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E02760: The Martyrdom of *Iustus (martyr of Trieste, S01309) is written in Latin, presumably in Trieste, probably between the 6th and the 8th c. It narrates Iustus' trial, his death at sea near Trieste, the return of his body on the seashore near Trieste and its burial there by the Christians of the city.

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posted on 2017-05-04, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Iustus (BHL 4604)


§ 1: Under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian during their fourth consulate, the ninth year of their reign, at the time of persecution against Christians. Magnentius, a citizen from the East (civis orientis) appoints the pagan Eunomius as governor (praeses) of the city of Aquileia (civitas Aquileiensis). A man named Iustus lives in the city of Trieste (Tergestina civitas) in the province of Istria (Histriae provincia), near Aquileia. He is just (iustus) not only by name but by deeds, revering the name of Christ from childhood, fasting and giving alms, although he is still young. The citizens of Trieste and the magistracy (magistratus), having heard of Iustus, send a decurion (decurio) of the city to summon him in Manatius’ cabinet (consistorium), who governs the city.

§ 2: Iustus arrives, signs himself on the forehead with the cross. He is interrogated and admits that his parents are Christian and he is Christian since childhood. Manatius tells him that emperors have given the order that all Christians should sacrifice to the Gods and be sentenced to death if they refuse. Iustus replies that he will only offer sacrifices to Jesus Christ. Manatius tells him that many Christians have been killed because of Christ, Iustus replies that he hopes to become one of them. Manatius tries to convince Iustus to sacrifice but he refuses, thus he is sent to jail (custodia).

§ 3: There, kneeling, he prays to the Lord, referring to the Incarnation of Christ and the miracles He performed and asking for His help to persevere in this fight, as did others before him who died for the Lord’s name and are now in paradise (paradisum). He is ready for martyrdom and prays all night. The next day, Manatius summons him, Iustus tells him that he is ready to die for Jesus Christ. Iustus is put on a rack and beaten. He thanks Jesus Christ, for his prayer has been heard. He asks Him for help in this fight, and to be worthy of divine mercy and share the joy of His holy martyrs. Manatius tries to convince Iustus to sacrifice to avoid death and please the emperors, but Iustus tells him that he sees the world (saeculum) with contempt and rejects the idols. Even emperors are nothing to him; he has obtained the friendship (amicitia) of Jesus Christ and will soon rejoice in paradise with the holy martyrs. Manatius sentences him to death: he will be thrown in the sea, bound to leaden weights.

§ 4: The executioners (ministri) take him and compel him to walk. On his way, Iustus carries the weights, says farewell to brothers and faithful (fideles) friends in the city and walks fast, as if invited to a banquet. They arrive at the sea, bind the weights to his hands, feet and neck with a long rope, put him on a small boat (scapha) and take him out to sea. He chants a hymn to the Lord (Psalm 29:11-12), then he prays the Lord to welcome his soul, invoking His only son Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the Trinity. Then he is thrown in the sea, the rope breaks and the sea returns his body on the shore of this city of Trieste, before sunset.

§ 5: A priest (presbyter) named Sebastianus has a vision: the martyr Iustus tells him to get up, find his body on the seashore and bury him in a hidden place. The priest Sebastianus visits at night the homes of the faithful (fideles) to tell the news about Iustus’ body. They all go to the seashore, find it and thank God. They embalm it with perfume, put it in precious linen cloth and bury it not far from the shore, where the body was found. Then after the burial all thank the Lord for being worthy of finding and burying the body. The most blessed Iustus died the 4th day of the Nones of November [= 2 November].

Text: Di Brazzano 2013, 341-345. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Iustus, martyr of Trieste : S01309

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

civitas Tergestina (Trieste)

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

civitas Tergestina (Trieste) Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Distribution of alms

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Observed scarcity/absence of miracles

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Pagans Monarchs and their family Officials Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious cloths


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Iustus is an anonymous literary account of martyrdom written long after the great persecutions of Christians that provide the background of the narrative. It is part of a widely spread literary genre, that scholars often designate as "epic" Martyrdoms (or Passiones), to be distinguished from earlier, short and more plausible accounts, apparently based on the genuine transcripts of the judicial proceedings against the martyrs. These texts narrate the martyrdom of local saints, either to promote a new cult or to give further impulse to existing devotion. They follow widespread stereotypes mirroring the early authentic trials of martyrs, but with a much greater degree of detail and in a novelistic style. Thus they narrate how the protagonists are repeatedly questioned and tortured under the order of officials or monarchs, because they refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods but profess the Christian faith. They frequently refer to miracles performed by the martyrs and recreate dialogues between the protagonists. The narrative generally ends with the death of the martyrs (often by beheading) and their burial. These texts are literary creations bearing a degree of freedom in the narration of supposedly historical events, often displaying clear signs of anachronism. For these reasons, they have been generally dismissed as historical evidence and often remain little known. However, since most certainly date from within the period circa 400-800, often providing unique references to cult, they are an essential source to shed light on the rise of the cult of saints. The Martyrdom of Iustus There is one main version of the Martyrdom, BHL 4604. For a list of manuscripts of the Martyrdom see Di Brazzano 2005 and 2013. The earliest are from the 9th century: Cividale del Friuli, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, cod. XXII, f. 113v-117v (9th-10th c.); Graz, Universitätsbibliothek, 412, f. 209v-212r (9th c.); Verona, Biblioteca Capitolare, ms. XCV, f. 200r-202v (9th c.).


The Martyrdom shows that cult of Iustus developed in Trieste, apparently near the seashore where the body is said to be buried. There is no straightforward evidence to date the Martyrdom. While generally thought to have been composed in the 6th century (Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2202; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 74), recent studies however disagree on its dating: scholars either suggest new hypotheses to reinforce the 6th century dating, or postpone the composition to the 7th, 8th or even 9th century, particularly on the ground of borrowings from other martyrdom accounts, in particular E02091 (Felix and Fortunatus); E02482 (martyrdom of Chrysogonus), E03221 (Cantius etc.). See a summary of discussions in Di Brazzano 2013, 272-296, who favours the 6th century.


Edition (BHL 4604): Di Brazzano, S., “Passio Iusti,” in: Colombi, E. (ed.), Le Passioni dei martiri aquileiesi e istriani, volume II* (Rome, 2013), 341-345 (Italian translation at 346-349). Further reading: Cuppo, L., “Passio sancti Justi martyris : a Late Antique Statement of Roman Identity vis-à-vis Domination from the East,” in: Marinković, A., and Vedriš, T. (eds.), Identity and Alterity in Hagiography and the Cult of Saints (Bibliotheca Hagiothea, Series Colloquia, 1; Zagreb, 2010), 37-58. Cuscito, G. (ed.), San Giusto e la tradizione martiriale tergestina len XVII centenario del martirio di San Giusto e per il Giubileo d’oro sacerdotale di Mons. Eugenio Ravignani Vescovo di Trieste, Atti del convegno internazionale (Trieste, 11-12 novembre 2004), (Trieste, 2005). Di Brazzano, S., “Nuovi contributi per lo studio della tradizione manoscritta della Passio sancti Iusti martyris,” in: Cuscito 2005, 83-110. Di Brazzano, S., “Passio Iusti,” in: Colombi, E. (ed.), Le Passioni dei martiri aquileiesi e istriani, vol. II* (Rome, 2013), 257-349 (study at 257-340). 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 324-325. Vocino, G., "Santi e luoghi santi al servizio della politica carolingia (774-877). Vitae e Passiones del regno italico nel contesto europei," PhD dissertation, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia-Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes Paris, 2008-2009.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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