentance, the couple left their home, traveling to Rome for absolution.
As pious legend recounts, one afternoon a man afflicted with leprosy came to the hospital but all the beds were full. In penance and service, Julian gave the man his own bed, planning to sleep on the floor. The leper revealed himself to be an angel of the Lord, declaring that Jesus had accepted his penance and promptly disappeared.
Devotion to St. Julian started in the Maltese Islands in the 15th century after the discovery of his relics in the city of Macerata. It was introduced by the noble family of De Astis, high-ranking in Malta at the time, who had strong connections with the Bishop of Macerata. Three churches were built in his honor before the arrival of the Knights: in Tabija, towards Mdina; in Luqa and in Senglea (Isla). This last one had a storage room for hunters and served to popularize this devotion through the sailors arriving at the Three Cities. In the 16th century there existed a hospital, Ospedale di San Giuliano, in the Citadel in Gozo, showing a wide devotion to the saint. Being an order of hospitaliers, the Knights of St. John helped widen further this devotion. In 1539 they rebuilt the church in Senglea and in 1590 built another church in the parish of Birkirkara, a section that since then was called St. Julian’s. In 1891 the church was made a parish, the only one ever dedicated to the saint in Malta.
(c) The Fitzwilliam Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation