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Caesarius of Africa

Saint Caesarius of Africa, also Caesarius of Terracina (Saint Cesario deacon in Italian) was a Christian martyr. The church of San Cesareo in Palatio in Rome bears his name.

Saint Caesarius of Africa
Deacon and Martyr
Diedc. 3rd century
Terracina, Italy
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Major shrineTerracina
Feast1 November
Attributespalm, Gospel, sack
Patronagepatron saint of Roman emperors, has replaced and Christianized the cult of Julius Caesar and Augustus; invoked against drowning, flooding, and for the good success of Caesarean section.


Caesarius was a deacon of Africa, martyred at Terracina in Italy.

The "Passio" (story of martyrdom) of Saint Caesarius is set in Terracina, harbor town near Rome and Naples, under the pagan emperor Trajan (r. 98-117).

Caesarius, a deacon from Carthage (belonging to the ancient and illustrious gens Julia), after a shipwreck, arrived in Terracina to preach the Gospel to poor people. In this Roman city, each year on the first day of January, a ceremony of self-immolation took place to assure the health and salvation of the Empire. A young man was pampered with material delights and fulfilled in all his wishes for eight months; then he was obliged to mount on a richly harnessed horse, climb up to the summit of city's cliff and throw himself into the void, with the recalcitrant horse, to crash against the rocks and perish in the waves in honour of the god Apollo, as an expiatory offering for the prosperity of the state and the emperors. The deacon Caesarius denounced this pagan custom and protested: "Alas for a state and emperors who persuade by tortures and are fattened on the outpouring of blood".[1]

The priest of Apollo, named Firminus, had him arrested and taken before to Leontius, Roman consul of Campania. During the interrogation, he refused to sacrifice to the pagan god of the sun and light, and his prayers caused the temple of Apollo to collapse (located in the Forum), killing the pagan Firminus. Caesarius was then locked up in jail and, after twenty-two months, he was taken to the Forum to be judged: he asked permission to pray: a radiant light blazed down on him, and the pagan consul Leontius was thereupon converted and sought baptism; he died shortly after (October 30).[2]

The 1st of November of the year 107 A.D., Luxurius, governor of the city, tied Caesarius and Julian (a local presbyter) up together in a sack, and flung them into the sea, from a cliff called "Pisco Montano".[3]

Nevertheless the deacon Caesarius was martyred, although not before prophesying the death of Luxurius, bitten by a poisonous viper.[4]

Caesarius and Julian, on that same day, were thrown back onto the shore, and were buried by Eusebius, a servant of God, near the town of Terracina.[5]

Cult: Caesarius as an Imperial SaintEdit

His feast is held on 1 November (prior to the establishment of the “All Saints’ Day”, on that same day, as celebrated in modern-day Western Christianity by the Roman Catholic Church).

In the 4th century, the Emperor Valentinian I's daughter was healed at his shrine.[6] The emperor then decided to move his relics from Terracina to Rome as a mark of royal favour. They were taken to a church on the Palatine Hill, and when they were later moved to a new church near the Appian Way which got the name San Cesareo in Palatio.

Caesarius of Terracina is the saint chosen for his name to replace and Christianize the pagan figure of Julius Caesar; then there is the Julian, associated with Saint Caesarius, in Italy, whose church at the Imperial palace on the Palatine in Rome, recorded from the seventh century, shows that the name was interpreted in terms of the imperial title that originated with Julius Caesar.[7] Caesarius of Terracina also achieved prominence because a church, the imperial chapel, was named after him by Valentinian III, an example of a saint with a suitable name being chosen as a patron. Caesarius was the obvious patron for the chapel of the Caesars.[8] Caesarius, however, also had more to offer to the Palatine than his apposite name. His legend fit impeccably into the symbolism of the Palatine, offering a forceful Christian commentary on the meaning of the empire. In Caesarius the Byzantine administration found a saint capable of Christianizing Rome's imperial core. Caesarius's passio, a Latin text, revolves around the good health or prosperity (salus) of the Roman Empire. The legend presents Caesarius's martyrdom as proof that the well-being of the state rests more solidly on Christian foundations than on its pagan past. His passio presents an elaborate and gruesome panorama of the pagan ritual that, so its audience is led to believe, once underpinned the imperial administration. In contrast to this senseless and impious bloodshed, Caesarius's martyrdom truly works for the imperial salus by bearing witness to God's truth; commemoration of him offers a means to perpetuate that prosperity.[9]

Terracina Cathedral (Cattedrale dei Santi Pietro e Cesareo) is dedicated to him and Saint Peter.

