Little Bits of History

Ice Saint

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 12, 2014
Pancras of Rome

Pancras of Rome

May 12, 304: The reputed date for the beheading of Pancras of Rome. Pancras was born in 289 and his mother, according to legend, died in childbirth. His father died when the boy was only eight and he came under the care of his uncle, Dionysius. Pancras moved from the outlying area of his birth to Rome where his uncle lived in a villa. The uncle and nephew both converted to Christianity and Pancras became a great advocate for the new faith. Diocletian, the emperor, was not so enamored and insisted Roman citizens sacrifice to the Roman gods. When the 14 year old refused, the emperor offered him wealth and power if only  the child would denounce his faith. When Pancras refused again, he was beheaded and thus became a martyr for the faith.

The other date for the beheading is given as May 12 of the prior year. The legend behind the martyrdom does not match with history as recorded in secular texts. Diocletian had not been in Rome for years as he avoided the city on principle. It was his opinion, according to scholars, that the Senate and the city were no longer relevant to the ruling of the Empire. He may have been in Rome at the beginning of his reign as a formality, but spent his time campaigning in what is today the Balkans. The Pancras legend also has Cornelius as the bishop of Rome and those dates are inconsistent. Pancras was anointed and buried in the Catacombs of Rome in a newly built sepulcher and his head was placed in the reliquary which still exists today.

Early on, Pancras was venerated with Nereus and Achilleus who shared a feastday Mass on May 12. In 1595, Domitilla was added to the list of saints honored on this day. All of these early Roman martyrs were sacrificed during times in which persecution of the new sect was rampant. In 1969, Pancras became the only saint to be listed on the liturgical calendar for the date of May 12. He is the second of the Ice Saints.

There are three saints: St. Mamertus, St. Pancras, and St. Servatius who are referred to as the Ice Saints. Their feast days fall on May 11, May 12, and May 13 respectively. In Flemish, French, Dutch, Hungarian, German, Austrian, Polish, Swiss, Slovene, and Croatian folklore it was said these days held the last brief spell of cold weather and after the Ice Saints had been seen, weather would improve. This was during the Julian Calendar and the when the Gregorian Calendar came into play, the dates shifted. Some countries use slightly different dates and have other designations for these saints such as “cold gardeners” or “ice-men” or “icy men”) with one being an ice-woman. Knowing when it was safe to plant crops was one of the main uses of early calendars and the saintly designations were of a practical nature.

Let us all be brave enough to die the death of a martyr, but let no one lust for martyrdom. – Mahatma Gandhi

The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins. – Soren Kierkegaard

It is the cause, not the death, that makes the martyr. – Napoleon Bonaparte

I wish to be a martyr, and I don’t fear death. – Muqtada al Sadr

Also on this day: ¿Yo quiero Taco Bell? – In 1989 Joe Valdez Caballero dies.
Strike! – In 1950, the American Bowling Congress dropped the white males only requirement for membership.
Dvorak v. QWERTY – In 1936, the Dvorak keyboard was patented.
Higher Education – In 1551, The Major National University of San Marcos was established.


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