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Saint Afra

Afra was born to a pagan family in Augsburg. In the late 3rd century, her pagan family journeyed from Cyprus to Augsburg. Afra was dedicated to the service of the goddess, Venus, by her mother, Hilaria.According to this source, she was originally a prostitute in Augsburg,[ having gone there from Cyprus, maybe even as the daughter of the King of Cyprus. She is reputed either to have run a brothel in that town or worked as a hierodule in the Temple of Venus. As the persecution of Christians during the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian began, Bishop Narcissus of Girona (in Spain) sought refuge in Augsburg and lodged with Afra and her mother, Hilaria. Through his teachings, Bishop Narcissus converted Afra and her family to Christianity.

She continued to hide the bishop from the authorities. When it was learned that Afra was a Christian, she was brought before Diocletian and ordered to give glory to the pagan idols. She refused, and was condemned to death by fire on a small place of her martyrdom.Her mother and her maids (viz., Ligna, Eunonia, and Eutropia) later suffered the same fate.

Symeon the New Theologian

Early life

The details of Symeon's life come from his own writings and from the Life of Symeon, written by his disciple Nicetas. He was born at Basileion in Galatia to Basil and Theophano Galaton, members of the Byzantine nobility who supported the Macedonian dynasty. His given name at birth is unclear—it was traditional at that time, when becoming a monk, to take on a new name with the same initial as one's birth name. Symeon may have ignored that tradition in order to take the same name as his spiritual father, Symeon the Studite. In his writings, he sometimes described the experiences of "George," which might have been his birth name. Symeon received a basic Greek school education until the age of eleven, when an uncle recognized that he had potential for higher learning. The uncle helped Symeon to complete his secondary education at the court of the emperor Basil II and his brother Constantine VIII. At age fourteen he met Symeon the Studite (also called Symeon the Pious), a holy monk of the Monastery of Stoudios in Constantinople. That meeting convinced the younger Symeon to forgo higher education and take on Symeon the Studite as his spiritual father. At that time he began studying the life of prayer and asceticism under his guidance, with the desire to immediately enter the monastery. Symeon the Studite asked the young Symeon to wait before becoming a monk, so he spent the years until age twenty-seven serving in the household of a patrician, though according to some sources he served the emperor instead.

Living a worldly life during the day, he reportedly spent his evenings in vigils and prayer, putting into practice the writings of two authors—Marcus Eremita and Diadochos of Photiki—that were given to him by his spiritual father. It was during this time that Symeon had his first experience of God as divine light, as he described later in one of his Discourses (Disc. 22.2–4). He attributed the experience to the prayers of Symeon the Studite. In spite of the experience, the young Symeon confessed that he still fell into worldly ways of living. Direct personal experience of God was to become one of Symeon's central teachings in his writings, and to the monks who followed him.

Abbot of St. Mammas monastery

 He spent the next twenty-five years as abbot of St. Mammas, attracting many monks and clergy with his reputation for learning and sanctity.

Not all of the monks were attracted by Symeon's zealous approach. Symeon attempted to reform the Byzantine monasteries, where monks had become subservient to the emperor and had acquired large holdings of property, libraries, and art. His writings and teachings were aimed at returning the monasteries to their traditional role in the early church, urging the monks to take up a life of simplicity, asceticism, purity of heart, and constant prayer. The strict monastic discipline for which Symeon aimed upset several monks in the monastery. Symeon also took a more emotional approach to worship, suggesting that a monk shouldn't take the sacrament without tears. The introduction of vegetarian meals, along with other unique practices to instil discipline and humility, also caused some displeasure among the monks. Fifteen years after becoming abbot, one morning after the Divine Liturgy a group of approximately thirty monks rose against Symeon, who drove them away. Breaking the locks on the monastery gate on their way out, the monks took their appeal to the Patriarch Sisinios, who sided with Symeon and sent the monks into exile. Symeon pleaded on their behalf, doing everything he could to have the monks return to the monastery, including seeking out some of the monks to apologize to them. During his time as abbot, Symeon wrote Hymns of Divine Love (completed during his exile), the Discourses, and many letters and polemical works which have been lost. He also wrote articles relating to his disputes with the church theologians.

these survived as his theological and ethical treatises. In 1005 Symeon resigned as abbot of St. Mammas, appointing one of his disciples in his stead, and taking up a more solitary life at the monastery.

