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The three Saint Julians

The name Saint Julian refers to three different Saints: Julian of Antiochia, Julian the Hospitaller, Julian the Sardinian Martyr.

Julian of Antiochia was a young man famous for his culture and knowledge. Through an arranged marriage, he was married to Basilissa, with whom he shared a life of prayers and chastity, dedicating his life to benevolent actions and the foundation of two monasteries. Saint Julian was able to convert to the Christian religion the wife and the son of the pagan Roman Governor Marcianus which was outraged and ordered his death in 304 A.D. The devotion for Saint Julian of Antiochia in Sardinia dates back to the VII century. It’s possible that the Byzantine priests built a church to honor him in Selargius on the same site of the current Romanesque church built much later. This was confirmed by the archeological investigations completed in 1984 and 1986 which found traces of a previous ancient church on the same location.

The devotion for Saint Julian the Hospitaller was introduced in Sardinia by the Benedict monks of the order of Saint Victor from Marseille around the year 1000. Julian was a French knight (or according to some texts from Belgium or Galicia). During a hunting trip he mistakenly killed his parents as anticipated by a prophecy he received from a deer. To pay for this sin and with the help of his wife, he dedicated his life along to charity actions, building a hospital for the poor people.

The origin of the cult of Saint Julian, the Sardinia Martyr, was generated instead by a dispute between the cities of Cagliari and Sassari. In a challenge to establish themselves as the most important city in the island, both cities started archeological investigations of the burial sites adjacent to the ancient churches of their territory. Several tombstones of early Christians were retrieved with inscriptions of the letters B.M., initially translated as “Beatus Martyr” (therefore identifying the tomb of a Saint), instead of “Bonae Memoriae” (a more generic “person of blessed memory”) as established by later studies. This happened also to the human remains and the tombstone attributed to Saint Julian from Cagliari, which according to the local myth was converted to Christianity in late adult age and condemned to death by lapidating under the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian.

As of today, it’s still not clear to whom of the three Saints the church in Selargius is dedicated. Interesting to note that a wood simulacrum of the Saint, sculptured in the XIX century and kept inside the church, merges the iconography and symbols of all three Saints.

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