Saints Cyriacus, Largus, and Smaragdus, Martyrs

August 8

Today is the feast day of Saints Cyriacus, Largus, and Smaragdus.  Orate pro nobis.

Saint Cyriacus (also known as Cyriac) was born of a noble patrician family. He embraced the Christian religion and gave all his wealth to the poor. He was ordained a deacon at Rome, under Pope Marcellinus.

Diocletian was emperor at that time, assisted by Maximian. The latter decided to build a beautiful palace for the emperor, with magnificent baths, and made the Christians work at the construction.  Among the new slaves were elderly gentlemen along with clerics and priests. The labor was hard and the food scanty. A Roman nobleman desired to relieve the sufferings of these laborers.  He sent four Christians with alms and encouragements.  These were Saint Cyriacus, Saint Sisinius, Saint Largus and Saint Smaragdus. They pursued their charities at the risk of their lives, and they worked vigorously alongside those who were growing very weak. When Maximian heard of it, he had Saint Sisinius and an old gentleman whom he had helped, decapitated.

Then Emperor Diocletian’s little daughter became possessed by an evil spirit.  No one was able to deliver her from it. To the idolatrous priests who were called, the evil spirit declared that he would leave the girl only when commanded to do so by Cyriacus. He was summoned, and prayed and made the sign of the cross over the girl.  The evil spirit departed. The emperor loved his daughter, therefore he was grateful to the holy deacon.  Emperor Diocletian presented Cyriacus with a house, where he and his companions might serve God unmolested by their enemies.

About this time the daughter of the Persian King Sapor was attacked by a similar malady.   When he heard what Cyriacus had done for Diocletian’s daughter, he wrote to Diocletian , asking him to send the Christian deacon. It was done, and Cyriacus, on foot, set out for Persia. Arrived at his destination, he prayed over the girl and the evil spirit left her. On hearing of this miracle, four hundred and twenty heathens were converted to the Faith. These the saint instructed and baptized, and then set out on his homeward journey.

Returned to Rome, he continued his life of prayer and good works. But when Diocletian soon afterward left for the East, his co-emperor Maximin seized the opportunity to persecute the Christians. One of the first victims was Cyriacus. He was loaded with chains and brought before the judge, who first tried blandishments and promises to induce him to renounce Christ and to sacrifice to the idols, but in vain. Then the confessor of Christ was stretched on the rack, his limbs torn from their sockets.  He was beaten with clubs. His companions shared the same tortures. Finally, when the emperor and the judge were convinced that nothing would shake the constancy of the holy martyrs, they were beheaded. They gained the crown of glory on March 16, 303. 

Their bodies were first buried near the place of their execution on the Salarian Way, but were later removed to the city. An abbey in France, at Altorf in Alsace, possesses relics of Saint Cyriacus and bears his name.  Saint Cyriacus is venerated as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

The Fourteen Holy Helpers are a group of saints venerated together in Roman Catholicism because their intercession is believed to be particularly effective, especially against various diseases. This group of Nothelfer (“helpers in need”) originated in the 14th century at first in the Rhineland, largely as a result of the epidemic (probably of bubonic plague) that became known as the Black Death.


Image:  crop of Stained-Glass Window, depicting Saint Cyriacus in the Parish Church of Saint Pelagius, Weitnau, Bavaria, Germany. (4)

Research by REGINA Staff



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