Exile and death

Exile and death In 1009 Symeon was sent into exile near Paloukiton, a small village near Chrysopolis on the Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus. According to one account, he was left by church authorities alone and without food, in the middle of winter. There he found a deserted and ruined chapel that had been dedicated to Saint Macrina. It happened to be on land owned by one of Symeon's spiritual children, Christopher Phagouras, who donated the land and proceeds to start a monastery.

By this time, Symeon had many disciples—some of them, including the patrician Geneseos, appealed to Sergius II, the Patriarch of Constantinople, to lift the order of exile. Out of fear that the dispute would reach the emperor, Sergius II lifted the exile order completely, and then offered to re-establish Symeon at the monastery of St. Mammas and consecrate him as archbishop of an important see in Constantinople. The only qualification was that Symeon must show some restraint in his celebration of Symeon the Studite's festival day. Symeon refused to compromise—the Patriarch, out of respect for Symeon, gave him his blessing to "live together with your disciples and act according to your good pleasure."

Symeon remained at the Saint Macrina monastery, where many close disciples, both monks and secular people, gathered around him. At Saint Macrina he was free of monks who were averse to his discipline and zeal, and free from direct conflict with church authorities. He continued to honor Symeon the Studite—most of the clergy from Constantinople, along with many monks and laymen, joined him during those celebrations. He also wrote during that time and made himself accessible to all who wanted to see him.Symeon spent the last thirteen years of his life in exile, dying from dysentery on March 12, 1022. According to his biographer and disciple, Nicetas, Symeon foretold his own death many years previously, and on his last day called together all the monks to sing the funeral hymns.

Symeon is recognized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox church. The title of "Theologian" was not given to him in the modern academic sense of someone who is learned in theology, but to recognize someone who speaks from personal experience of the vision of God. Until Symeon's time, that title was reserved mainly for John the Apostle, author of one of the four gospels, and Gregory of Nazianzus, writer of contemplative poetry. His opponents derisively called him the "new" theologian because of his creative approach—his supporters, and later the church, embraced the name in the most positive sense.

Bernard of Menthon

Bernard was born about 1020,[1] probably in the Château de Menthon, near Annecy, then in the County of Savoy, a part of the Kingdom of Arles. He was descended from a rich and noble family and received a thorough education. When he had reached adulthood, he decided to devote himself to the service of the Church and refused an honourable marriage proposed by his father. In popular legend it is said that he had to sneak out of the castle on the night before an arranged wedding, and that during his flight from the castle, he threw himself from his window, only to be captured by angels and lowered gently to the ground 40 feet (12 meters) below.

Placing himself under the direction of Peter, the Archdeacon of Aosta, under whose guidance he rapidly progressed, Bernard was ordained a priest. Later, on account of his learning and virtue, he was appointed to succeed his mentor as archdeacon of the cathedral, giving him the charge of the government of the diocese, directly under the bishop.

Seeing the old pagan ways still prevailing among the people of the Alps, Bernard resolved to devote himself to their conversion. For 42 years he continued to preach the Gospel to these people and even into many cantons of Lombardy, effecting numerous conversions and working many miracles.

For another reason, however, Bernard's name will forever be famous in history. Since the most ancient times there has been a path across the Pennine Alps leading from the Aosta Valley to the Swiss canton of Valais. The traditional route of this pass is covered with perpetual snow from seven to eight feet deep, and drifts sometimes accumulate to the height of forty feet. Although the pass was extremely dangerous, especially in the springtime on account of avalanches, it was often used by French and German pilgrims on their way to Rome.

