Saint of the Day – 26 August – St Alexander of Bergamo (Died c 301) Martyr, Confessor, Imperial Roman Centurion Died by being beheaded c 287. Patronages – Bergamo, Italy, City of, Diocese of Bergamo, Capriate San Gervasio, Italy, Cervignano d’Adda, Italy. Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. Also known as – Alessandro da Bergamo.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “At Bergamo in Lombardy, St Alexander, Martyr, who was one of the Theban Legion and endured Martyrdom bt being beheaded for the constant confession of the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Alexander, Patron Saint of the City and Diocese of Bergamo, is traditionally portrayed dressed as a Roman soldier with a banner bearing a white fleur-de-lis. The banner was that of the Theban Legion of St Maurice (a Roman legion consisting, according to legend, of only Egyptian soldiers of the Thebaide region) in which Alexander was, according to the Acts of Martyrdom, a Centurion Commander.
The Roman Theban legion, used mainly in the east, was moved west to counter the attacks of the Quadi and the Marcomanni. During the crossing of the Valais River, the Legion was ordered to search for Christians, against whom persecution had been unleashed. The Legionaries, who were also Christians, refused and were punished for their insubordination through decimation carried out at Agaunum (current day St Moritz).
Decimation consisted of killing one man in every ten. As the Legionaries continued to refuse to persecute the Christians, a second decimation was ordered and, later, the Emperor ordered their massacre.
Very few survived, among whom, Alexander, Cassius, Severinus, Secundus and Licinius, who sought shelter in Italy. However, in Milan, Alexander was recognised and placed in prison, where he refused to recant and deny Christ.
While incarcerated, he received the visit of St.Fidelis and the Bishop St Maternus. It was precisely St. Fidelis who managed to arrange Alexander’s escape to Como, where he was captured again. He was brought back to Milan and sentenced to death by decapitation.
However, during the execution, the executioner’s arms became stiff and lame. He was, therefore, thrown in prison again. He managed to escape once more and reached Bergamo passing through Fara Gera d’Adda and Capriate. In Bergamo, he was taken in by Prince Crotacio, who recommended he hide. But Alexander began preaching and converting many citizens of Bergamo, amongst whom, the Martyrs Saints Fermus and Rusticus. He was, therefore, discovered and captured yet again and publically beheaded on 26 August c 287-303, where the Church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna now stands.
Bergamo Cathedral is dedicated to him. In Rome , the Santi Bartolomeo and Alessandro dei Bergamaschi is dedicated to him, among others, as one of the Patron Saint Churches for natives of Bergamo living in Rome. . Alexander is also one of the Patron Saints of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.