Saint of the Day – 5 August – Saint Emygdius (c 272 – c 303) Bishop Martyr, Confessor, miracle-worker. Born probably in Trier in south-western Germany in c 272 and died by being beheaded in c 303. Patronages – against earthquakes, of the City and Diocese of Ascoli Piceno, of the Cities of L’Aquila, Cingoli, San Ginesio, Nocera Umbra, Italy. Also known as – Emygdius, Emigdius, Emigdio.
The Roman Martyrology states of him today: “St Emygdius, Bishop and Martyr, who was Consecrated Bishop by Pope Marcellus and sent thither to preach the Gospel. He received the crown of Martyrdom for the confession of Christ, under the Emperor Diocletian.”
Emygdius was a pagan converted and was baptised by St Nazarius and St Celsus in Trier. . With others who had been converted to Christianity, he first went to Milan , where he was Ordained a Priest, then to Rome.
In Rome he cured the paralytic daughter of his host Gratianus, who had given him access to his home on Tiber Island. Gratianus and his family then converted to Christianity. Emygdius also cured a blind man. The people of Rome believed him to be the son of Apollo and carried him off by force to the Temple of Aesculapius on the island in the Tiber, where he cured many of the sick. Emygdius declared himself a Christian, however and tore down the pagan altars and smashed into pieces a statue of Aesculapius. H e also converted many to Christianity which enraged the Prefect of the City.
He was Consecrated a Bishop by Pope Marcellus and sent to Ascoli Piceno. On his way to Ascoli, Emygdius converted many more people, and performed a miracle where he made water gush out of a rockface after striking a portion of a cliff. Polymius, the local Governor, attempted to convince Emygdius to worship Jupiter and the goddess Angaria, the patroness of Ascoli. Polymius also offered him the hand of his daughter Polisia. Instead, Emygdius baptised her as a Christian in the waters of the Tronto, along with many others.
Enraged, Polymius decapitated him on the spot now occupied by the Sant’Emidio Red Temple, as well as his followers Eupolus (Euplus), Germanus and Valentius (Valentinus). Emygdius stood up, carried his own head to a spot on the mountainside, where he had constructed an Oratory (the site of the present-day Sant’Emidio alla Grotte). After Emygdius’ Martyrdom, his followers attacked Polymius’ palace and pulled it down.
His hagiography was written probably by a Monk of French origin in the eleventh century, after the rediscovery of the Saint’s relics, which had been conserved in a Roman sarcophagus. However, his hagiography was attributed to his disciple Valentius, who was Martyred with him. The cult of Saint Emygdius is ancient, documented by Churches dedicated to him since the eighth century. The translation of his relics from the catacomb of Sant’Emidio alla Grotte to the Crypt of the Cathedral of Ascoli, happened probably around the year 1000 under Bernardo II, Bishop of Ascoli Piceno.
In 1703, a violent earthquake occurred in the Marche but did not affect the City of Ascoli Piceno. The City’s salvation was attributed to Emygdius and he was thenceforth, invoked against earthquakes. As a result of this event, a Church was deciated to the Saint in 1717. Additionally, many Towns appointed him as Patron, erecting Statues in his honour in the Parish Churches (L’Aquila, 1732; Cingoli, 1747; San Ginesio, 1751; and Nocera Umbra, 1751)
Emygdius is considered to have protected Ascoli from other dangers. A dazzling vision of Emygdius deterred Alaric I, King of the Visigoths, from destroying Ascoli in 409. The troops of Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor passed through the region in 1038 carrying the dreaded disease – the Plague; Bernardo I, Bishop of Ascoli, invoked Emydgius’ aid and the spread of the Plague was immediately arrested. During World War II, on 3 October 1943, Emygdius protected the City against the Germans and against the hunting and arrest of the Italian partisans.
The Annunciation, with Saint Emygdius is an Altarpiece by Italian artist Carlo Crivelli showing an artistic adaptation of the Annunciation. The Altarpiece was painted for the Church of the Annunziata in Ascoli Piceno, in the region of Marche, to celebrate the self-government granted to the town in 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV. St Emygdius is shown in the passageway on the left.