In his office as archdeacon, Bernard had the charge of caring for the poor and travelers. For their convenience and protection, Bernard founded a canonry and hospice at the highest point of the pass, 8,000 feet above sea-level, in the year 1050, at the site which has came to bear his name. A few years later he established another hospice on the Little St. Bernard Pass, a mountain saddle in the Graian Alps, 7,076 feet above sea-level. Both were placed in charge of communities of canons regular, after papal approval had been obtained by Bernard during a visit to Rome. The new community was placed under the patronage of St. Nicholas of Myra, patron saint of travelers. The last act of St. Bernard's life was the reconciliation of two noblemen whose strife threatened a fatal outcome. He died in June 1081 in the Imperial Free City of Novara and was interred in the monastery of St. Lawrence.

POPE GREGORY VII

Saint Gregory VII, born Hildebrand of Sovana, was Pope from 22 April 1073 to his death in 1085. Gregory VII was beatified by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584 and canonized in 1728 by Pope Benedict XIII.

One of the great reforming popes, he is perhaps best known for the part he played in the Investiture Controversy, his dispute with Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor that affirmed the primacy of papal authority and the new canon law governing the election of the pope by the College of Cardinals. He was also at the forefront of developments in the relationship between the emperor and the papacy during the years before he became pope. He was the first pope in several centuries to rigorously enforce the Church's ancient policy of celibacy for the Catholic clergy and attacked the practice of simony.

He thrice excommunicated Henry, who in the end appointed Antipope Clement III to oppose him in the political power struggles between the Catholic Church and his empire. Hailed as one of the greatest of the Roman pontiffs after his reforms proved successful, Gregory VII was, during his own reign, despised by some for his expansive use of papal powers.

The Pope having been such a prominent champion of papal supremacy, his memory was evoked on many occasions in later generations, positively and negatively, often reflecting later writers' attitude to the Catholic Church and the papacy. Benno of Meissen, who opposed Gregory VII in the Investiture Controversy, leveled against him charges such as necromancy, torture of a former friend upon a bed of nails, commissioning an attempted assassination, executions without trials, unjust excommunication, doubting the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and even burning the Eucharist. This was eagerly repeated by later opponents of the Catholic Church, such as the English Protestant John Foxe. Joseph McCabe describes Gregory as a "rough and violent peasant, enlisting his brute strength in the service of themonastic ideal which he embraced." In contrast, the noted historian of the 11th century H.E.J. Cowdrey writes, "he (Gregory VII) was surprisingly flexible, feeling his way and therefore perplexing both rigorous collaborators ... and cautious and steady-minded ones ... His zeal, moral force, and religious conviction, however, ensured that he should retain to a remarkable degree the loyalty and service of a wide variety of men and women."

Election to the papacy

On the death of Alexander II which was on 21 April 1073, as the obsequies were being performed in the Lateran Basilica, there arose a loud outcry from the clergy and people: "Let Hildebrand be pope!", "Blessed Peter has chosen Hildebrand the Archdeacon!" Later, on the same day, Hildebrand was conducted to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli and elected Pope there in legal form by the assembled cardinals, with the due consent of the Roman clergy, amid the repeated acclamations of the people.

Internal policy and reforms

His lifework was based on his conviction that the Church was founded by God and entrusted with the task of embracing all mankind in a single society in which divine will is the only law; that, in her capacity as a divine institution, she is supreme over all human structures, especially the secular state; and that the pope, in his role as head of the Church, is the vice-regent of God on earth, so that disobedience to him implies disobedience to God: or, in other words, a defection from Christianity. But any attempt to interpret this in terms of action would have bound the Church to annihilate not merely a single state, but all states.

Thus Gregory VII, as a politician wanting to achieve some result, was driven in practice to adopt a different standpoint. He acknowledged the existence of the state as a dispensation of Providence, described the coexistence of church and state as a divine ordinance, and emphasized the necessity of union between the sacerdotium and the imperium. But at no period would he have dreamed of putting the two powers on an equal footing; the superiority of church to state was to him a fact which admitted of no discussion and which he had never doubted.

