Saints of the Day – 19 June – Saints Gervase and Protase (Died c 165) Martyrs, Twin Brothers of Martyr Parents, Laymen Died c 165. Patronages – for the discovery of thieves, haymakers, Archdiocese of Perugia-Città della Pieve, Italy, City of Milan and 4 Cities. Also known as – Gervasius and Protasius
The Roman Martyrology states of them today: “In Milan, Saints Gervase and Protase. The Judge Astasius ordered that Gervase be beaten to death with leaded scourges and Protase beaten with sticks and beheaded. By divine revelation blessed Ambrose discovered their bodies, flecked with blood and incorrupt as if they had just died that day. During the translation of their bodies, a blind man gained his sight by touching the bier and many were set free who had been possessed by demons.”
Gervase and Protase were the twin sons of Martyrs. Their Father, Saint Vitalis of Milan, a man of consular dignity, suffered Martyrdom at Ravenna, possibly under Nero. Their Mother, Saint Valeria, died for her faith at Milan. When their parents died, the two brothers sold the family assets, distributed the proceeds to the poor and retired to a small house where they spent ten years in prayer and meditation. Denounced as Christians in Astasio, they were imprisoned and refusing to sacrifice to pagan gods, they were, therefore, sentenced to death. Gervase died under the blows of the scourges, Protase was instead beheaded.
The legend around our Martyrs was enriched with further clarifications: the Datiana historia eccle siae Mediolanensis states that the two saints were converted to Christianity, together with their parents, noble citizens of Milan, by the Bishop St Gaius who would have ruled the Church of the City from 63 to 85 and their Martyrdom would have occurred in the time of Nero (54-68), therefoe. a discrepancy exists as to the date of their death.
Saint Ambrose, in 386, had built a magnificent Basilica at Milan, now called the Basilica Sant’Ambrogio. Asked by the people to consecrate it in the same solemn manner as was done in Rome, he promised to do so if he could obtain the necessary relics. In a dream, he was shown the place where such relics could be found. He ordered excavations to be made outside the City, in the cemetery Church of Saints Nabor and Felix, who were at the time the primary patrons of Milan and there found the relics of Saints Gervasius and Protasius. In a letter, St Ambrose wrote: “I found the fitting signs and on bringing in some, on whom hands were to be laid, the power of the holy Martyrs became so manifest, that even whilst I was still silent, one was seized and thrown prostrate at the holy burial-place. We found two men of marvellous stature, such as those of ancient days. All the bones were perfect, and there was much blood.”
St Ambrose had their relics removed to the Basilica of Fausta (now the Church of Saints Vitalis and Agricola) and on the next day, moved into the Basilica, accompanied by many miracles, emblematic of divine favour in the context of the great struggle then taking place between St Ambrose and the Arian Empress Justina. Of the vision, the subsequent discovery of the relics and the accompanying miracles, St Ambrose wrote to his sister Marcellina describing thee events..
Saint Augustine, not yet baptised, witnessed these events and relates them in his “Confessions” (IX, vii), and in “De Civitate Dei” (XXII, viii) as well as in his “Sermon 286 in natal. “.
They are also referred to by Saint Paulinus in his life of Saint Ambrose. The latter died in 397 and by his own wish was buried in his Basilica by the side of these Twin Brpther Martyrs. The Brescia Casket was made for or used to hold the relics of all three – St Ambrose, St Gervase and St Protase.
The two Saints immediately enjoyed considerable popularity, especially in the West – they were particularly venerated in Italy, in Miam. Ravenna, in Brescia and in Rome, where, under the Pontificate of Pope Innocent I (402-417), the matron Vestina erected a dedicated Church in their honour, the current St Vitale in via Nazionale; in Gaul, in Vienne and in Rouen; in Spain, in Carmona; in Africa, in Carthage. The anniversary of the invention of their bodies soon entered the most important Calendars and Sacramentaries, such as the Carthaginian Calendar, the Gregorian Sacramentary and the Geronymian Martyrology which all remember them, unanimously, on 19 June. The Geronymian, then, also remembers them other times – 20 May (apparently due to a reading and transcription error); 28 July, the day of Saints Nazario and Celso, in whose Acts. our twin Martyrs are also remembered.