THE LIFE OF ST. JANUARIUS
THE SAINT PACHOMIUS ORTHODOX LIBRARY
This document is in the public domain. Copying it is encouraged.
ACTS OF THE HIEROMARTYR
JANUARIUS, BISHOP OF BENEVENTO
(Feast Day September 19)
Translated by Edward P. Graham, 1909
In the time of Diocletian, emperor, and in the fifth consulate of
Constantine [Constantius], and seventh [probably "fifth"] of
Maximian, there was a great persecution of the Christians. At
that time Diocletian appointed Timothy, a pagan, governor in the
province of Campania and ordered him to offer sacrifices to idols
and to compel all who believed in Christ to do the same. It
happened as he was making the customary round of cities, he came
to the city of Nola. There he ordered the officials to present
themselves before him and when they were present he began to
inquire from them concerning the judgments of his predecessors.
To him the officials related their deeds and among them, when they
reached the affairs of the blessed martyrs Sosius, deacon of the
church at Miseno and Proculus, deacon of the church at Pozzuoli,
and Eutychetes and Acutius, and how they had been tormented by
various tortures and had been recast into prison by the order of
the judge, he asked the officials what had been done with them.
They replied saying that they for a long time were detained in
chains and they uttered in addition evil remarks concerning the
Blessed Januarius, bishop of Benevento.
This most unjust Timothy having heard these remarks regarding
Januarius, ordered him to be brought before him and when he was
presented before his tribunal at Nola, Timothy the judge said to
him: "Januarius, having heard of the reputation of your family I
exhort you to sacrifice to the gods in obedience to the decrees
of the invincible rulers. But if you are unwilling I shall
subject you to horrible torments which the God whom you worship
when he shall see them he himself shall fear."
St. Januarius however replied: "Be silent, O unhappy man, and do
not insult in my hearing Him who created heaven and earth, lest
the Lord God may hear such a blasphemy as that which proceeds
from you mouth and he may destroy you and you shall be mute and
deaf, not hearing and like a blind man not seeing."
Having heard these things the tyrant Timothy says to the saint:
"Is it in your power that by any enchantments whatever you or
your god can prevail against me?"
St. Januarius replies: "My power is nothing but there is a God
in heaven who can resist you and all who obey and abet you." And
when he had said this the tyrant ordered him back to prison.
Being very angry he ordered a furnace to be heated for three days
and the saint to be cast into it. The holy man made the sign of
the cross on his forehead, looked up to heaven sighing and extending
his hands, and having entered the fiery furnace he was praising God,
saying: "O Lord Jesus Christ for the sake of thy holy name I embrace
willingly this suffering and I expect every promise which thou hast
promised to those who love Thee. Hear me praying to Thee and deliver
me from this flame, thou who wert present with the three children,
Ananias, Azarias, Misael in the fiery furnace, and be with me in this
my trial to deliver me from the hands of the enemy." Saying these
things, Blessed Januarius began to walk with holy angels in the midst
of the fire praising the Father and Son and Holy Ghost.
When the soldiers who were around the furnace heard St. Januarius in
its depth praising God they feared with a great fear and ran in great
haste and told the judge saying, "We beseech thee, sir, not to be
angry with us but we have heard the voice of Januarius in the furnace
invoking his Lord, and being greatly terrified we fled." Timothy
hearing this ordered the furnace to be opened and when it was opened
the flames shot out and devoured some incredulous pagans who were
around about it. But St. Januarius appeared in the midst glorifying
the Lord Jesus Christ so that the fire could not touch either his
clothes or his hair.
Timothy however when he had heard this ordered him before him and
said to him: "Of what avail is it that the magic you exercise is
powerful? By various torments I will make you perish." Bl. Januarius
replied: "It will not be well for thee, thou cruel tyrant, to
alienate the servant of Christ from the truth of Christ or to cause me
to obey through fear. I will hope in the Lord. I will not fear no
matter what men may do to me," and thus replying the judge ordered him
led back to prison.
On another day early in the morning Timothy had Januarius before him: "How
long, unhappy man, will you refuse to sacrifice to the immortal gods?
Approach now and offer incense. If not I shall order you to be beheaded
and if he can, let your God free you from my hands." The saint replied:
"You do not know that the power of God is great. Would that you would
repent so that my God might pardon you whom you say to be unable to free me
from your hands! When you speak thus you are heaping up wrath for yourself
on the day of wrath."