          He wished to see all important matters of dispute referred to Rome; appeals were to be addressed to himself; the centralization of ecclesiastical government in Rome naturally involved a curtailment of the powers of bishops. Since these refused to submit voluntarily and tried to assert their traditional independence, his papacy is full of struggles against the higher ranks of the clergy.

This battle for the foundation of papal supremacy is connected with his championship of compulsory celibacy among the clergy and his attack on simony. Gregory VII did not introduce the celibacy of the priesthood into the Church, but he took up the struggle with greater energy than his predecessors. In 1074 he published an encyclical, absolving the people from their obedience to bishops who allowed married priests. The next year he enjoined them to take action against married priests, and deprived these clerics of their revenues. Both the campaign against priestly marriage and that against simony provoked widespread resistance.

Impact on the Eucharist

Gregory VII was seen by Pope Paul VI as instrumental in affirming the tenet that Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament. Gregory's demand that Berengarius perform a confession of this belief was quoted in Pope Paul VI's historic 1965 encyclical Mysterium fidei: “I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine that are placed on the altar are, through the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and proper and life giving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration they are the true body of Christ.”

Death

Pope Gregory VII died in exile in Salerno; the epitaph on Gregory VII's sarcophagus in the city's Cathedral says: "I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore, I die in exile."

ST. LAWRENCE

Life

St Lawrence is thought to have been born in Huesca, a town in the Aragon region that was once part of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis. Here he encountered the future Pope Sixtus II, who was of Greek origin, one of the most famous and highly esteemed teachers in Caesaraugusta (today Zaragoza), which was one of the empire's most renowned centers of learning. Eventually, both left Spain for Rome. When Sixtus became the Pope in 257, he ordained St Lawrence as a deacon, and though still young appointed him first among the seven deacons who served in the patriarchal church. He is therefore called "archdeacon of Rome", a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the church and the distribution of alms among the poor.

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that St. Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Saint Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that St Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. He worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom and can be compared to the parallel Roman tale of the jewels of Cornelia.

Holy Chalice

According to lore, St Lawrence was able to spirit away the chalice used during Christ's Last Supper to Huesca, in present-day Spain, with a letter and a supposed inventory, where it lay hidden and unregarded for centuries. When St. Augustine connects St Lawrence with a chalice, it is the chalice of the Mass.

For in that Church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood. 

According to Catholic tradition the Holy Grail is a relic sent by St Lawrence to his parents in northern Aragon. He entrusted this sacred chalice to a friend who he knew would travel back to Huesca. While the chalice's exact journey through the centuries is disputed, it is accepted by many Catholics that it was sent by his family to this monastery for preservation and veneration. Historical records indicate the chalice has been venerated and preserved by a number of monks and monasteries through the ages. Today the Holy Grail is venerated in a special chapel in the Catholic Cathedral of Valencia, Spain.

Martyrdom

A well-known legend has persisted from earliest times. As deacon in Rome, St Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor. St Ambrose of Milan relates that when St Lawrence was asked for the treasures of the Church he brought forward the poor, among whom he had divided the treasure as alms. "Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the church’s crown." The prefect was so angry that he had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it (hence St Lawrence's association with the gridiron). After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, "I'm well done. Turn me over!" From this derives his patronage of cooks and chefs, and also of comedians.

Miracles

The life and miracles of St Lawrence were collected in The Acts of St Lawrence, but this is now lost. The earliest existing documentation of miracles associated with him is in the writings of St Gregory of Tours (538–594), who mentions the following:

A priest named Fr. Sanctulus was rebuilding a church of St. Lawrence, which had been attacked and burnt, and hired many workmen to accomplish the job. At one point during the construction, he found himself with nothing to feed them. He prayed to St. Lawrence for help, and looking in his basket he found a fresh, white loaf of bread. It seemed to him too small to feed the workmen, but in faith he began to serve it to the men. While he broke the bread, it so multiplied that that his workmen fed from it for ten days.

Veneration

Due to his conspiring to hide and protect the written documents of the Church, St Lawrence is known as the patron saint of archivists and librarians.

