Dec 23 – Sts Victoria, Anatolia & Audax (d. 250 AD) – Virgins, Roman Soldier & Martyrs

-Victoria and Anatolia are portrayed amongst the mosaic Procession of Virgins in the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, 22 martyrs shown offering their crowns of martyrdom to the Christ, between Saints Paulina and Christina.. Originally a heretical Arian church, erected by the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great as his palace chapel during the first quarter of the 6th century (as attested to in the Liber Pontificalis). This Arian church was originally dedicated in 504 AD to “Christ the Redeemer”. It was reconsecrated in 561 AD, under the rule of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, under the new name “Sanctus Martinus in Coelo Aureo” (“Saint Martin in Golden Heaven”). Suppressing the Arian church, the church was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, a foe of Arianism.The basilica was renamed again in 856 AD when relics of Saint Apollinaris were transferred from the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, please click on the image for greater detail.

A Christian noblewoman from Rome during the reign of Emperor Trajanus Decius, Anatolia together with her sister, Victoria, were forced into arranged marriages with two pagan noblemen. Wishing to devote herself entirely to Christ, Anatolia refused to marry her suitor, Titus Aurelius. Aurelius asked her sister, Victoria, to plead his case. Saint Victoria was initially content with marrying the pagan as she hope that she would be able to convert him. But Victoria was converted to her sister’s Christian views on virginity and broke off her engagement to her fiancé, Eugenius.

The two suitors then seized the girls and attempted to starve them into submission in order to break their faith and convince them to marry. Instead of weakening, their faith in Christ became more resolute. While under house arrest they sold all of their belongings, gave their money to the poor, and converted the servants and guards who attended them to Christianity. Finally, they were denounced as Christians.

Anatolia was killed at “Thora” (identified with present-day Sant’Anatolia di Borgorose). Her legend states that she was at first locked up with a poisonous snake. The snake refused to bite her, and a soldier named Audax was sent into her cell to kill her. The snake attacked him instead, but Anatolia saved him from the snake. Impressed by her example, he converted to Christianity and was martyred by the sword with her.

Saint Victoria’s suitor get’s word of what happened and therefore continues to try his best to convince Saint Victoria to change her mind. He goes through periods of great kindness towards her followed with periods of extreme ill-treatment for years. Finally frustrated, St. Victoria was stabbed through the heart at the request of her rejected suitor, Eugenius, at Trebula Mutuesca (today Monteleone Sabino).  It is recorded elsewhere, it was Egenius himself who was her executioner.  Her executioner was immediately struck with leprosy and died six days later and was eaten by worms.  Iconography in medallions honoring St Victoria often show a knife recalling the method of her martyrdom.

Due to the translation of their relics, their cult spread across Italy. Some relics of Saint Victoria were transferred in 827 AD by Abbot Peter of Farfa from the Abbey to Mount Matenano in the Picene area (roughly the south of Le Marche) because the Abbey was besieged by Saracens. The town of Santa Vittoria in Matenano is named after her. Ratfredus, a later Abbot of Farfa, brought the body from Farfa to Santa Vittoria in Matenano on 20 June 931 AD.

-the Abbey at Farfa, please click on the image for greater detail

The bodies of Anatolia and Audax were transferred by Abbot Leo to Subiaco around 950. At an unknown date, a scapula of Anatolia was translated to the present-day Sant’Anatolia di Borgorose and an arm of the saint was translated to the present-day Esanatoglia. The bodies of Anatolia and Audax still rest at Subiaco in the basilica of Santa Scholastica, under the altar of the sacrament. A simulacrum and other relics of Saint Victoria are currently on display at the Santa Maria della Vittoria church in Rome.

St Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, Ireland also claims to hold St Victoria’s body, preserved in wax, along with a chalice containing some of her blood. These were sent to Kilkenny in 1845 by Pope Gregory XVI.