Serapion of Algiers

Serapion of Algiers (1179 – 14 November 1240) was an English[1] Catholic Mercedarian priest and martyr. Thomas O'Loughlin says Serapion was Scottish by birth.[2] Serapion is acknowledged as a proto-martyr. He was the first of his Order to merit the palm of martyrdom by being crucified and cut to pieces.


Serapion of Algiers

San Serapio, por Francisco de Zurbarán.jpg
Died14 November 1240
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified23 March 1625, Saint Peter's Basilica by Pope Urban VIII
Canonized14 April 1728, Saint Peter's Basilica by Pope Benedict XIII
Feast14 November
AttributesMercedarian habit, crucified
PatronageDiocese of Azul


It has been said that he once served in the armies of Richard the Lion-Heart and Leopold VI during the time of the Crusades.[3] He accompanied his father during the Crusades in his childhood and was present at a battle at Acre in 1191.[citation needed] He participated in the Reconquista while serving in the armed forces for either Alfonso VIII of Castile or Alfonso IX of León.[4] He met Peter Nolasco in Barcelona and became a professed member of the Mercedarians in 1222. The Mercedarians' goal was to free Christian captives held in Muslim states. He was assigned to recruit for the order in England but pirates besieged the ship and left him for dead. He survived and wandered to London to preach which landed him in trouble and he was ordered to leave the town.[5]


There are various accounts of his death. By one account, he was beaten to death by French pirates at Marseilles.[4][6]

He made two journeys for the ransom of captives, in 1240. The first was to Murcia, in which he purchased the liberty of ninety-eight slaves: the second to Algiers, in which he redeemed eighty-seven, but remained himself a hostage for the full payment of the money.[5] A widely circulated early account holds that the ransom did not arrive in time and so his captors decided to have him killed. He was nailed on an X-shaped cross and was dismembered.

The most authoritative account comes from the early annals of the Mercedarians.[4][6] "Captured in Scotland by English pirates, Serapion was bound by the hands and feet to two poles, and was then beaten, dismembered, and disemboweled. Finally, his neck was partly severed, leaving his head to dangle."[7]

The Baroque artist Francisco Zurbarán depicts the Martyrdom of Saint Serapion in one of his paintings.[3]

Pope Benedict XIII declared Serapion a martyr, and approved his veneration in the Order of Mercedarians, by a decree in 1728. Pope Benedict XIV added him to the Roman Martyrology. Serapion is commemorated on 14 November.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Stanton, Richard. A Menology of England and Wales, Burns & Oates, 1887, p. 539
  2. ^ O'Loughlin. Thomas. "Martyrs", Encyclopedia of Monasticism, (William M. Johnston, ed.), Routledge, 2013, ISBN 9781136787164 p. 832
  3. ^ a b "St. Serapion of Algiers". Religious Brotherhood. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Baticle, Jeannine. "Saint Serapion", Zurbarán, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, ISBN 9780870995026, p. 102
  5. ^ a b "St. Serapion". All Saints & Martyrs. 2012. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  6. ^ a b Zirpolo, Lilian H., "St. Serapion", Historical Dictionary of Baroque Art and Architecture, Rowman & Littlefield, 2010, ISBN 9780810861558, p. 496
  7. ^ Remón, 1618. fols. 165-166

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