St Lawrence is one of the most widely venerated saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Legendary details of his death were known to Damasus, Prudentius, Ambrose and Augustine. The church built over his tomb, San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, became one of the seven principal churches in Rome and a favorite place for Roman pilgrimages. Devotion to him was widespread by the fourth century.

St Lawrence is especially honored in the city of Rome, where he is one of the city's patrons. There are several churches in Rome dedicated to him, including San Lorenzo in Panisperna, traditionally identified as the place of his execution; the area near the San Lorenzo basilica is called Quartiere San Lorenzo. He is invoked by librarians, archivists, cooks, and tanners as their patron. His celebration on 10 August has the rank of feast throughout the Catholic world. On this day, the reliquary containing his burnt head is displayed in the Vatican for veneration.

Abbo of Fleury

Abbo of Fleury (Abbo Floriacensis, c. 945 – 13 November 1004), also known as Saint Abbon was a monk, and later abbot, of Fleury Abbey in present day France.

Abbo was born near Orleans and brought up in the Benedictine abbey of Fleury. He was educated at Paris and Reims, devoting himself to philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy. He spent two years (985-987) in England, mostly in the newly founded monastery of Ramsey, assisting Archbishop Oswald of York in restoring the monastic system. He was also abbot and director of the school of this newly founded monastery from 986 to 987.

Abbo returned to Fleury in 988, where he was selected abbot of Fleury after the death of the Abbot Oilbold. But another monk, who had secured the support of the King and the Bishop of Orleans, contested the choice, and the matter assumed national importance. It was finally settled in favour of Abbo by Gerbert of Aurillac (later Pope Sylvester II). The new abbot was active in contemporary politics. He was present at the Synod of St. Basle, near Reims, at which Arnulf, Archbishop of Reims was tried for treason and deposed, to make way for Gerbert.

In 996 King Robert II sent him to Rome to ward off a threatened papal interdict over Robert's marriage to Bertha. On the way to Rome he met Pope Gregory V, who was a fugitive from the city from which the Antipope John XVI had expelled him. Between the Pontiff and the Abbot the greatest esteem and affection existed. The royal petition for a dispensation was rejected. Abbo succeeded in bringing about the restoration of Arnulf to the see of Reims. He was influential in calming the excitement and fear about the end of the world which was widespread in Europe in 1000.

In 1004 he attempted to restore discipline in the monastery of La Reole, in Gascony, by transferring some of the monks of Fleury into that community. But the trouble increased; fighting began between the two parties and when St. Abbo endeavored to separate them he was pierced in the side by a lance. He concealed the wound and reached his cell, where he died in the arms of his faithful disciple Aimoin, who has left an account of his labours and virtues. The miracles wrought at his tomb soon caused him to be regarded in the Church of Gaul as a saint and martyr, although he does not seem to have been officially canonized by Rome. His feast is kept on 13 November.

Works

When in England Abbo learned of the martyrdom of Saint Edmund, and wrote a passion in Latin on it. He also wrote a Latin grammar for his English students and three poems to St Dunstan. Among his other works are a simplification of the computus, the computation of the date of Easter, a Collectio Canonum, with clarifications about topics of Canon Law, and other treatises on controversial topics and letters. Around 980 to 985, he wrote a commentary on the “Calculus”of Victorius of Aquitaine, before the introduction of Arabic numerals, when calculations were often quite complex. The wide range of Abbo's thought is reflected in the commentary, covering the nature of wisdom, the philosophy of number, the relationship of unity and plurality, and the arithmetic of the Calculus. Abbo drew on his knowledge of grammar, logic and cosmology to illustrate his arguments, and set it all in the broader context of his theology of Creation. Most of Abbo's works can be found in the Patrologia Latina. 

