Gervasius and Protasius

Gervasius and Protasius

:"For other uses of the names "Gervase" and "Protase," and their variants, see Gervasius and Protasius (disambiguation)."Infobox Saint
name=Saints Gervasius and Protasius
death_date=2nd century AD
feast_day=June 19 (Roman Catholic Church)
October 14 (Eastern Orthodox Church)
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church; Eastern Orthodox Church

caption="The martyrdom of Saints Gervase and Protase," from a 14th century manuscript.
attributes=the scourge, the club and the sword
patronage=Milan; Breisach; haymakers; invoked for the discovery of thieves
major_shrine=Basilica Sant'Ambrogio, Milan, Italy

Saints Gervasius and Protasius (also Saints Gervase and Protase, Gervasis and Prothasis and in French "Gervais and Protais") were Christian martyrs, probably of the 2nd century.

They are the patron saints of Milan and of haymakers and are invoked for the discovery of thieves. Their feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is on June 19, the day marking the translation of their relics. In the Eastern Orthodox Church their feast takes place on October 14 (O.S.)/October 24 (N.S.), the traditional day of their death. In Christian iconography their emblems are the scourge, the club and the sword.


The "Acts" ["Acta Sanctorum" June, IV, 680 and 29.] may have been compiled from a letter ("Epistle" liii) to the bishops of Italy, falsely ascribed to Saint Ambrose. They are written in a very simple style; it has not been possible to establish their age. According to these, Gervasius and Protasius were the twin children of martyrs. Their father Saint Vitalis, a man of consular dignity, suffered martyrdom at Ravenna, possibly under Nero. The mother Saint Valeria died for her faith at Milan. Gervasius and Protasius were imprisoned, and visited in prison by Saint Nazarius.

The sons are said to have been scourged and then beheaded, during the reign of the Emperor Nero, under the presidency of Anubinus or Astasius, and while Caius was Bishop of Milan. Some authors place the martyrdom under the Emperor Diocletian, but others object to this time, because it is not clear how, in that case, the place of burial, and even the names, could be forgotten by the time of Saint Ambrose, as is stated. It probably occurred during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180).

Ambrose and Saints Gervasius and Protasius

Saint Ambrose, in 386, had built a magnificent Basilica at Milan (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 in which such could be found. He ordered excavations to be made in the cemetery Church of Saints Nabor and Felix, outside the city, 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 marvelous stature, such as those of ancient days. All the bones were perfect, and there was much blood." [ [ Letter of St. Ambrose of Milan on the ] ]

St Ambrose had their relics removed to the Basilica of Fausta (now the Church of Saints Vitalis and Agricola [ [ Letter of Ambrose of Milan on the ] ] ), and on the next day into the basilica, accompanied in the texts by many miracles, emblemmatic of divine favor in the context of the great struggle then taking place between St Ambrose and the Arian Empress Justina. [D. H. Williams, "Ambrose of Milan and the End of the Arian-Nicene Conflicts," Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995 discusses the "inventio" and "depositio" of the relics as thecrowning gesture of Ambrose's triumph over the Arians.] Of the vision, the subsequent discovery of the relics and the accompanying miracles, St Ambrose wrote to his sister Marcellina.

Saint Augustine, not yet baptized, witnessed these facts, and relates them in his "Confessions" (IX, vii), and in "De Civitate Dei" (XXII, viii) as well as in his "Sermon 286 in natal. Ss. Mm. Gerv. et Prot.". They are also attested 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 martyrs.


J. Rendel Harris, "The Dioscuri in the Christian Legends" (London 1903) addressed the subject of twin saints in Christian legend, who seem to be connected with the Dioscuri, whose cult was tenacious, to surmise from an oration decrying their veneration by Dio Chrystostom ("Orations" 61.11). The historicity of Gervasius and Protasius was defended in the "Analecta Bollandist." (1904), XXIII, 427.

Immediately after the discovery of the relics by Saint Ambrose, the cult of Saints Gervasius and Protasius was spread in Italy, and churches were built in their honor at Pavia, Nola and other places. In Gaul (modern-day France), we find churches dedicated to them, about 400, at Mans, Rouen and Soissons. At the Louvre in Paris, there is now a famous picture of the saints by Lesueur (d. 1655), which was formerly in their church at Paris. According to the "Liber Pontificalis," Pope Innocent I (402-417) dedicated a church to them at Rome. Later, the name of St Vitalis, their father, was added to the title of this church (Basilica of San Vitale). Very early on their names were inserted in the Litany of the Saints.

In 835, Angilbert II, Bishop of Milan, placed the relics of the three saints in a porphyry sarcophagus, where they were found in January 1864. ["Civiltà Cattolica", 1864, IX, 608, and XII, 345]

A tradition claims that after the destruction of Milan by Frederick Barbarossa, his chancellor Rainald of Dassel had taken the relics from Milan, and deposited them at Breisach in Germany, whence some came to Soissons. The claim is rejected by Milan. [Biraghi, "Civiltà Cattolica", 1864, IX, 608, and XII, 345.]

Nevertheless, they were venerated by farmers in Germany and a German saying amongst harvesters was: "Wenn's regnet auf Gervasius / es vierzig Tage regnen muss" ("When it rains on St Gervasius' Day / forty days of rain will follow"). [ [ Gervasius - Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon ] ] Thus, as with the cults of Saint Swithun, Saint Medard, the Seven Sleepers, and Saint Godelieve, that of Sts Gervasius and Protasius was connected with the weather.

A famous series of tapestries of the "Life of Gervasius and Protasius," donated to the Cathedral of Antwerp in 1509 is displayed in the cathedral's choir. [Laura Weigert, "Reconstructing Medieval Pictorial Narrative: Louis Joubert's Tapestry Restoration Project" "Art Journal" 54.2, Conservation and Art History, Summer 1995:67-72.]

ee also

*San Gervasio
*St-Gervais-et-St-Protais Church


External links

* [ Letter of Ambrose of Milan on the Discovery of the Relics of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius]
* [ Gervase]
* [ Protase]
*it icon [ Santi Gervasio e Protasio]
*de icon [ Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon über Gervasius]

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