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Basilissa

Various female martyrs bearing the common name of Basilissa

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Basilissa.—Various female martyrs, attributed to different localities yet bearing the common name of Basilissa, are referred to in all the catalogues of martyrs both of early Christianity and of the Middle Ages; their names also appear in the calendars and liturgical books of the Greek and Roman Churches. Nothing is known positively as to any one of these sufferers for the Christian Faith; the Acts of their martyrdoms, so far as such exist, are purely legendary and originated at a later date. The fact, however, that the name occurs several times in the so-called martyrology of St. Jerome and in old Greek catalogues is certain proof that a number of female martyrs named Basilissa were actually venerated in the ancient Church. At the same time it is not impossible that the same martyr is recorded on different days. Among these saints should be mentioned: Julian and Basilissa of Antioch; in the martyrology of St. Jerome (ed. Rossi-Duchesne, 6) they are given as martyrs under January 6. A later legend makes Basilissa the virgin wife of Julian and narrates that she died a natural death together with other virgins, while Julian suffered martyrdom in company with many other Christians during the Diocletian persecution. The same martyrology makes mention, under March 12, of a female martyr Basilissa, wife of Felicio, and states the locality “in Asia“. On the next day, March 13, occurs the name of another martyr called Basilissa, wife of the presbyter Eustatius of Nicomedia. Later legends, which were accepted by the Greek menologies and synaxaria, speak of a virgin and martyr, Basilissa of Nicomedia, whose feast was celebrated on September 3; this Basilissa is probably identical with the one just mentioned. On March 22 the names of two martyrs, Basilissa and Callinice, are given with the statement “in Galatia”. Under April 16 the old catalogues contain the names of a number of martyrs of Corinth, among whom appears a Basilissa; according to later accounts these sufferers for the Faith were all thrown into the sea. Under the previous day, April 15, two Roman matrons, Basilissa and Anastasia, are recorded; they apparently died in the persecution of Nero. Another female martyr of Rome, whose name is sometimes written Basilla and sometimes Basilissa, was venerated on May 20. She was buried, it is stated, on the Via Salaria. The celebrated Roman martyr Basilla, who died in 304 and whose feast is entered from the year 354 under September 22 in the oldest known Roman catalogue of feasts (Depositio martyrum), was buried in the catacomb of Hermes on the Via Salaria Vetus. It is, therefore, a question whether the saint given under May 20 and this latter Basilla are not one and the same person; but the identity of the two cannot be positively affirmed. The present martyrology includes several of these saints; January 9, Basilissa of Antioch; March 22, Basilissa and Callinice; April 15, Basilissa and Anastasia; September 3, Basilissa of Nicomedia.

J. P. KIRSCH


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