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Saint Of The Day For January 23: Saint Emerenziana, Roman Martyr

Emerenziana was a Christian virgin and martyr, who lived in the late 3rd century and early 4th century and is remembered as the milk sister of Saint Agnes.

Considered a saint by all Christian churches, she is often depicted as a young girl with stones on her lap, or holding a palm tree or a lily.

The Story of Emerenziana

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The little biographical information about Emerenziana is largely due to a hagiographical account in the Latin passio of St Agnes by an unknown 5th-century author, which narrates the events following the saint’s death.

According to this account, Emerenziana was a young girl of the same age as Agnes, whose ‘milk sister’ she was, which would not, however, suggest a real parental link with the saint.

Assuming Agnes’ death to be around 304, Emerenziana’s birth would thus be placed around 291-292.

In contrast to her contemporary, the saint, although Christian, was still a catechumen as she had not yet received the sacrament of baptism.

According to Christian hagiography, she was stoned to death by pagans present along the Via Nomentana in Rome near her sister’s tomb on the day of her funeral, at the time of Diocletian’s persecutions.

Emerenziana, who constantly appears in a group with the other martyrs in older depictions, is depicted in a 4th century fresco in the Coemeterium maius in Rome.

The cult for St Emerenziana began around the 8th century following the institution of a special liturgical commemoration in her honour on 23 January, two days after the feast of St Agnes.

Later her commemoration passed into the Missal and the Roman Martyrology.

The relics of the saint were transferred around the 11th century to the basilica of St Agnes outside the walls in Rome together with the mortal remains of her sister.

In 1615, at the behest of Pope Paul V, they were placed inside a silver casket and placed under the basilica’s high altar.

Many altars have been dedicated to her in other churches in Rome, and a twentieth-century church named after her is located in Piazza Sant’Emerenziana and possesses part of her relics.

Emerenziana and Music

Saint Emerenziana is the protagonist of the eponymous lyrical-dramatic action in acting and singing composed by Federico Caudana in 1934.

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