Saint Justina of Padua

Saint Justina (Justine) of Padua (Italian: Santa Giustina di Padova) is a Christian saint, known for converting Cyprian, a pagan magician of Antioch. She is said to have been martyred in the year 304 AD. Justina was said to have been a young woman who took private vows of chastity and was killed during the persecutions of the Roman emperor Diocletian. She is a patron saint of Padua. Her feast day is October 7.

Saint Justina suffered at Padua in the persecution of Dioclesian, about the year 304, or, according to some, in that of Nero. Fortunatus ranks her among the most illustrious holy virgins, whose sanctity and triumph have adorned and edified the church, saying that her name makes Padua illustrious, as Euphemia Chalcedon, and Eulalia the city Emerita. And in his poem on the life of St. Martin, he bids those who visit Padua, there to kiss the sacred sepulchre of the blessed Justina, on the walls of which they will see the actions of St. Martin represented in figures or paintings.

A church was built at Padua, in her honour, about the middle of the fifth age, by Opilio, prefect of the prætorium, who was consul in 453. Her precious remains, concealed in the irruption of Attila, who destroyed Aquileia and Padua in the middle of the fifth century, were found in 1177, and are kept with great veneration in the famous church which bears her name. It was most elegantly and sumptuously rebuilt in 1501, and, with the adjoining Benedictin monastery, (to which it belongs,) is one of the most finished models of building of that nature in the world. A reformation of the Benedictin Order was settled in this house in 1417, which was propagated in many parts of Italy under the name of the Congregation of St. Justina of Padua.

The great monastery of Mount Cassino, head of the whole Order of St. Bennet, having acceded to this reformed Congregation, it was made the chief house thereof by Pope Julius II., and the jurisdiction of president or general, was transferred by him from St. Justina’s to the abbot of Mount Cassino; from which time this is called the Congregation of Mount Cassino, and is divided into seven provinces. The great monastery of St. Justina may be said to be the second in rank. St. Justina is, after St. Mark, the second patroness of the commonwealth of Venice, and her image is stamped on the coin. Near the tomb of St. Justina, in the cemetery, were found the relics of several other martyrs, who are said in her acts and those of St. Prosdecimus, first bishop of Padua, and other such monuments, to have suffered with her. The relics of St. Justina were placed in a shrine or chest under the high altar of the new church, in 1502. When the new choir was built these were translated with the utmost solemnity into a sumptuous vault under the new high altar, in 1627.

Another famous church of St. Justina stands in the city of Venice, formerly collegiate, now in the hands of nuns. The senate makes to it the most solemn procession on the 7th of October, in thanksgiving for the victory of Lepante, gained over the Turks on that day, which is her festival.

The painting titled “Justina and the Unicorn” According to Honorius of Autun a unicorn though wild will tamely place its head in the lap of a virgin, just as Christ prizes chastity and chose the Virgin Mary in the Incarnation (Sill 26-27). The unicorn here may therefore reference Justina of Antioch’s steadfast defense of her chastity and perhaps her remark to her suitor (in the Latin version) that she is already wed to Christ (“De SS. Cypriano, Iustina et Theoctisto,” 243).

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