Monday, August 25, 2014

The Patron Saint of Comedians

Icon of St. Genesius, commissioned
by the Fraternity of St. Genesius
There are several saints named Genesius in early Christian history: Genesius of Alvernia, Genesius of Béziers, Genesius of Rome, Genesius of Cordoba, Genesius Sciarensis (also known as Ginés de la Jara). They are likely to be made-up names, springing from misunderstandings and the desire to have a local version of the original Genesius, a very early and popular martyr.

The earliest story we have about Genesius is in the Acta Sanctorum ["Acts of the Saints"], attributed to St. Paulinus of Nola:
Genesius, native of Arles, at first a soldier became known for his proficiency in writing, and was made secretary to the magistrate of Arles. While performing the duties of his office the decree of persecution against the Christians was read in his presence. Outraged in his ideas of justice, the young catechumen cast his tablets at the feet of the magistrate and fled. He was captured and executed, and thus received baptism in his own blood.
He is believed to have been beheaded (the quickest and surest way to execute someone). This would have happened in 303 CE, in Arles in southern France. He is often referred to as Genesius of Arles (which distinguishes him from all the "copycat" saints). Later, a church was built for him in Rome, after which he became also known as Genesius of Rome, on the assumption that he was a Roman martyr.

How did he come to be the patron saint of comedians (and actors and entertainers in general)? Through fiction. A 6th-century legend of Genesius Sciarensis (who likely had no independent existence and is merely a literary duplication of the original Genesius) tells that Genesius was a comedian who, in the middle of performing an anti-Christian satire, became moved by the material and converted to Christianity; he was beheaded for this conversion.

Ginés de la Jara (mentioned above) is the Spanish version of Genesius; scholars analyzing the origins of his cult recognize the likelihood that he is synonymous with the earlier Genesius, partially because the two saints have the same feast day, 25 August.

A Fraternity of St. Genesius works toward the "renewal of culture" and its importance in the modern world.

1 comment:

  1. Let's not forget Lawrence of Rome now (scroll down - he's #5):