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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VI: June. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

June 4

St. Quirinus, Bishop and Martyr

        From his original beautiful Acts in Surius and Ruinart: and from Prudentius, hymn. 7. See Tillemont, t. 5, p. 428, and F. Hanciz, Germania Sacra, t. 1, p. 38.

A.D. 304.

ST. QUIRINUS was bishop of Siscia, a city in Pannonia, situate upon the river Save; which being now reduced to a borough, called Sisek or Sisseg, in Hungary, the episcopal see is removed to Zagrab, capital of modern Croatia. St. Jerom makes honourable mention of this saint in his Chronicle, upon the year 309. Prudentius calls him an eminent martyr. Fortunatus ranks him among the most illustrious martyrs of the church. He suffered on the 4th of June, 303, or 304. His acts give the following account of his triumph:
  The holy prelate having intelligence that Maximus, the chief magistrate of the city, had given an order for his apprehension, left the town, but was pursued, taken, and carried before him. Maximus asked him whither he was flying? The martyr answered: “I did not fly, but went away to obey the order of my master. 1 For it is written: When they persecute you in one city, fly to another.” Maximus said: “Who gave you that order?” Quirinus.—“Jesus Christ, who is the true God.” Maximus.—“Know you not that the emperor’s orders would find you out anywhere? Nor can he whom you call the true God help or rescue you when you are fallen into their hands, as you now see to your cost.” Quirinus.—“The God whom we adore is always with us wherever we are, and can always help us. He was with me when I was taken, and is now with me. It is he that strengthens me, and now answers you by my mouth.” Maximus.—“You talk much, and are guilty thereby of delay in executing the commands of our sovereigns: read their divine edicts, and comply with what they enjoin.” Quirinus.—“I make no account of such injunctions, because they are impious; and, contrary to God’s commandments, would oblige us his servants to offer sacrifice to imaginary divinities. The God whom I serve is everywhere; he is in heaven, on earth, and in the sea. He is above all things, containing everything within himself; and by him alone everything subsists.” Maximus said: “Old age has weakened your understanding, and you are deluded by idle tales. See, here is incense; offer it to the gods, or you will have many affronts to bear, and will suffer a cruel death.” Quirinus.—“That disgrace I account my glory; and that death will purchase me eternal life. I respect only the altar of my God, on which I have often offered to him a sacrifice of sweet odour.” Maximus.—“I perceive you are distracted, and that your madness will be the cause of your death. Sacrifice to the gods.” “No,” said Quirinus, “I do not sacrifice to devils.” Maximus then ordered him to be beaten with clubs, and the sentence was executed with great cruelty. The judge said to him under that torment: “Now confess the power of the gods whom the great Roman empire adores. Obey, and I will make you the priest of Jupiter.” Quirinus replied: “I am now performing the true functions of a priest, in offering myself a sacrifice to the living God. I feel not the blows which my body has received: they give me no torment. I am ready to suffer much greater tortures, that they who have been committed to my charge may be encouraged to follow me to eternal life.” Maximus commanded that he should be carried back to prison and loaded with heavy chains till he grew wiser. The martyr in the dungeon made this prayer: “I thank thee, O Lord, that I have borne reproaches for thy sake; and I beseech thee to let those who are in this prison know that I adore the true God, and that there is no other besides thee.” Accordingly at midnight a great light was seen in the prison, which being perceived by Marcellus the gaoler, he threw himself at the feet of St. Quirinus, and said, with tears: “Pray to the Lord for me; for I believe that there is no other God but him whom you adore.” The holy bishop, after a long exhortation, signed him in the name of Jesus Christ. This expression of the acts seems to imply, that he conferred on him the sacraments of baptism and confirmation.  2
  This magistrate, not having authority to put the martyr to death, after three days’ imprisonment, sent him to Amantius, governor of the province, called the First Pannonia. Prudentius calls him Galerius, governor of Illyricum, under which Pannonia was comprised. He had probably both those names, a usual thing at that time among the Romans. The bishop was carried in chains through all the towns that lay on the Danube, till being brought before Amantius, then on his return from Scarabantia, the governor ordered him to be conducted to Sabaria, 2 whither he himself was going. Certain Christian women in the mean time brought him refreshments, which as he was blessing, his chains dropt off from his hands and feet. On his arrival at Sabaria, Amantius ordered him to be brought before him on the public theatre, and having read the records of what had passed between him and Maximus, asked the saint if he owned the truth of the contents, and whether or no he persisted in his former confession of the Christian faith? The saint answered: “I have confessed the true God at Siscia: I have never adored any other. Him I carry in my heart, and no man on earth shall ever be able to separate me from him.” 3 Amantius endeavoured to overcome his resolution by large promises, and by the consideration of his old age: but finding him inflexible, he sentenced him to be thrown into the river with a millstone at his neck, and his order was obeyed. But to the great astonishment of the spectators (who were assembled in crowds on the banks of the river to behold the execution), the saint, instead of sinking to the bottom, continued a long time above water, with the millstone at his neck, exhorting the Christians to continue steadfast in the faith, and to dread neither torments, nor death itself. But perceiving that he sunk not at all, he began to fear he should lose the crown of martyrdom. He thereupon addressed himself to Christ in these words: “It is not wonderful for thee, O almighty Jesus, to stop the course of rivers as thou didst that of Jordan, nor to make men walk upon the water as Peter did on the sea, by thy divine power. These people have had a sufficient proof in me of the effect of thy power. Grant me what now remains, and is to be preferred to all things, the happiness of dying for thee, Jesus Christ my God.” He soon after sunk to the bottom: upon whose death the acts of the martyrs make this reflection, “That he with difficulty obtained by his prayers to be drowned.” 4 His body was found a little below the place, and laid in a chapel built on the bank. Soon after a great church was erected near the gate of Sabaria, leading to Scarabantia, in which his remains were laid. When, by the inroads of barbarians, the Pannonians were afterwards driven out of their country, the relics of this martyr were carried to Rome, and deposited in the catacombs of St. Sebastian, but removed in 1140 into the church of St. Mary beyond the Tiber. Molanus proves, that they are now kept in a monastery in Bavaria. The river in which St. Quirinus was drowned was called Sabarius, now Guntz.  3
  The martyrs are victims of divine love. Their example invites us to shake off all sloth, and to devote our whole lives and all our strength to the service of Him who created us for himself alone, till we shall have consummated our sacrifice to the eternal glory of his holy name. Thus we shall attain to our last end, and shall find immortal happiness; and shall refer to it all our steps in this mortal life, and all the desires of our hearts. These being all formed, actuated, and influenced by faith and love as by a vital principle, will be consecrated to God, will be a constant source of patience, meekness, charity, zeal, and all heroic virtues, will root the soul daily more and more strongly in a steady habit of holiness, and continually increase her vigour and fervour in the service of God, to the consummation of our sacrifice of love.  4
Note 1. By this answer he means that he did not withdraw through cowardice or fear of death, but in compliance with the precept of Christ. [back]
Note 2. Sabaria, is now called Sarwar, and stands on the confluence of the rivers Guntz and Rab. See Martiniere and Hoffman. Scarabantia is now called Sopron, by the Germans Oedenburg, eight German miles from Vienna to the East. Ibid. [back]
Note 3. These words compared with those above to Maximus, are a clear testimony given to the divinity of the Son of God. [back]
Note 4. Vix orans ut mergeretur obtinuit. This circumstance is also mentioned by Prudentius, in his elegant poem on this holy martyr; and by Eusebius in his chronicle. Ruinart places the martyrdom of St. Quirinus in the year 309; but Hanciz shows that he received his crown in 303 or 304. [back]