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Saint Julia

Saint Julia
  • Century: 5th Century
  • Patronage: Corsica, Torture Victims, Pathologies of the Hands and Feet
  • Feast Day: May 23rd

St. Julia, also known as St. Julia of Corsica, was a virgin martyr who is venerated as a saint.  The date of her death is most probably on or about 439.  She along with St. Devota, are the patron saints of Corsica.  She was declared a patroness of Corsica by the Church on August 5, 1809, and St. Devota on Mary 14th, 1820.  Both of these were martyred in pre-Christian Corsica under Roman rule.  Although Julia is included in most summary lives of the saints, the details somewhat vary.  A few basic accounts emerge, that tell us the story.  Bishop Victor Vitensis of Africa wrote most of the story, from her time, while investigating her cause.  His story is supported by physical evidence, the relics, and a small collection of human bone fragments, which were housed at the former Church of Santa Julia, in Brescia, Italy, now a part of the city’s museum.  

St. Julia became venerated as a saint, due to the accounts of Victor Vitensis, a Bishop from Africa.  He wrote the “History of the Persecution of the Province of Africa in the Time of Geiseric and Huniric, Kings of the Vandals”.  In 429 Geiseric and 80,000 tribesmen, crossed suddenly from Spain to Africa and in 439 took Carthage by surprise.  Attempting to convert Christians to Arianism he committed such acts, as the Bishops of the Church were able neither to forget nor to condone.  In the next generation Victor Vitensis set about a thorough, investigative manner to record them.  His account is considered a source of good history.  

Julia was a beautiful, young Carthaginian girl who was “led from it a captive” and her lot was that she came into the service of a man name Eusebius.  Bishop Vitensis does not say how she came into service, but it is implied she was sold as a slave after Gaiseric captured Carthage in 439.  It is known that he disposed of many Christians in this way, especially women.  As a young and strong female, Julia would have brought a good price for the Vandals.  Her master was described as a “fleshly master”, using her for his desires.  When her own duties were done and she was granted the servant’s time off.  She spent her spare time reading or praying.  She grew pale and thin from fasting, despite the threats of her master.  Her mind however, was intent on Heaven, being fed daily on God’s words.  

Eusebius was a citizen of Syria in Palestine, and was on a ship headed for Gaul with a load of expensive cargo, and was anchored for the night.  From a distance he saw the sacrifices that were being conducted by the pagans and immediately descended with all his people to attend.  They were slaying a bull to their “devils”.  They became intoxicated, and discussed that he was not able to remove the “religious superstition” from the young girl, Julia.  Eusebius said that if it were not for her “useful” services, she would have already been tortured.  A man named Felix Saxo gave him the option to either have her offer up a sacrifice to their gods, or he would take her in exchange for 4 of his best girls.  Eusebius told him all his property would not cover the value of her services.  

Eusebius became intoxicated and fell into a deep sleep.  A raging mob boarded the ship and placed Julia on the shore.  Felix told her to Sacrifice to the gods, and he would give her master as much as he likes and dissolve her bond of slavery.  Julie replied, “My liberty is the service of Christ, whom I serve every day with a pure mind.  As for that error of yours, I not only do not venerate it, I detest it”.   He ordered her to be struck with blows to the face, but she accepted them, just as Christ suffered blows to His face.  He became angry, and order that she be tortured by having all her hair pulled out.  She was then flogged cruelly.   Fearful that Eusebius would be awakened, he ordered her to be place on a cross to be killed, to speed up the process.  As Eusebius was waking up, “Julia’s mind was released from the flesh, victorious over her suffering, and took happy flight with the angels to the stars of Heaven”.   

Monks from Gorgona Island rescued the young saints relics.  Legend tells us that attached to Julia’s cross was a note, written in an Angelic hand, that carried her name and entire story.  The monks transported the relics to a sepulcher on their island after cleaning her corpse and covering it with pleasant aromas.  In 762, her relics were transferred to the Benedictine Abbey at Brescia, and in 763 Pope Paul I consecrated a Church in Julia’s name.  It became a popular site for pilgrimages in the Middle Ages.  

Practical Take Away

St. Julia was a virgin martyr who is venerated as a saint.  The date of her death is most probably on or about 439.  She along with St. Devota, are the patron saints of Corsica.  She was declared a patroness of Corsica by the Church on August 5, 1809, and St. Devota on Mary 14th, 1820.  Both of these were martyred in pre-Christian Corsica under Roman rule.  Although Julia is included in most summary lives of the saints, the details somewhat vary.  A few basic accounts emerge, that tell us the story.  A Bishop of Africa wrote most of the story, from her time.  She was captured as a slave from Carthage, and was taken to Africa to serve her Master’s “fleshly needs”.  When refusing to make sacrifices to their pagan gods, she was beaten, flogged and crucified.  She was a beautiful young girl that didn’t compromise for her faith, and an early saint of our Church.