St. Margaret of Scotland (c. 1045 – 16 November 1093)

She is also known as Margaret of Wessex, was an English princess of the House of Wessex. Margaret was sometimes called “The Pearl of Scotland”. Born in exile in Hungary, she was the sister of Edgar Atheling, the short-ruling and uncrowned Anglo-Saxon King of England. Margaret and her family returned to England in 1057, but fled to the kingdom of Scotland following the Norman conquest of England of 1066. Around 1070 Margaret married Malcolm III of Scotland, becoming his queen consort. She was a pious woman, and among many charitable works she established a ferry across the firth of forth for pilgrims travelling to dunfermline abbey, which gave the towns of South Queens ferry and North Queens ferry their names. Margaret was the mother of three kings of Scotland and of a queen consort of England. According to the Life of Saint Margaret, attributed to Turgot of Durham, she died at Edinburgh Castle in 1093, just days after receiving the news of her husband’s death in battle. In 1250 she was canonized by Pope Innocent IV, and her remains were reinterred in a shrine at Dunfermline Abbey. Her relics were dispersed after the Scottish Reformation and subsequently lost.

Margaret's biographer Turgot, Bishop of St. Andrews, credits her with having a civilizing influence on her husband Malcolm by reading him stories from the Bible. She instigated religious reform, striving to make the worship and practices of the Church in Scotland conform to those of Rome. This she did with the inspiration and guidance of Lanfranc, the future Archbishop of Canterbury. She also worked to bring the Scottish Church practice in line with that of the continental church of her childhood. Due to these achievements, she was considered an exemplar of the “just ruler”, and influenced her husband and children especially her youngest son, later became David I also to be just and holy rulers.

She attended to charitable works, serving orphans and the poor every day before she ate, and washing the feet of the poor in imitation of Christ. She rose at midnight every day to attend church services. She invited the Benedictine order to establish a monastery at Dunfermline in Fife in 1072, and established ferries at Queensferry and North Berwick to assist pilgrims journeying from south of the Firth of Forth to St. Andrews in Fife. A cave on the banks of the Tower Burn in Dunfermline was used by her as a place of devotion and prayer. St Margaret’s Cave, now covered beneath a municipal car park, is open to the public. Amongst her other deeds, Margaret also instigated the restoration of the monastery at Iona. She is also known to have been an intercessor for the release of fellow English exiles, forced into serfdom by the conquest.

In her private life, Margaret was as devout as she was in her public duties. She spent much of her time in prayer, devotional reading, and ecclesiastical embroidery. This appears to have had a considerable effect on the more uncouth Malcolm who could not read; he so admired her devotion that he had her books decorated in gold and silver. One of these, a pocket gospel book with Evangelist portraits, is in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Saint Margaret was canonized in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV in recognition of her personal holiness, fidelity to the Church, work for religious reform, and charity. On 19 June 1250, after her canonization, her remains were moved to a chapel in the eastern apse of Dunfermline Abbey. In 1693 Pope Innocent XII changed her feast day to 10 June in recognition of the birth date of the son of James VII of Scotland and II of England. In the revision of the General Roman Calendar in 1969, 16 November became free and the Church transferred her feast day to 16 November, the day of her death, which had always been recognized in Scotland. However, some traditionalist Catholics continue to celebrate her feast day on 10 June.

SAINT APHRODISIUS

He is a saint associated with the diocese of Béziers, in Languedoc, southern France.

According to Gregory of Tours, Aphrodisius was an Egyptian who was martyred in Languedoc along with his followers Caralippus, Agapius, and Eusebius.

A Christian tradition states that he was a prefect or high priest of Heliopolis who sheltered the Holy Family at Hermopolis when they fled into Egypt. He learned about Jesus from the Alexandrian Jews returning from a pilgrimage in Jerusalem. According to Christian legend, Aphrodisius went to Palestine to meet Jesus and became one of his disciples. After the Resurrection, Aphrodisius received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He accompanied sergius paulus to province.  

 They evangelized Narbonensis. Sergius settled in Narbonne. The legend continues that Aphrodisius arrived at Béziers mounted on a camel and became a hermit in a cave near the city. He lived in it a long time before becoming a bishop.

Local traditions assign Aphrodisius as the first Bishop of Béziers and state that he was decapitated by a group of pagans, along with his companions, on the street now known as Place Saint-Cyr, the site of a Roman circus used for gladiators' fights.