Patron saint of Caesarean sectionsEdit

Caesarius is the protector of Caesarean sections: was chosen as the patron saint of safe deliveries of babies via “Caesarean section” (or surgeries performed only by professional doctors and surgeons on delivering the babies from the pregnant mothers by the incision of the abdomen, to save both the babies and mothers, often when the babies could not pass through the normal passage, or when the mothers incurred too much distress or hemorrhage).[10] Saint Caesarius is invoked against the floods of the rivers, the drownings (in memory of his martyrdom), for defense against lightning, from telluric and meteorological calamities.[11]

Art: precious manuscriptsEdit

The first illustrations of the history of St. Caesarius are found in precious illuminated manuscripts. Most of these manuscripts date back to the Middle Ages.

In the British Library of London in a "Passionale", a Latin manuscript, made in 1110 for the Monastery of Saint Augustine in Canterbury (describes the lives of the Saints from September 21st to November 9th), there is the text of the Passion of Saint Caesarius of Terracina with historiated initial which represents "Martyrdom of St Caesarius" (Arundel MS 91, f. 188r.)[12].

In the Morgan Library of New York in the “Book of Hours”, made in 1465 in Langres, France[13], there is the miniature of “Saint Caesarius” (MS G.55 fol. 132v).

In the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, in the Department of Manuscripts, the "Speculum Historiale" by Vincenzo di Beauvais (translation by Jean De Vignay) is kept, made in 1463. In this manuscript the "Passio S. Caesarii" is described with different miniatures of the life of the saints Caesarius and Julian[14].


The relics of the Saint Caesarius deacon and martyr are preserved in the Basilica Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome (basalt urn of high altar), in the Basilica of San Frediano of Lucca, Tuscany (urn with six bones), and in Terracina Cathedral (urn with two shins and a reliquary arm).

From March 30 to June 30, 2015, the silver reliquary arm of St. Caesarius preserved in Terracina Cathedral was exhibited at the exhibition entitled "Precious sculptures: sacred jewelry in Lazio" set up in the Braccio di Carlo Magno, in St. Peter's Square, in the Vatican, by the will of Antonio Paolucci, Director of the Vatican Museums[15].

During the Middle Ages, bone fragments of the saint were translated into England: in Glastonbury Abbey[16] (his relics are listed at Glastonbury in the mid-twelfth-century list of Hugh Candidus of Peterborough), in Cathedral of Exeter[17] and in Cathedral of Lincoln[18].

Saint Cesarius is venerated in St. Michael Church of Netcong, a borough in Morris County, New Jersey, United States . A bone fragment of Saint Cesarius is preserved in this church.[11]

Other relics of Saint Caesarius deacon (with the cartouche in Latin " 1 November S. Caesarii diac. m.") are preserved in Saint Anthony’s Chapel in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania); in St. Martha Church in Morton Grove (Illinois); in St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo (New York); in St. Raphael's Cathedral (Dubuque, Iowa); in the Shrine of the Holy Relics in Maria Stein (Ohio); in Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Notre Dame), Indiana; in a private collection in Gnesen Township, St. Louis County, Minnesota; in Basílica of São Sebastião in Rio de Janeiro; in Paróquia Nossa Senhora das Graças in Caieiras; and in Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Manila (Philippines).

An Arm Reliquary of Saint Caesarius is preserved in Kunstegewerbemuseum in Berlin.

Bone fragment of St. Caesarius (with the cartouche in Latin "S. Caesarii diac. m.") are preserved in Sancta Sanctorum of Roma, in Cathedral of Monreale (Palermo, Italy); in Treasury of the Collegiate of St. Peter and St. Alexander in the Museum of the Chapter of the Rectory of Aschaffenburg (Germany); in Essen Minster; in the Museum Frederic Marès of Barcelona; in the Museum de la Visitation, Moulins (France); in the Museum São Roque of Lisbon.

In Italy other bone fragments of the saint are preserved in: Udine Cathedral[19]; Naples Cathedral[20]; Santa Brigida, Naples; Santa Maria in Vallicella; Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls; Santa Maria Corteorlandini, Lucca; San Paolo Maggiore, Bologna; Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians, Turin; Anagni Cathedral[21]; Verona Cathedral; Foligno Cathedral; San Cesario di Lecce; Cesa[22]; San Cesareo; San Cesario sul Panaro; Asola, Lombardy; Guardea; Cava de' Tirreni; Nave, Lombardy; Fara in Sabina.

