- Genesius of Rome
name=Saint Genesius of Rome
286or c. 303
Roman Catholic Church
titles=Actor & Martyr
patronage=actors, comedians, converts, dancers, musicians, printers, prostitutes, lawyers, epileptics, thieves, torture victims
Santa Susanna, Rome
prayer=Dear Genesius, according to legend, when you were still an unbeliever, you ridiculed Christ while acting. Like Saul on the road to Damascus, you were overwhelmed by Christ's powerful grace. You bore witness to Jesus and died a martyr's death. Intercede for your fellow actors before God that they may faithfully and honestly perform their roles and so help others to understand their own lives and attain their goal of heaven. Amen.
Saint Genesius of Rome (died c.
286or c. 303) was an actorhired for a play that made fun of Christian Baptism. During a performance in Romebefore the emperor Diocletian, Genesius had a change of heart and converted. Genesius proclaimed seeing visions of angelsand announced his new found allegiance to Jesus. He was killed for his actions.
Last show and death
At the start of the play Genesius lay down on the stage as if sick. Two other actors asked what ailed him. Genesius said he felt a great weight that he wanted removed. Hence, two other actors, dressed as a priest and exorcist, were called in. They asked what the protagonist wanted. He replied, "A baptism." There upon, he said, he saw a vision of angels bearing a book with all his sins inscribed. The actor portraying the priest asked him: "My child, why did you send for me?"
At this point, Genesius claimed to actually see Angels and asked to be baptized himself onstage. Enraged, Diocletian had him turned over to Plautia, prefect of the praetorium, who tortured him in an effort to force him to sacrifice to the pagan gods. When Genesius persisted in his faith, he was beheaded.
He is known as the patron saint of actors, comedians, clowns, dancers, theatrical performers, musicians, attorneys, barristers, lawyers, printers and stenographers. Invoked against epilepsy.
Burial and legacy
He was buried in the Cemetery of St Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina. His relics are said to be partly in San Giovanni della Pigna, partly in Santa Susanna di Termini and in the chapel of
St. Lawrence. The legend was dramatized in the fifteenth century; embodied in later years in the oratorio "Polus Atella" of Löwe, and still more recently in a work by Weingartner. The historic value of the Acts, dating from the seventh century, is very doubtful, though defended by Tillemont("Mémoires", IV s. v. Genesius). The very existence of Genesius is called into question, and he is held to be a Roman counterpart of St. Gelasius(or Gelasinus) of Hierapolis (d. 297). He was venerated, however, at Rome in the fourth century: a church was built in his honour very early, and was repaired and beautified by Pope Gregory IIIin 741.
He is the
patron saintof actors, attorneys, barristers, clowns, comedians, comics, converts, dancers, epileptics, lawyers, musicians, printers, stenographers, and torture victims. His feast dayis 25 August.
Alternative Interpretation: Rome, Arles or Both?
Although some say that
Genesius of Arlesand Genesius of Rome are not to be confused, in fact it seems that the cult properly should not differentiate between the two. [David Hugh Farmer, "Oxford Dictionary of Saints." Fourth Edition. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 200.]
Genesius (Gennys) died as a martyr in ca. 303 AD. He is mentioned in several sources as having been martyred under the persecutions of Maximian and Diocletian. Genesius was a legal clerk, and on one occasion was so upset by the edict of persecution that he heard that he left his position. He went in search of baptism, but was not trusted by the bishop he found, who instead advised him that marytrdom was at least as good in the eyes of God. Genesius was eventually beheaded.
The cult of Genesius spread quickly out of Arles and into other parts of the empire, including Rome, where a titular church was built. It was then assumed that he was a Roman martyr: hence 'Genesius of Rome'. Later on, even more confusion helped to create an entirely fictional legend, in which he was a comedian who had converted to Christianity half-way through performing an anti-Christian satire, and was then beheaded. This latter story began in the 6th century at the latest.
The existence of remains both in Rome and Arles, however, proves problematic to this theory and there is evidence that the Romans have venerated the memory of their actor-martyr since the 4th century, some time shortly after his death. The question remains open.
The Feast Day of Genesius is the 25th of August; the dedication of his basilica at Arles on the 16th of December.
The cult of St Genesius continues today and the actor-martyr is looked upon as the patron of actors and various acting societies, including those which aim to assist actors. The
British Catholic Stage Guildregards him as their patron, and the Shrine of St Genesius in Saint Malachy's Roman Catholic Churchin Manhattan, New York serves as a spiritual landmark for the city's acting community. As the patron saint of epilepsy many turn to him for his help.
There is also a
Genesian Theatrein Sydney, Australia, which hosts six seasons each year and is a vibrant amateur acting community.
A new association in the
Roman Catholic Church, "The Fraternity of St Genesius", has been founded under this Saint's patronage. It aims to support men and women who work in theatre and cinema. [http://www.stgenesius.com]
* [http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=185 Catholic Online article on St. Genesius of Rome]
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