The judge not liking this speech ordered his shackels [-nervi-] to be
removed. Januarius prayed God saying: "O Lord Jesus Christ who hast not
abandoned me from my mother's womb now hear thy servant crying to thee and
command me to depart this world and obtain thy mercy." The judge thinking
how he would kill him sent him back to prison.
While guarded by soldiers in hard captivity, two of his clergy, the deacon
Festus and the reader Desiderius, learned of their bishop's captivity and
being moved by the Holy Ghost they immediately set out from Beneventum and
came to Nola, and there weeping they cried: "Why is such a man in custody?
What crimes did he commit? When did he fail to aid those in trouble? What
sick man was visted by him without regaining health? Who approached him
weeping and went away not rejoicing?"
Their words were reported to Timothy who ordered them at once to be
detained and along with Januarius to be brought before him, whereupon he
asked Januarius who were these two and the saint replied: "One is my
deacon and the other is my reader." "Do they proclaim themselves
Christians?" "Certainly, for if you ask them, I hope in my Lord Jesus
Christ that they will not deny themselves to be Christians," and being
asked, they said: "We are Christians and we are prepared to die for the
love of God."
Then Timothy filled with anger ordered Januarius the bishop, along
with Festus the deacon and Desiderius the reader, to be bound in
chains and to be dragged before his chariot to the city of Pozzuoli,
determining that there along with Sosius, Proculus, Eutyches and
Acutius, they should be delivered up to wild beasts. When they were
come to Pozzuoli, they were kept in prison until the arena was
prepared. On the day appointed they were led into the amphitheatre and
Timothy coming ordered the wild beasts to be let loose; and when this
was done, St. Januarius cried: "O brethren, seize the shield of faith
and let us pray to the Lord our Helper in the name of the Lord who
made heaven and earth." And the mercy of God was so present that to
the feet of Januarius like sheep with heads down ran the wild beasts.
The unbelieving judge had the beasts removed and the saints of God
taken from the arena and brought before his tribunal, where sitting in
state he dictated their sentence: "We order to be beheaded, Januarius
bishop, Sosius, Proculus and Festus deacons, Desiderius reader,
Eutyches and Acutius, citizens of Pozzuoli, who have professed
themselves Christians and have despised the sacrifices of the gods and
the commands of the emperor." But Bl. Januarius looking up to heaven
said: "Lord Jesus Christ who descended from on high for the redemption
of the human race, deliver me and free me from the hand of this enemy
and I beg thee my God that you punish Timothy for the things he did
against me thy servant and that thou blind his eyes so that he may not
see the light of heaven."
When he had finished his prayer darkness fell on his [Timothy's] eyes
and suddenly he was made blind. Then prayed Januarius to the Lord,
and said: "I give thanks to thee, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who hast heard thy servant and destroyed the eyes of the impious Timothy
because many souls on account of him have been perverted to the evil spirits."
Then Timothy was suffering with his stricken eyes and the pain was
increasing. Repentant he began to cry out and say to the officials:
"Go, bring Januarius to me." And they going found him lead along by
the executioners on the incline that leads to the Solfatara and
bringing him back they set him before the judge and a great
multitude of people was attracted by the sight. But Timothy began
to cry out with a great cry and to say to Bl. Januarius: "Januarius,
servant of the most high God, pray the Lord, thy God, for me blind
that I may recover the sight which I have lost."
Then Januarius raising his eyes to heaven prayed: "God of Abraham,
God of Isaac, God of Jacob, hear my prayer and restore to Timothy
though unworthy his eyes that all the people present may know that
thou art God and there is no other but thee; for we may not return
evil for evil." And when St. Januarius had finished his prayer his
The multitude seeing the wonderful things which the Lord wrought by
Januarius his martyr, many of the bystanders believed in the Lord
Jesus Christ, almost five thousand, and they cried out raising their
voices: "Will not the God of such and so great a man be feared?
Will he not perhaps take revenge for their sufferings and death and
will we not all likewise perish?" Januarius was very beautiful
both in body and disposition. Then the impious judge Timothy
seeing such a crowd turned toward the Lord was troubled and (lest
the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ might be deprived of his
crown) fearing the commands of the emperor the judge ordered the
soldiers to take him away quickly and to behead him with the holy
When they were on their way to martyrdom a certain
old and very poor man, hoping favor from Januarius
placed himself in his way and fell at his feet and
besought him that he might receive some of his
clothes. But Januarius said to that old man: "When
my body has been buried thou wilt see that I myself
will give thee my orarium with which I will have
bound my eyes." The mother also of St. Januarius
residing at Benevento, three days before her son suffered,
saw in a dream that Januarius was flying in the
air to heaven and when she was puzzled by the dream
and would inquire what it meant, suddenly it was
announced to her that her son was imprisoned for the
love of God. She however greatly terrified, prostrating
herself in prayer before the Lord, gave up her spirit.
