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.
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.