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Sts. Sergius and Bacchus

Sts. Sergius and Bacchus by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist Narrative:

As officers in the Roman army in Syria, Saints Sergius and Bacchus practiced their Christian faith secretly.  When they were ordered to accompany an official into a temple of Jupiter to offer sacrifices, they tried to avoid the assignment quietly, but they were eventually exposed as Christians. Arrested and thrown into prison, they were first humiliated publically in the city streets. Then, because they were close friends, they were separated during torture so that they could not support one another with encouragement. Bacchus was the first to die, from the severe beating they received. That night he appeared to Sergius in a vision, urging him to persevere.  Sergius was beheaded the following day.

When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, Saints Sergius and Bacchus became the official patrons of the Byzantine armies. The emperor Justinian I built a huge basilica in Constantinople in their honor. Their cult quickly spread throughout the Christian world, from Rome to the far reaches of Persia. Arab nomads consider them special patrons. Their example of friendship has been an inspiration for many Christians throughout history and in our own times.

Their feast day is October 7.  

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The Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus in Syria were appointed to high positions in the army by the emperor Maximian (284-305), who did not know that they were Christians. Envious people informed Maximian that his two trusted counsellors did not honor the pagan gods. This was considered to be a crime against the state.

The emperor, wanting to convince himself of the truth of the accusation, ordered Sergius and Bacchus to offer sacrifice to the idols, but they replied that they honored the One God and worshiped only Him.

Maximian commanded that the martyrs be stripped of the insignia of military rank (their belts, gold pendants, and rings), and then dressed them in feminine clothing. They were led through the city with an iron chains around their necks, and the people mocked them. Then he summoned Sergius and Bacchus to him again and in a friendly manner advised them not to be swayed by Christian fables, but to return to the Roman gods. The saints refuted the emperor’s words, and demonstrated the folly of worshiping the pagan gods.

The emperor commanded that they be sent to the governor of the eastern part of Syria, Antiochus, a fierce hater of Christians. Antiochus had received his position with the help of Sergius and Bacchus. “My fathers and benefactors!” he said. “Have pity on yourselves, and also on me. I do not want to condemn my benefactors to cruel tortures.” The holy martyrs replied, “For us life is Christ, and to die is gain.” The enraged Antiochus ordered Bacchus to be mercilessly beaten, and the holy martyr surrendered his soul to the Lord. They shod Sergius with iron sandals with nails in their soles and sent him to another city, where he was beheaded with the sword.