Saints of the Day – Sts Julian and Basilissa (died c 304) – Martyrs – Julian and Basilissa were husband and wife. They were Christian martyrs who died at either Antioch or, more probably, at Antinoe, in the reign of Diocletian, early in the fourth century.
Forced by his family to marry, Julian, agreed with his spouse, Basilissa, that they should both preserve their virginity and further encouraged her to found a convent for women, of which she became the superior, while he himself gathered a large number of monks and undertook their direction. The two converted their home into a hospital which could house up to 1,000 people (thus, Julian is often confused with Julian the Hospitaller). There, they worked tirelessly, using their own funds, to assist the poor, the sick, the needy. Basilissa attended those of her sex, in separate lodgings from the men, these were taken care of by Julian, who from his charity is named the Hospitalarian. Egypt, where they lived, had then begun to abound with examples of persons who, either in the cities or in the deserts, devoted themselves to the most perfect exercises of charity, penance, and mortification.
Basilissa, after having stood severe persecutions, died in peace. Julian survived her many years but was martyred, (together with Celsus a youth, Antony a priest, Anastatius and Marcianilla the mother of Celsus) under the Persecutions of Diocletian.
During the persecution of Diocletian he was arrested, tortured and put to death at Antioch, in Syria, by the order of the governor, Martian, according to the Latins, at Antinoe, in Egypt, according to the Greeks, which seems more probable. Celsus, the young son of Marcionilla, was martyred along with Julian. The priest Anthony (Antony) was martyred at the same time, as well as a convert and neophyte named Anastasius. Marcionilla’s seven brothers are also said to have been killed.
In any case, these two saints must have enjoyed a great reputation in antiquity and their veneration was well established before the eighth century. Only a fragment of Ælfric’s Passion of St Julian and His Wife Basilissa from his Lives of the Saints has survived but the traditional legend is there – the two saints vow not to consummate their marriage on their wedding night and devote themselves to chastity. Julian suffers martyrdom by beheading.
Many churches and hospitals especially in the West, bear the name of one or other of these martyrs. Four churches at Rome and three out of five at Paris, which bear the name of St Julian, were originally dedicated under the name of St Julian, the Hospitalarian and martyr.
In the time of St Gregory the Great, the skull of St Julian was brought out of the East into France and given to Queen Brunehault, who gave it to the nunnery which she founded at Étampes. Part of it is at present in the monastery of Morigny, near Étampes and part in the church of the regular canonesses of St Basilissa at Paris.