John and Paul

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Roman martyrs of the 4th century.

Although their cult is both early and well established in all the Roman sacramentaries, their identity is much disputed. Their worthless Acts are entirely borrowed from those of other martyrs. The fine church dedicated to them in Rome is the titulus Pammachii, to which the relics of these saints, supposedly brothers, were brought. It is not even certain that they were Roman by birth or that they suffered at Rome. But hypotheses about their really being identical with the Apostles or with John the Baptist are even less likely. Little can be known about them with certainty. William of Malmesbury and other English writers mention their church in the guide to Rome, and the Council of Oxford in 1222 made their feast a day when the faithful should attend Mass before going to work. Their feast is recorded both in the Martyrology of Bede and in the Sarum calendar. The popularity of their Acts must have helped the diffusion of their cult. These make them brothers and soldiers of the Emperor Constantine, who on a campaign against the Scythians in Thrace assured their commander Gallicanus of victory if he became a Christian. Angels obligingly then put the enemy to flight. Later Julian the Apostate summoned them to court but they refused to obey. They were given ten days' grace and were then executed in their own house on the Celian Hill and their bodies buried in the garden. Several internal implausibilities make the whole tale highly suspect and it seems better to conclude that all details of their life have been irretrievably lost. A fine church dedicated to them in Venice is the burial-place of several of the Doges. Feast: 26 June.

AA.SS. Iun. V (1709), 158–63 with C.M.H., pp. 336–7; H. Delehaye, The Legends of the Saints (1962), pp. 178–9; B.L.S., vi. 197–8.

Subjects: Christianity.

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