Aphrodisius was executed by beheading. The head was kicked into a well, but the water gushed out and the decapitated Aphrodisius picked up his own head, and carried it through the city. Town’s people spilled snails on the road and Aphrodisius stepped on them without breaking one. Several stone masons began to mock him, calling him a madman. They were miraculously punished by being turned into stones.  Aphrodisius left his head at the cave that he had previously occupied. This was a spot on which later stood a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter, later a basilica named after Aphrodisius .This martyrdom is supposed to have occurred on April 28, 65 AD, during the reign of Nero.

Historicity

According to the Bréviaire de Béziers, during the 14th and 15th centuries, he was presented as bishop and confessor who died of natural causes. It is only during the 16th century that new legends of his beheading were created. There are several saints with the name of Aphrodisius. The old martyrologies bear five saints with this name: the bishop of Béziers; a martyr of Tarsus in Cilicia  celebrated on June 21; another martyr killed in Cilicia with 170 companions on April 28 c. 86 AD; another killed at Scythopolis, honored on May 4; and a martyr of Alexandria killed with several companions, honored on May 13. There is also a bishop of Hellespont with this name who at the beginning of the 4th century defended the Resurrection against a sect led by a man named Hierax.

The first literary account of the life of Saint Aphrodisius of Béziers is probably that of Ado, the Carolingian author, who introduces the mission of Aphrodisius into the acts of Saint Paul de Narbonne. Gregory of Tours, in his History of Franks, mentions Aphrodisius. The first mention of the sanctuary dedicated to Aphrodisius is made by Usuard, who undertook a voyage in 858 to bring back from Spain relics for his abbey. In his relation of the voyage, he says to us that after “having left Cordoba, he returned by Girona, Narbonne and Béziers, a city famed for its relics of blessed Aphrodisius”.

POPE AGATHO

Pope Agatho (died on 10 January 681) was Pope from 26 June 678 to his death in 681. He is venerated as a saint by both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Little is known of Agatho before his papacy. He may have been among the many Sicilian clergy in Rome, at that time, the Islamic Caliphate attacks on Sicily in the mid-7th century.

Shortly after Agatho became Pope, St Wilfred, Archbishop of York, arrived at Rome to invoke the authority of the Holy See on his behalf. Wilfred had been deposed from his see by Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had carved up Wilfred’s diocese and appointed three bishops to govern the new, sees. At a synod which Pope Agatho convoked in the Lateran to investigate the affair, it was decided that Wilfred’s diocese should indeed be divided, but that Wilfred himself should name the bishops. The major event of his pontificate was the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680–681), following the end of the Muslim Siege of Constantinople, which suppressed the Monothelite heresy that had been tolerated by previous popes. The council began when Emperor Constantine IV, wanted to heal the schism that separated the two sides, wrote to Pope Donus suggesting a conference on the matter, but Donus was dead by the time the letter arrived. Agatho was quick to seize the olive branch offered by the Emperor. He ordered councils held throughout the West so that legates could present the universal tradition of the Western Church. Then he sent a large delegation to meet the Easterners at Constantinople.

The legates and patriarchs gathered in the imperial palace on 7 November 680. The Monothelites presented their case. Then a letter of Pope Agatho was read that explained the traditional belief of the Church that Christ was of two wills, divine and human. Patriarch George of Constantinople accepted Agatho's letter, as did most of the bishops present. The council proclaimed the existence of the two wills in Christ and condemned Monothelitism, with Pope Honorius being included in the condemnation. When the council ended in September 681 the decrees were sent to the Pope, but Agatho had died in January. The Council had not only ended the Monothelite heresy, but also had healed the schism. Agatho also undertook negotiations between the Holy See and Constantine IV concerning the relations of the Byzantine Court to papal elections. Constantine promised Agatho to abolish or reduce the tax that the popes had to pay to the imperial treasury on their consecration. He is venerated as a saint by both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. His feast day among Roman Catholics is on 10 January. Eastern Christians, including Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic Churches, commemorate him on 20 February.