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Roman Empire (Byzantine Era) (330 - 1453)
The Spear of St Mercurius (1) : Roman Emperor Julian was ready to destroy an entire Christian community over his wounded pride.
The Spear of St Mercurius
Part one

Based on Elfric of Eynsham’s Sermon on the Assumption of Mary, translated from Old English by Benjamin Thorpe.

This story was told to his congregation by Elfric of Eynsham (955-1010) on the Feast of the Dormition of Mary. It is quite true that in 363, Julian the Apostate, pagan Emperor of Rome and cruel persecutor of Christians, was mortally wounded by an unknown assailant wielding a spear.

ON his way to Persia to do battle, the Emperor Julian ran into Basil, Bishop of Caesarea. They had been at the same Christian school, and Basil, after offering him some bread, joked that he had benefited rather more from their education than Julian, who was now a pagan.

To Basil’s amazement, Julian was furious.

He offered Basil a handful of grass, fit (he said) for dumb animals, and then the mood turned darker, as he vowed to sack the whole town and turn it to farmland, when he had dealt with Persia.

Once Julian was gone, Basil had the townsfolk bring their gold and gems to a church dedicated to Mary, hoping to buy Julian off later. Bishop and people then gathered to fast and pray for three days and three nights.

On the third night, Mary herself appeared to Basil. ‘Bring me the martyr Mercurius’, she said; so Basil, very willing but very puzzled, hastened to a nearby church, dedicated to St Mercurius.

* St Mercurius, a soldier in the army of the Roman Emperor Decius, was martyred in 250 at the age of twenty-five, for refusing to worship the gods of the State. His feast day is December 4th.

Based on Elfric of Eynsham’s Sermon on the Assumption of Mary, translated from Old English by Benjamin Thorpe.

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Picture: Via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain View original
St Mercurius, as depicted in a late-thirteenth century icon in Ohrid, in the so-called Republic of Macedonia. Here, he is given a sword rather than the spear mentioned by Elfric.
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Elfric of Eynsham

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