Jun 23, 2021 / Written by: Tonia Long
Feast August 5
(279–309) Bishop and Martyr; Patron Saint against Earthquakes
Saint Emidius was born a pagan of Trier who converted to Christianity. He traveled to Rome and cured the paralytic daughter of his host Gratianus, who had let him stay with him at his house on Tiber Island. Gratianus' family then converted to Christianity as well.
Emidius worked many miracles, including curing a blind man. The people of Rome believed him to be the son of Apollo and carried him off by force to the Temple of Aesculapius on the island in the Tiber, where he cured many of the sick.
Declaring himself a Christian, Emidius tore down the pagan altars and smashed a statue of Aesculapius into pieces. He was made a bishop by Pope Marcellus I and sent to the Italian city of Ascoli Piceno.
On his way to Ascoli, Emidius made more conversions, and performed a miracle where he imitated Moses by making water gush out of a mountain after striking a cliff. The local governor attempted to convince Emidius to worship Jupiter, offering him the hand of his daughter Polisia. Instead, Emidius baptized her as a Christian in the waters of the Tronto River, along with many others.
Enraged, the governor decapitated him on the spot now occupied by the Sant'Emidio Red Temple, as well as his followers Eupolus, Germanus and Valentius. Legend has it that Emidius stood up, carried his own head to a spot on a mountain where he had constructed an oratory (the site of the present-day Sant'Emidio alla Grotte).
Catholic churches have been dedicated to Saint Emidius since the eighth century. Around the year 1000, under Bernardo II, bishop of Ascoli Piceno, his relics were translated from the catacomb of Sant'Emidio alla Grotte to the crypt of the cathedral.
In 1703, a violent earthquake shook the Marche region of Italy, but did not affect the city of Ascoli Piceno. The city's salvation was attributed to Saint Emidius and he was thenceforth invoked against earthquakes. As a result of this event a church was dedicated to the saint in 1717.
Emidius is considered to have protected Ascoli from other dangers throughout the centuries. A dazzling vision of the saint is said to have deterred Alaric I from destroying Ascoli in 409.
The troops of Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor, passed through the region in 1038 carrying the plague everywhere they went. Bernardo I, bishop of Ascoli, invoked Saint Emidius’ aid and the plague stopped. Even as recently as World War II, on October 3, 1943, the early Roman martyr-saint is said to have protected the Italian partisans who prayed for his intercession against the Germans.
*Header image: Detail of Saint Emidius in Carlo Crivelli’s painting "Annunciation". Saint Emidius, the patron saint of Ascoli Piceno, is depicted carrying a model of that town.