Icon of St. Caesarius around the WorldEdit

On the occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the new icon of Saint Caesarius martyr - painting by the artist Giovanni Guida[23] - has been exhibited in museums, cathedrals and basilicas that jealously preserve fragments of the body of the young deacon, next to their respective reliquaries[24]. A fascinating journey through the world (Italy, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, France, Corsica, Germany, United States, England, Philippines, Croatia and Slovakia) to reassemble the relics of the saint, donated by the popes, emperors, kings, saints, cardinals and bishops. The icon of St. Caesarius has been exhibited in many important museums (Kunstegewerbemuseum in Berlin; Museum Frederic Marès of Barcelona; Museum São Roque of Lisbon; Museum of the Chapter of the Rectory of Aschaffenburg) and in important basilicas (St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo; St. Raphael's Cathedral in Dubuque; Saint Anthony’s Chapel in Pittsburgh; St. Martha Church in Morton Grove; St. Michael's Church in Netcong; Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Manila; Basilica Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome)[25].

Illustrations life of Caesarius deacon and martyrEdit



  1. ^ De Smedt C. -Van Hoof G. - De Backer J., Acta sanctorum novembris, tomus I, Parisiis 1887
  2. ^ Amore Agostino, Cesario e Giuliano, santi martiri di Terracina, in Bibliotheca Sanctorum, III, Città del Vaticano 1963, coll. 1154-1155
  3. ^ Caesarius Diaconus, testi e illustrazioni di Giovanni Guida, [s.l.: s.n.], 2015
  4. ^ Sabine Baring-Gould, The Lives of the Saints, 1, J. Hodges., 1877
  5. ^ Thomas F. Head, Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology, Psychology Press, 2001
  6. ^ S. G. A. Luff, The Christian's Guide to Rome, Fordham University Press, 1967
  7. ^ The Mankind quarterly, volume 39, Cliveden Press, 1998
  8. ^ Michael Perham, The communion of saints, Published for the Alcuin Club by S.P.C.K., 1980
  9. ^ Maya Maskarinec, City of Saints: Rebuilding Rome in the Early Middle Ages, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018
  10. ^ Pasero Roberta, Cesareo di Terracina, un santo poco conosciuto: è il protettore del parto cesareo, in "DiPiù", anno XIV, n° 48, 3 dicembre 2018
  11. ^ a b Ex ossibus S. Caesarii: Ricomposizione delle reliquie di San Cesario diacono e martire di Terracina, testi ed illustrazioni di Giovanni Guida, [s.l.: s.n.], 2017
  12. ^ Henry Shaw, Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages, Volume 1, H. G. Bohn, 1858
  13. ^ Pamela Robinson, The History of the Book in the West: 400AD-1455, Volume 1, Routledge, 2017
  14. ^ (Paris, BnF, Français 51 f.34)
  15. ^ Anna Imponente, Sculture preziose oreficeria sacra nel Lazio dal XIII al XVIII secolo, Edizioni Musei Vaticani, 2015
  16. ^ Carley James P., Riddy Felicity, Arthurian Literature XVI, Boydell & Brewer, 1998
  17. ^ Conner Patrick W., Anglo-Saxon Exeter: A Tenth-century Cultural History, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1993
  18. ^ Christopher Wordsworth, Notes on Mediæval Services in England: With an Index of Lincoln Ceremonies, T. Baker, 1898
  19. ^ Someda De Marco Carlo, Il Duomo di Udine, Arti grafiche friulane, Udine 1970
  20. ^ Sabbatini d'Anfora Lodovico, Il vetusto calendario Napoletano nuovamente scoverto, vol.10, stamperia Simoniana, Napoli 1764
  21. ^ Cappelletti Lorenzo,Gli affreschi della cripta anagnina Iconologia, Gregorian Biblical BookShop, 2002
  22. ^ Grassia Luigi, Vita e Martirio del Gran Levita africano San Cesario, Aversa 1912
  23. ^ Rossi Giovanni, L'icona di San Cesareo in "tour" per i fedeli, in "Vero", anno XIII, n.46, 23 novembre 2017
  24. ^ San Cesario: La nuova icona, in Famiglia Cristiana, April 24, 2016
  25. ^ Sergio Luciano, Il viaggio nel mondo dell'icona di San Cesario di Terracina", in "Economy Mag", May 3, 2018