Martyr. His legend, which is of little historical value, relates that he was
martyred by order of a judge named Paulinus for having encouraged St. Ursicinus,
who was wavering at the prospect of death, and for having given burial to his
remains. St. Vitalis was racked and then buried alive. He was the husband of St.
Valeria who was martyred at Milan, and father of the more famous Sts. Gervasius
and Protasius. The feast of St. Vitalis occurs on 28 April, but the date of his
martyrdom is uncertain. The legend makes him a victim of the Neronian
persecutions, but Baronius gives year 171 during the persecution of Marcus
Aurelius. The question is discussed by Papebroch in the Bollandist
Acta and by
Tillemont in his
Memoires pour servir à l'histoire ecclésiastique. Papebroch
cites churches dedicated in honour of St. Vitalis at Rome, Faenza, Rimini, Como,
Ferrara, Venice, Verona, and at Jadera in Dalmatia, but the most famous church
bearing his name is the octagonal San Vitale at Ravenna, the place of his
martyrdom, built in the years 541-46 and dedicated as an inscription attests in
547. This church, which was originally constructed by Julius Argentarius and
restored by Ricci in 1898-1900, is one of the most magnificent works of
Byzantine architecture and mosaic.
Acta SS. April, III, 562; Dict. Christ. Biog., IV, 463; SURIUS, Vitae SS., IV, 334; GUERIN, Petits Bollandistes, V, 62; SERRATRICE, Brevi Cenni sulla vita e sul culto di S. Vitale Martire (Mondovi, 1899).
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