In the meantime when the saints had arrived at the
place where they were to be beheaded, that is at the
Solfatara, St. Januarius kneeling prayed: "O Lord,
omnipotent God, into thy hands I commend my spirit"
and then rising he took his orarium and bound his
eyes and kneeling again he placed his hand on his neck
and asked the executioner to strike. The executioner
struck with great force and cut off at the same time
a finger of the saint's hand and his head. The other
saints received likewise their crown.
St. Januarius after his execution appeared to the old man
and offered him as he had promised the orarium which
had bound his eyes and said: "Behold what I promised
you, take it as I promised it," and he took it and hid
it in his bosom with great reverence.
The executioners and two other officials seeing the
old man, laughingly asked him: "Have you got what
he who was beheaded promised?" But he said, "Yes,"
and showed them the orarium which they recognized
and wondered greatly.
On the very same hour at which St. Januarius
and the holy martyrs were beheaded the cruel Timothy
began to suffer very much and he was exclaiming
aloud: "I suffer these pains for having treated Januarius
the servant of God so impiously. The angels
of God torment [me]." And when he had been long
tormented he gave up the ghost.
The Christians of various cities were guarding the bodies of the
saints that they might carry them off at night to their own
cities and they kept a careful though secret watch; and when night
was come and all were sleeping, St. Januarius in the silence of
the night appeared to one of those who were prepared to take away
his body and said to him: "Brother, when you take away my body
know that the finger of my hand is missing. Seek it and place it
with my body." And so it was done as the saint himself had
admonished. The bodies of the saints lay at the Solfatara where
later was founded a church worthy of St. Januarius the martyr.
Here ends the passion of Januarius Martyr.
APPENDIX ONE: Additional paragraph found in some codices.
At night when each group was seeking to carry away the bodies of
their own as patrons, the Neapolitans taking the Bl. Januarius as
their patron were favored by the Lord, whose body at first indeed
they hid at Marcian's farm. Afterwards when peace was restored
venerable bishops, together with all the relatives of St.
Januarius, and with the clergy taking his body brought it amidst
hymns and canticles to Naples and deposited it in the basilica
where it now rests. Who through his merits with Jesus Christ
ceases not to confer memorable favors down to the present day:
his Natal day is celebrated September 19. His fellow-citizens of
Miseno took the deacon St. Sosius and placed him in the basilica
where he now rests, September 23: and their fellow-citizens of
Pozzuoli took the deacon St. Proculus, and St. Eutychetes and St.
Acutius and deposited them in the villa of Falcidius which is
adjoining the basilica of St. Stephen at the junction of the
three roads. In the same way their fellow-citizens brought St.
Festus and St. Desiderius to Beneventum.
APPENDIX TWO: from the martyrology of Bede as given by the Bollandists.
"Sept. 19, at Naples in Campania the feast of Saints Januarius, bishop of
Beneventum with Sosius of Mesenum a deacon and Festus his deacon and
Desiderius his lector; who after chains and prison were beheaded at Pozzuoli
under Diocletian, emperor and Dracontius, judge. When they were being led to
death they saw among others, Proculus of Pozzuoli deacon, and two laymen,
Eutychetes and Acutius, and these asked why were the just sentenced to be
killed, whom when the judge saw they were Christians he ordered them to be
beheaded with the others. So all seven equally suffered death. And the
Christians took their bodies by night; the Neapolitans placed St. Janaurius
in a basilica near the city, and the Misenese, Sosius also in a basilica,
and the Puteolani, Proculus and Eutychetes and Acutius in the basilica of
St. Stephen, and the Beneventians took Festus and Desiderius."
EDITOR'S NOTE: As many people are aware, a vial containing what is said
to be the blood of St. Januarius is preserved in Naples. The liquefaction
of the saint's blood on his feast day, observed by many skeptical witnesses,
has been cited as an example of a scientifically verified miracle, although
a non-supernatural explanation (a thixotropic chemical reaction) has also
been proposed. A similar miracle is found in the Eastern Church connected
with the Great-Martyr Panataleimon.
The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, April/May 1995
Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servants the translator Edward and the
scribes Mark, Edward, Marc, Alifa, Jeff, Elizabeth, Dmitri, Stephen,
Michael, Dan, and Peter!