Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Cassian, Martyr

the painting 'Martirio di S. Cassiano' ('Martyrdom of Saint Cassian'), c.1500, by Innocenzo FrancucciArticle

He was a Christian schoolmaster, and taught children to read and write, at Imola, a city twenty-seven miles from Ravenna in Italy. A violent persecution being raised against the church, probably that of Decius or Valerian, or according to some, that of Julian, he was taken up, and interrogated by the governor of the province. As he constantly refused to sacrifice to the gods, the barbarous judge having informed himself of what profession he was, commanded that his own scholars should stab him to death with their iron writing pencils, called styles; for at that time it was the custom for scholars to write upon wax laid on a board of boxen wood, in which they formed the letters with an iron style or pencil, sharp at one end, but blunt and smooth at the other, to erase what was to be effaced or corrected. They also often wrote on boxen wood itself, as Saint Ambrose mentions. The smaller the instruments were, and the weaker the executioners, the more lingering and cruel was this martyr’s death. He was exposed naked in the midst of two hundred boys; among whom some threw their tablets, pencils, and penknives at his face and head, and often broke them upon his body; others cut his flesh or stabbed him with their penknives, and others pierced him with their pencils, sometimes only tearing the skin and flesh, and sometimes raking in his very bowels. Some made it their barbarous sport to cut part of their writing-task in his tender skin. Thus, covered with his own blood, and wounded in every part of his body, he cheerfully bade his little executioners not to be afraid; and to strike him with greater force; not meaning to encourage them in their sin, but to express the ardent desire he had to die for Christ. He was interred by the Christians at Imola, where afterwards his relics were honoured with a rich mausol├Žum. Prudentius tells us, that in his journey to Rome, he visited this holy martyr’s tomb, and prostrate before it implored the divine mercy for the pardon of his sins with many tears. He mentions a moving picture of the saint’s martyrdom hanging over the altar, representing his cruel death in the manner he has recorded it in verse. He exhorts all others with him to commend their petitions to this holy martyr’s patronage, who fails not to hear pious supplications. His sacred remains are venerated in a rich shrine at Imola in the cathedral.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Cassian, Martyr”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 13 August 2016. Web. 26 March 2019. <>