Life of St. Genesius of Rome
St. Genesius died somewhere between 286 and 303 AD. The exact
date is not known, neither is the date of when Genesius was born.
St. Genesius was an actor in Rome, having performed for Emperor
Diocletian. One of the plays that he would perform was a play
about a catechumen that was to be baptized satirizing the Christian
sacrament. However, in a weird string of events during the play,
Genesius was converted to Christianity during a performance.
It was during the performance that Genesius proclaimed that he
saw angels around him and had asked these angels to baptize him
during the performance. This outraged the Emperor who had him
tortured to force Genesius to renounce the Christian faith and
return to idolizing the pagan gods. Genesius was faithful which
ultimately resulted in him being beheaded. However, the above
description of how he converted is thought to only be a legend.
The legend of Saint Genesius of Rome was first dramatized during
the 15th century, then later on in the works of oratorio Plus
Atella of Lowe, and then most recently again by Weingartner. Again,
the thought is that this is a legend, and that Genesius' existence
is even questioned, but was venerated in Rome during the fourth
century when a church was built in his honor and repaired by Pope
Gregory III in 741. He is also thought to be the counterpart of
St. Gelasius of Hierapolis who died in 297AD.
St. Genesius was buried in Rome within the cemetery of St. Hippolytus,
which is on the Via Tiburtina. The relics of St. Genesius is thought
to be scattered in a few different places-San Giovanni della Pigna,
the chapel of St. Lawrence, and Santa Susanna di Termini.
There are several different stories that surround St. Genesius.
There is one source that claims he was a legal clerk that left
his position in search of baptism. Another claim is that he was
a cult following out of Arles that eventually spread to Rome where
a church was built. The last story is that St. Genesius was a
comedian and was converted during a performance and refused to
renounce his Christian conversion at the request of Emperor and
was subsequently beheaded. The latter was a story that began no
later than the 6th century.
Regardless of how Saint Genesius of Rome converted to Christianity,
he died a martyr and became known as a patron of saints to actors,
comedians, converts, dancers, musicians, printers, lawyers, epileptics,
thieves, torture victims and attorneys. His feast day is the 25th
of August and his basilica at Arles is on the 16th of December.
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