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E04779: The Martyrdom of *Mustiola, Ireneus and Felix (martyrs of Sutri and Chiusi, S01982) is written in Latin, presumably in Chiusi at an uncertain date, by the mid 8th c. at the latest. It narrates the trial and martyrdom of the priest Felix in Sutri, and of the deacon Ireneus and the matron Mustiola in Chiusi.

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posted on 2018-01-31, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Mustiola, Irenaeus and Felix (BHL 4455)


There is a cruel persecution against Christians under the emperor Aurelian. He learns that in Tuscany many convert to Christianity. He sends Turtius, vicarius of the prefecture, to interrogate Christians. Turtius comes to the civitas Falisca and orders any Christian that may be found to be brought to him.

A certain priest (presbyter) Felix, hearing about Turtius’ persecution, gathers Christians and comforts them, telling them to be ready to fight. He is denounced by a curialis who says that a most rich priest Felix converts people to Christianity and is to be found in agrum filiseum. Turtius has Felix arrested with the help of soldiers and he prepares a tribunal in the civitas Falisca. Turtius interrogates Felix who instructs him about eternal life and rejects Turtius’ wish that he abandon his faith. Turtius orders his mouth to be crushed. As he is severely beaten, Felix dies. His body is collected by the deacon Ireneus, who buries it next to the walls of the city of Sutri (sutrina civitas) on the 9th day before the Calends of July [= 23 June].

Turtius orders Ireneus to be arrested, brought chained to Chiusi (civitas Clusina) and imprisoned. The Christian matrona Mustiola, offering money to the guards, comes at night and takes care of the many imprisoned Christians by washing their feet, healing their wounds, and providing food and clothes. A certain Torquatus tells Turtius that Mustolia, the most noble first cousin of Claudius, comforts the prisoners. Angered, Turtius, at first summons Mustiola, but after seeing how beautiful she is, he sends her back home and interrogates her there. As he asks about her nobility, Mustiola explains that nobility comes from the blood of Christian saints, rejects her relatives, and tells of her attachment to Christ. Turtius advises her not to reject her relatives but to offer sacrifice as ordered by the emperors and enjoy her riches.

As Mustiola rejects this, Turtius orders all prisoners to be beheaded and Ireneus to be tortured on a rack in front of her. As he refuses to offer sacrifice, Ireneus is tortured with claws and burning flames. Ireneus praises God and dies. Mustiola tells Turtius that Ireneus will earn glory forever while he will burn for eternity. Turtius orders Mustiola to be beaten with lead-weighted scourges (plumbatae) and she dies, on the 5th day before the Nones of July [= 3 July]. One of her slaves named Marcus collects her body and buries it next to the walls of Chiusi, where her prayers flourish up to this day.

Text: Liverani 1872, 267-270. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mustiola, martyr at Chiusi in Tuscany (Italy) : S01982

Saint Name in Source

Felix, Ireneus, Mustiola

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)

Chiusi 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

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Observed scarcity/absence of miracles

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Monarchs and their family Officials Soldiers Aristocrats Women Slaves/ servants

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Mustiola, Irenaeus and Felix 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 Mustiola, Irenaeus and Felix The most widespread version of the Martyrdom, thought to be the earliest, is BHL 4455 (with variant BHL 4555a; BHL 4456/4456c are later attested versions). BHL 4555 is found in five manuscripts, according to the database Bibliotheca Hagioraphica Latina (, the earliest from the 11th century (see a list in Vocino 2017, 135).


There is early evidence for cult of Mustiola pre-dating our Martyrdom (see S01982). The Martyrdom situates the trial of Felix in the civitas Falisci (most probably Falerii, the modern Civita Castellana) and burial in Sutri, while Ireneus and Mustiola are interrogated and martyred in Chiusi (Tuscany), where Turtius is said to reside. Thus the Martyrdom connects saints over a wide area in central Italy. The Martyrdom is of uncertain date, but should have been written by the mid 8th century when it is borrowed in an inscription now preserved in Chiusi, while it is later used in the 9th century by Usuardus in his martyrology. It is generally dated to the 6th century in connection to evidence of cult of Mustiola (Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 79), however Lanéry argues that it should be dated later, in the aftermath of the translation of Mustiola’s relics in a new church dedicated to her in the 8th century (this may explain the date of 3 July for her feast, contrasting to the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, E05028). Vocino suggests a similar dating and also highlights connections to the martyrdoms of *Donatus (E03223), *Euticius (E02493), and Gratilianus and Felicissima, which would also have been composed in the 8th century.


Edition (BHL 4455): Liverani, F., Le catacombe e antichità cristiane di Chiusi (Siena, 1872), 267-270. Further reading: Dufourcq, A., Étude sur les Gesta martyrum romains, vol. 3 (Paris, 1907), 159-164. 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 309-310. Vocino, G., “L’Agiografia dell’Italia centrale (750-950),” in: Goullet, M. (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. VII (Turnhout, 2017), 95-268, at 133-135.

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