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Saint Of The Day For November 14: Saint Serapion

Serapion’s Story: was an English Mercedarian Catholic priest and martyr. According to Thomas O’Loughlin, Serapion of Algiers was Scottish by birth.

He is recognised as a protomartyr.

He was the first of his Order to merit the palm of martyrdom by being crucified and cut to pieces.

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The Life of Serapion:

He is said to have served in the armies of Richard the Lionheart and Leopold VI during the Crusades.

During his childhood, he accompanied his father on the Crusades and was present at a battle at Acre in 1191.

He participated in the Reconquista while serving in the armed forces of either Alfonso VIII of Castile or Alfonso IX of León.

He met Peter Nolasco in Barcelona and became a professed member of the Mercedarians in 1222.

The aim of the Mercedarians was to free Christian prisoners in Muslim states.

He was commissioned to recruit for the order in England, but pirates besieged the ship and left him for dead.

Surviving, he went to London to preach, which got him into trouble and ordered him to leave the city.

Serapion’s Death

There are several accounts of his death. According to one account, he was beaten to death by French pirates in Marseille.

In 1240 he made two voyages to ransom prisoners.

The first was to Murcia, where he bought the freedom of ninety-eight slaves; the second was to Algiers, where he ransomed eighty-seven slaves, but remained himself as a hostage for the full payment of the money.

A popular first version claims that the ransom did not arrive in time and so his captors decided to have him killed.

He was nailed to an X-shaped cross and dismembered.

The most authoritative account comes from the early annals of the Mercedarians.

“Captured in Scotland by English pirates, Serapion was tied by the hands and feet to two stakes, then beaten, dismembered and disembowelled. Finally, his neck was partially severed, leaving his head dangling”.

Baroque artist Francisco Zurbarán depicted the martyrdom of Saint Serapion in one of his paintings.

Pope Benedict XIII declared Serapion a martyr and approved his veneration in the Order of the Mercedarians with a decree in 1728.

Pope Benedict XIV added him to the Roman Martyrology.

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