Sts. Cyprian and Justina
Christians of Antioch who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of
Diocletian at Nicomedia, 26 September, 304, the date in September being
afterwards made the day of their feast. Cyprian was a heathen magician of
Antioch who had dealing with demons. By their aid he sought to bring St. Justina,
a Christian virgin, to ruin; but she foiled the threefold attacks of the devils
by the sign of the cross. Brought to despair Cyprian made the sign of the cross
himself and in this way was freed from the toils of Satan. He was received into
the Church, was made pre-eminent by miraculous gifts, and became in succession
deacon, priest, and finally bishop, while Justina became the head of a convent.
During the Diocletian persecution both were seized and taken to Damascus where
they were shockingly tortured. As their faith never wavered they were brought
before Diocletian at Nicomedia, where at his command they were beheaded on the
bank of the river Gallus. The same fate befell a Christian, Theoctistus, who had
come to Cyprian and had embraced him. After the bodies of the saints had lain
unburied for six days they were taken by Christian sailors to Rome where they
were interred on the estate of a noble lady named Rufina and later were entombed
in Constantine's basilica. This is the outline of the legend or allegory which
is found, adorned with diffuse descriptions and dialogues, in the unreliable
Symeon Metaphrastes, and was made the subject of a poem by the Empress Eudocia
II. The story, however, must have arisen as early as the fourth century, for it
is mentioned both by St. Gregory Nazianzen and Prudentius; both, nevertheless,
have confounded our Cyprian with St. Cyprian of Carthage, a mistake often
repeated. It is certain that no Bishop of Antioch bore the name of Cyprian. The
attempt has been made to find in Cyprian a mystical prototype of the Faust
legend: Calderon took the story as the basis of a drama:
El magico prodigioso.
The legend is given in Greek and Latin in Acta SS. September, VII. Ancient
Syriac and Ethiopic versions of it have been published within the last few years.
KAULES in Kirchenlex., s.v.; ZAHN, Cyprian von Antiochien und die deutsche Faustsage (Erlangen, 1882); RYSSEL, Urtext d. Cyprianschen Legende in Archiv f. neuere Sprachen u. Lit. (1903), XX, 273-311; Bibl. hagiog. lat., 308; see also BUTLER, Lives of the Saints, 25 September; and (ibid.) BARING-GOULD, Lives of the Saints.
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