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January 21, 2018

Holy Martyrs Fructuosus, Augurius and Eulogius of Tarragona, Spain

St. Fructuosus of Tarragona (Feast Day - January 21)

Saint Fructuosus lived during the persecution of Valerian and Gallienus in the third century, during the consulship of Amelianus and Bassus.

On Sunday, January 21, 259 Bishop Fructuosus of Tarragona, Spain was arrested with his deacons Augurius and Eulogius. He had already retired to his chamber when soldiers of the VII Gemina Legion came for him. Hearing them approach, he went to meet them.

“Come with us,” they told him, “the proconsul summons you and your deacons.”

When they arrived, they were thrown into a prison where other Christians were also being held. They comforted the bishop and asked him to remember them. The next day, Bishop Fructuosus baptized Rogatianus in the prison.

On Friday, January 21, Bishop Fructuosus and his deacons were brought out for their hearing. When the proconsul Aemelianus asked to have the bishop and his deacons brought before him, he was told that they were present. The proconsul asked Saint Fructuosus whether he was aware of the emperors’ orders.

“I do not know their orders,” he replied, “I am a Christian.”

Aemelianus said, “They have ordered that you worship the gods.”

Bishop Fructuosus answered, “I worship the one God Who made heaven and earth, and all that is in them” (Acts 4:24).

Then the proconsul asked, “Do you know that the gods exist?”

“No,” said the bishop, “I do not.”

“You will know later.”

Bishop Fructuosus raised his eyes to heaven and began to pray. The proconsul said, “The gods are to be obeyed, feared, and adored. If the gods are not worshiped, then the images of the emperors are not adored.”

Aemilianus the proconsul said to Augurius, “Do not listen to the words of Fructuosus.”

Deacon Augurius replied, “I worship almighty God.”

Turning to Deacon Eulogius, the proconsul Aemilianus asked, “Don’t you also worship Fructuosus?

“No,” said the deacon, “I do not worship Fructuosus, but I do worship Him Whom he worships.”

Aemilianus inquired of Saint Fructuosus, “Are you a bishop?”

The holy bishop replied, “Yes, I am.”

“You were,” said Aemilianus, then he ordered them to be burned alive.

As Saint Fructuosus and his deacons were being taken to the amphitheater, many people felt sympathy for them, for the bishop was loved by both Christians and pagans. The Christians were not sad, but happy, because they knew that through martyrdom the saints would inherit everlasting life.

When offered a cup of drugged wine, Saint Fructuosus refused saying, “It is not yet time to break the fast.” In those days, Christians did not eat or drink anything on Wednesdays and Fridays until after sundown (Didache 8:1).

As they entered the amphitheater, the Reader Augustalis asked the bishop to permit him to remove his sandals. Saint Fructuosus replied, “No, my son. I shall remove my own sandals.”

A Christian by the name of Felix took the bishop’s hand and asked him to remember him. The martyr said that he would remember the entire catholic Church throughout the world from East to West.

Now the time was at hand for the martyrs to receive their crowns of unfading glory. The officers who arrested them were standing nearby as Bishop Fructuosus addressed the crowd in a loud voice. He told them that they would not remain long without a shepherd, and that the Lord’s promises would not fail them in this life or in the next. He added that what they were about to witness represented the weakness of a single hour.

The three martyrs were tied to posts and a fire was lit. When the flames burned through their bonds, they knelt down and extended their arms in the form of a cross. They continued to pray in the midst of the fire until their souls were separated from their bodies.

Several people saw the heavens opened and beheld the three martyrs wearing crowns and ascending to heaven. They told Aemilianus to see how the martyrs had been glorified, but he was not worthy to behold them.

That night Christians went to the amphitheater to put out the fire and gather the relics of the martyrs. Each one took a portion for himself. Saint Fructuosus later appeared to these Christians and admonished them for dividing their relics, saying that they had not done well. He ordered them to bring all of the relics together without delay. The holy relics were brought to the church with reverence, and were buried beneath the altar.

An anonymous figure, possibly a soldier, wrote the acts of the martyrdom of Fructuosus and his companions. This document, known as the Passio Fructuosi, is considered the first historical Christian document in the Iberian Peninsula, and was widely disseminated to be read publicly in African churches: Saint Augustine made a panegyric in their honor in his Sermon 273 and Prudentius dedicated a hymn to the three martyrs.

Towards the end of the fifth century, a Visigothic Basilica was built over the amphitheater dedicated to Saint Fructuosus that contained the relics of the martyrs. With the arrival of the Saracens, in 711, the remains of the martyrs were transferred to Italy by Bishop Prosper, in the place where the Abbey of San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte would be located. Subsequently, part of the relics returned to Catalonia, to Sant Fruitós de Bages. From there, in 1372, they were taken to the Collegiate Basilica of Santa Maria, in the crypt where they are venerated as one of the Holy Bodies (relics of the patron saints of Manresa: Saints Agnes, Mauritius and Fructuosus). A small part was brought to Tarragona.

Ruins of the amphitheater basilica, built at the site of the martyrdom of the saints.

The Saints in the chapel of the holy martyrs of the Cathedral of Tarragona with portions of their relics

Altar of the Holy Bodies of Manresa