Genesius of Arles

(d. c. 303)

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(d. c.303),

martyr. This saint is mentioned in the Martyrology of Jerome, in the writings of Prudentius, Venantius Fortunatus, Hilary, and Gregory of Tours, and there can be little doubt that he was a genuine martyr during the persecution of Maximian and Diocletian. His Legend calls him a notary who made shorthand summaries of judicial proceedings for the public archives. One day, while performing his duties in the presence of the judge, Genesius, who was a catechumen, was so offended by the edict of persecution which was read out that he threw down his register and quitted his profession. He then fled from the town and sought out a bishop who would baptize him; but the bishop, perhaps fearing a trap, put him off and told him that if he shed his blood for Christ, this would have the same effect as Baptism. Genesius was eventually captured by the persecutors and beheaded.

His cult spread to Narbonne, Spain, and eventually Rome, where also a church was built in his honour. It was wrongly assumed that he was a Roman martyr whose body was buried there; hence he is often (as in OE Martyrology) wrongly described as Genesius of Rome. Later his Legend was transformed still further: this made Genesius a comedian who, while acting an anti-Christian satire on the stage, was suddenly converted and confessed Christ with such constancy that he suffered the rack and was eventually beheaded. It seems that this legend is at least as old as the 6th century, for the calendar of Carthage of that date commemorates Genesius the actor. Feast: 25 August.

There are two ancient English churches dedicated to Genesius. Bond, however, attributes these to Genesius of Clermont, a French bishop who died c.660, also called Genet. His episcopate seems to have been peaceful and successful; he built a church in honour of St Symphorian (later called St Genesius) and a monastery called Grandlieu. Feast: 3 June.

For Genesius of Arles AA.SS. Aug. V (1741), 119–36 with C.M.H., pp. 464–5 and H. Quentin, Les Martyrologes Historiques du moyen âge (1908), pp. 533–41; B.L.S., viii. 248;S. Cavallin, Saint Genès le Notaire (1945). For Genesius of Clermont AA.SS. Iun. I (1695), 322–4; B.L.S., vi. 29–30.

Subjects: Christianity.

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