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E02061: The Martyrdom of *Cassianus (teacher and martyr of Imola, S00309) is written in Latin, presumably in Imola (northern Italy) between the 5th and the 8th c. It is a paraphrase in prose of the story about Cassianus narrated by Prudentius (Crowns of Martyrdom 9; E00938), intended to make it more widely known.

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posted on 2016-12-01, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Cassianus (BHL 1626)


It is known that Prudentius wrote about martyrs and in particular about the blessed martyr Cassianus (Casianus beatus martyr). This is now rendered in simpler words so that it may be known to all the faithful. Prudentius gives trustworthy authority to the martyrdom of Cassianus that we celebrate, following tradition (traditio). Prudentius says that as he was travelling to Rome, he prayed at the tomb (tumulus) of saint Cassianus (sanctus Casianus) at Forum Cornelium (Imola), and looking at the sky he saw the martyr with a thousand wounds, his skin broken with cuts, surrounded by boys piercing his body with styluses. He was amazed and the custodian told him that what he saw was no fable, but the story, preserved in books, bearing the truth of old times.

The schoolmaster was a teacher of letters to boys but they were angered, since it is known that childhood is rough (dura). This happens at the time of persecutions against the catholic faith (catholica fides): Cassianus is summoned because he refuses to adore pagan altars. He is interrogated and says that he teaches young boys. It is decided that the boys, who had to endure the harsh teacher, will now be free to punish him. He is stripped of his garments, his hands are bound behind his back, and he is surrounded by the boys, armed with styluses, now free to respond with their anger to the suffering endured. They throw tablets (tabulae) and boxes (bursae) at his face and head, and cut and stab the confessor of Christ (confessor Christi) with their styluses. The tortures are particularly painful and long, as some children are only able to wound him superficially; the confessor begs them to be strong so that he may die more quickly. However the boys tell him that he gave them their weapons and that they will use them to punish him. Finally the Lord pities him and he dies. The most blessed martyr Cassianus died the day of the Ides of August [= 13 August].

Text: Mombritius 1910, I, 280. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Cassian, bishop of Brescia (Italy), teacher and martyr of Imola, ob. 361/363 : S00309

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Imola Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Observed scarcity/absence of miracles

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


The Martyrdom of Cassianus is a rewriting in prose of Prudentius’ hymn dedicated to Cassianus in his Crowns of Martyrdom (Peristephanon) 9 (on which see E00938). It closely follows Prudentius’ text, adapting it and simplifying it. There are other medieval rewritings of Cassianus’ martyrdom (BHL 1626b, 1626d, 1627, 1628, 1629), but BHL 1626 is the earliest attested and most widespread, with more than 30 manuscripts preserved (see a list in the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta, at The oldest is Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. Lat. 5771, f. 110r-111r (9th-10th c. ).


The Martyrdom of Cassianus corroborates evidence for cult of the saint in Imola (see S00309) and was composed between the 5th and the 8th century, as noted in Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2060 and R. Gryson, Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 57. It was certainly written after the beginning of the 5th century, as it is an adaptation of Prudentius’ account of Cassianus (E00938). It was used by Bede in his martyrology in the early 8th century (see E05605). It is difficult to provide a narrower dating: Lanéry suggested that it should be dated to the 7th or 8th century because there is no evidence for the cult of Cassianus at an earlier period.


Edition (BHL 1626): Mombritius, B., Sanctuarium seu vitae sanctorum, 2 vols. with additions and corrections by A. Brunet and H. Quentin (Paris, 1910), I, 180. The original edition was published c. 1480. Further reading: Albertoni, G., “Cassianus primus episcopus. San Cassiano di Imola, primo vescovo di Sabiona, tra leggenda agiografica e dispute storiografiche,” in: Lazzari, T., Mascanzoni, L., Rinaldi, R. (eds.), La norma e la memoria. Studi per Augusto Vasina (Rome, 2004). Bless-Grabher, M., Cassian von Imola: Die Legende eines Lehrers und Märtyrers und ihre Entwicklung von der Spätantike bis zur Neuzeit (Bern-Frankurt a.M.-Las Vegas NV, 1978). Ferri, A., (ed.), Divo Cassiano: Il culto del santo martire patrono di Imola, Bressanone e Comacchio (Imola, 2004), especially: Orselli, A. M., “S. Cassiano di Imola tra Tarda Antichità e Medioevo: rappresentazione agiografica o proposa agiologica?” 17-32. Lanéry, C., "Hagiographie d'Italie (300-550). I. Les Passions latines composées en Italie,” in: Philippart, G., (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. V (Turnhout, 2010), 15-369, at 321.

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