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Feast Day of Saint Cyriacus

Today marks the anniversary of the death by beheading of Saint Cyriacus and his companions, Largus and Smaragdus. They had fallen afoul of the Emperor Diocletian.  Cyriacus had converted the daughter of the emperor, then went on to stage a mass baptism at the court of a Persian King. Cyriacus and company were tortured and beheaded on this day in the year 303. Their relics were placed in the Church of Saint Maria, in Via Lata, in Rome.

The images you see here are from the front and back of a leaf from a twelfth-century English martyrology in our Fragmenta Manuscripta collection. Martyrologies were anthologies that provided narratives of the lives and passions of saints, arranged according to their feast day. These were read aloud in monastic houses during the office of prime.  The image on the left is the recto. The reading for Saint Cyriacus begins in the middle of the page, where you see the rubric and a fine blue and ochre arabesque initial. The leaf was trimmed along the bottom so it is not continuous with the text on the top of the verso of the folio (below). The text there provides the rationale for the day’s celebration: “However often we brothers celebrate their martyrdom, so often we say praise of the savior. And however often we observe their passions; so often we proclaim the grace of Christ.” The text on the verso looks forward to the Day of Judgment: “And because in the present age the faults of many are not known but in the future time it will be written, when god will judge the hidden things of men and will illuminate dark hiding places and will make manifest the heart’s deliberation. It will be known.  Do not fear the fury of persecutors. And the madness of blasphemers because the God of judgment will come, whereby our virtue and their wickedness will be demonstrated.”

We encourage you to join us in observing  this solemn occasion with a visit to the Rare Books Room.