Saints Sergius and Bacchus

Saints Sergius and Bacchus

Infobox Saint
name= Saints Sergius and Bacchus
death_date=~303 AD
feast_day= 7 October
venerated_in= Roman Catholic Church; Eastern Orthodox Church

imagesize= 250px
caption= Detail of a 7th century icon of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.
death_place=Bacchus in Syria; Sergius at Resafa, Syria
titles= Martyrs
attributes=Depicted as two young soldiers
patronage=Syria, army, soldiers,
major_shrine= Basilica of St. Sergius, Rasafa

Saints Sergius and Bacchus (also Serge and Bacchus or Sergios and Bakchos or Sarkis wa Bakhos), were third century Roman soldiers who are commemorated as martyrs by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. Serge and Bacchus were officers in Caesar Maximian's army, and were held high in his favor until they were exposed as secret Christians. They were then severely punished in 303, with Bacchus dying during torture, and Sergius eventually beheaded. Churches in their honor have been built in several cities, including Constantinople and Rome. Their feast day is 7 October. [ [ Catholic Encyclopedia entry for SS Sergius and Bacchus] ]


Officers of the Roman Army and secretly Christians, their martyrology reports their religion was discovered when they attempted to avoid accompanying a Roman official into a pagan temple with the rest of his bodyguard. After they persisted in refusing to worship Roman gods they were exiled to the front lines in Syria ca. 303 by order of Roman Emperor Maximian, where they were tortured and killed. Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture to later be beheaded. Both were killed in Syria; the traditional site of Sergius' death is Resafa. According to legend, upon being tortured to death, Bacchus appeared (in spirit) to Sergius who was still being tortured and encouraged him to remain strong, as they would soon be reunited in Heaven.

Popularity and veneration

In the Byzantine Empire, they were venerated as the protectors of the army. A large monastery church was dedicated to them in Constantinople by Justinian I, probably in 527. Sergius was a very famous saint in Syria and Christian Arabia. The city of Resafa, which became a bishop's see, took the name, Sergiopolis, and preserved his relics in a fortified basilica. The church was adorned and the place further strengthened by Justinian. It became one of the greatest pilgrimage centers in the east.

Many churches were built dedicated in the name of Sergius, sometimes with Bacchus. The nomads of the desert looked upon Sergius as their special patron saint. Their feast day is celebrated on October 7. [Boswell, p. 155]

A church dedicated to them was built in Rome in the 9th century.

Paired saints

They are noted as a classic example of paired saints, considered by some (such as scholar John Boswell) to be the most influential example of such a couple, even better an example of such an archetype than Saints Peter and Paul. [Boswell, p. 146. "By far the most influential set of paired saints was Serge and Bacchus."] [Boswell, p. 195. "...The archetypes invoked, like Peter and Paul or Serge and Bacchus, were not in fact brothers, either biologically or through legal arrangement. It may be doubted whether Peter and Paul were in any sense a couple, but Serge and Bacchus, the most commonly cited archetypes, certainly were, and under the influence of the same cultural predilection that created a pair from the single St. Theodore, it is easy to imagine that Peter and Paul were coupled in the popular imagination."]


Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many modern commenters to believe they were lovers. The most popular evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, in the Greek language, describes them as "erastai", or lovers.Boswell, p. 154] Yale historian John Boswell considered their relationship to be an example of an early Christian same-sex union, reflecting his contested view of tolerant early Christians attitudes toward homosexuality. The artist Robert Lentz advocated this view, [ Gentle Shepherd Church: The Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch in Richmond Virginia - Our Saints] ] portraying the men as a gay couple in his religious iconography painting. In his study on "The Origin of the Cult of SS. Sergius and Bacchus" David Woods classified some of Boswell's arguments as "superficial". Other historians and Byzantine analysts, along with the official stance of the Eastern Orthodox Church, argue that the ancient Eastern tradition of adelphopoiia, which was done to form a "brotherhood" in the name of God, and is traditionally associated with these two saints, had no sexual implications. [ [ Rewriting History to Serve the Gay Agenda] ]



*Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. "The Penguin Dictionary of Saints". 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.
*E. Key Fowden, "The Barbarian Plain: Saint Sergius between Rome and Iran", The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 28 (Berkeley, 1999).
*D. Woods, 'The Emperor Julian and the Passion of Sergius and Bacchus', "Journal of Early Christian Studies" 5 (1997), 335-67.
* Boswell, John. "Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe" New York: Villard Books, 1994. ISBN 0-679-432280.

External links

* [ David Woods: The Origin of the Cult of SS. Sergius and Bacchus]
* [ The Lives of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus from the official Website of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA)]
* [ Book review of the work "Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe" by John Boswell]
* [ Photographs of the Church of St. Sergius and St. Bacchus]
* [ The Passion of SS. Serge and Bacchus]

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