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Saint Of The Day For January 19: Sts. Marius, Martha, Audiface And Abachum

Marius, his wife Martha, and their sons Audiface and Abachum are venerated as saints and martyrs by the Catholic Church.

The History of Saints Marius, Martha, Audiface and Abacus

The news about them, very few and uncertain, comes from the Passio of St Valentine, from the 4th century.

It is said that Marius, or Maris, was a nobleman of Persian origin.

He came to Rome in 270, together with his wife Marta and two sons Audiface and Abaco, to venerate the tombs of the martyrs.

The family, aided by the priest John, set out to bury along the Via Salaria the bodies of more than 260 martyrs who lay murdered in the open countryside.

Discovered, they were interrogated by the prefect Flavianus and the governor Marcianus.

They refused to abjure and sacrifice to idols and were therefore condemned to death: the men were executed along the Via Cornelia.

Marta, in nympha, i.e. by a nearby pond.

It is reported that a Roman matron, Felicita, gave them burial in one of her estates, along the same road, at the thirteenth mile.

A church was built here, the ruins of which still exist today, and which was a pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages.

Today it is called Tenuta Boccea.

Towards the end of the 18th century, following the gradual increase in the number of inhabitants of the neighbouring areas, a request was submitted to the Chapter Meeting of 30 August 1778 to build a new church capable of accommodating the ‘inhabitants’ and pilgrims devoted to the family of the Holy Martyrs Mario, Marta, Audiface and Abaco in a ‘decorous’ manner.

In 1789, at the behest of Pope Pius VI, the new church designed by the distinguished architect Virginio Bracci was inaugurated.

Their relics had very complex events: some were moved to Rome to the churches of St Hadrian and St Praxedes. Another part of them was sent to Einhard in 828. The latter, biographer of Charlemagne, donated them to the Seligenstadt monastery.

Don Bosco’s account of Marius, Martha, Audiface and Abacus

The best known tradition on the life and martyrdom of these saints is a legendary tale, in which it is however possible to identify a nucleus of historicity that confronts us with the real figure of these martyrs.

The tale was popularised by a booklet in 1861, written by Don Bosco but prepared by Count Carlo Cays.

In the years of great work on the sanctuary dedicated to Saint Abaco at Caselette (on the slopes of Mount Musinè) and of great devotion to these saints, Count Cays urged his friend Don Bosco to write something that would further enliven the veneration of Saint Abaco, putting the documentation for the book in his hands.

Don Bosco (or rather Count Cays) had relied on information contained in the Acta Sanctorum, a vast collection of writings on the lives of the saints compiled from the mid-seventeenth century by the Bollandists.

The part dedicated to Abaco and associates was a narrative (Acts of Saints Marius and associates) dating back to the early Middle Ages, specifically to the 6th-7th centuries.

It was a passio, a type of writings that recounted for edifying purposes the martyrdom of one or more saints, adding to the news one had about the martyrs also invented things to impress and move.

Its anonymous author had collected stories that had been handed down for a long time, which preserved memories of our saints: memories linked to a place just outside Rome along the Via Cornelia (north-west of the city), where a church had been built on the site of their martyrdom.

The cult of Marius, Martha, Audiface and Abacus

The liturgical feast falls on 19 January.

The bodies of Saints Mario and Marta are kept in a single urn placed under the high altar of the church of San Giovanni Calibita on the Tiber Island in Rome.

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