Sergius and Bacchus
Martyrs, d. in the Diocletian persecution in Coele-Syria about 303. Their
martyrdom is well authenticated by the earliest martyrologies and by the early
veneration paid them, as well as by such historians as Theodoret. They were
officers of troops on the frontier, Sergius being primicerius, and Bacchus
secundarius. According to the legend, there were high in esteem of the Caesar
Maximianus on account of their bravery, but this favour was turned into hate
when they acknowledged their Christian faith. When examined under torture they
were beaten so severely with thongs that Bacchus died under the blows. Sergius,
though, had much more suffering to endure; among other tortures, as the legend
relates, he had to run eighteen miles in shoes which were covered on the soles
with sharp-pointed nails that pierced through the foot. He was finally beheaded.
The burial-place of Sergius and Bacchus was pointed out in the city of Resaph;
in honour of Sergius the Emperor Justinian also built churches in honour of
Sergius at Constantinople and Acre; the one at Constantinople, now a mosque, is
a great work of Byzantine art. In the East, Sergius and Bacchus were universally
honoured. Since the seventh century they have a celebrated church in Rome.
Christian art represents the two saints as soldiers in military garb with
branches of palm in their hands. Their feast is observed on 7 October. The
Church calendar gives the two saints Marcellus and Apuleius on the same day as
Sergius and Bacchus. They are said to have been converted to Christianity by the
miracles of St. Peter. According to the
Martyrologium Romanum they suffered
martyrdom soon after the deaths of Sts. Peter and Paul and were buried near Rome.
Their existing Acts are not genuine and agree to a great extent with those of
Sts. Nereus and Achilleus. The veneration of the two saints is very old. A mass
is assigned to them in the
Sacramentarium of Pope Gelasius.
Analecta Bollandiana, XIV (1895), 373-395; Acta SS., October, III, 833-83; Bibliotheca hagiographica latina (Brussels, 1898-1900), 1102; Bibliotheca hagiographica graeca (2nd ed., Brussels, 1909), 229-30; cf. for Marcellus and Apuleius: Acta SS., October, III, 826-32; Bibliotheca hagiogr. lat., 780.
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