Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian, Martyrs

detail of the painting 'Saint Crispin and Saint Crispian', 1669 by Julien Quintin, brotherhood shoemakers; chapel of Notre-Dame de Châteaulin, Finistère, Brittany, France; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

The festival of the two holy Martyrs, Crispin and Crispinian is celebrated on the 25th of this month; but we give their history today, because that of Saints Chrysanthus and Daria was sufficient for yesterday’s reading. According to the testimony of the Roman Martyrology, these two Saints were brothers, of a noble family of Rome. Not contented that they themselves had been educated in Christianity, they endeavored also to win others to the true faith. With this intention they went to Soissons in France, and to be better concealed from the persecutors of Christianity, they learned to make shoes, hoping that this would give them better opportunities to become acquainted with the heathens and to convert them to Christianity. Their hopes were not deceived. They were so clever in making their shoes, asked either no pay at all, or very little for their work, and treated every one so politely and kindly, that they were universally beloved and esteemed. They forgot not, however, their principal object, but whenever it was possible they spoke with those, who came to them, of religion, and exposing the blindness of heathenism, they explained the truth of Christianity with so much success, that they converted more infidels than others did with long sermons.

The two holy brothers continued thus undisturbed in their apostolic labors, until, after the lapse of several years, some hardened idolaters were informed of it, who immediately went to the Emperor Maximian, and denounced them as enemies of the gods and disturbers of the old religion. The Emperor sent a written order to the prefect Rictiovarus to imprison Crispin and Crispin- ian and duly to punish them. Rictiovarus had both brothers brought before him, asked whence they came, and why they sojourned in Soissons. They answered: “We are noble Romans, and compassion for the blinded people, who by worshipping false gods, would make themselves for ever unhappy, brought us hither. We have endeavored to show them the way of salvation by bringing them to the knowledge of the only true God of heaven and earth.” The prefect, incensed at this speech, menaced them with most horrible tortures if they refused to deny their God and to sacrifice to the idols. “We do not fear your menaces,” said the holy brothers; “it is our desire to suffer for Christ’s sake.” Rictiovarus, unwilling to contend any longer with them, ordered them be to put upon the rack, and to be severely scourged; after which, sharp irons were driven between their finger-nails and the flesh, and large pieces cut out of their backs. During this terrible martyrdom, the holy men called to heaven for grace and help, and God sent an Angel to them, who took the irons out of their fingers. The tyrant, not being able to comprehend how this was done, after the custom of the heathens, ascribed it to magic and became still more angry. Without loss of time he had a large cauldron brought and filled with melted lead, into which he ordered both the holy martyrs to be thrown, not doubting that they would thus die a most painful death. But the same God who had manifested His power in so many other dreadful martyrdoms, showed also in these two brothers, that His arm had not lost its strength. Crispin and Crispinian sat quietly in the cauldron, without any signs of suffering, and with a loud voice praised God. Rictiovarus became almost beside himself with rage, but had to pay dearly for his cruelty; for when he went near to see if they were not practising some deceit, a drop of the molten lead struck his eye and gave him indescribable pain. Notwithstanding this, he would not relent, but ordered an immense fire to be built and both the Saints to be cast into it. The Angel, however, who had already miraculously assisted them, brought them unharmed out of the flames. Hereupon, as some writers affirm, Rictiovarus became like one who had lost his senses and in despair threw himself into the fire, thus miserably perishing, both body and soul.

The Emperor, when informed of this, gave orders that the fearless brothers should be beheaded. The saints, rejoicing at this sentence, knelt down at the place of execution and received the stroke which set their souls free. Their holy bodies were left a prey to wild beasts, in accordance with the imperial command; but they remained untouched, till some courageous Christians carried them during the night from the place of execution and buried them with due reverence. How pleased God was with the zeal and constancy of these holy brothers. He has manifested to the whole world by many miracles wrought at their tombs.

Practical Considerations

• What will not be done through love of God and the desire to win souls for heaven? The two brothers, Crispin and Crispinian, not able to convert infidels by preaching, learn the shoemaker’s trade, and thus try to find opportunities to speak kindly to the heathen, make them acquainted with Christian truth, and show them the way to heaven. Have you ever endeavored to exhort your neighbors to do good or to restrain them from evil? Alas! have not your conversations sometimes restrained others from doing good and led them to sin? It is a fact, that evil conversation corrupts good manners, while good conversation may do much to amend evil manners. Examine yourself today and see what conversation you are accustomed to have with others. Repent where you have done wrong, and make the resolution that you will not only yourself abstain from sinful discourses, but will also prevent others from indulging in them in your presence. If you remember that, by your frivolous speeches, you have given others occasion to sin, seek now to do good by your edifying discourses. “Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth, but that which is good to the edification of faith”; admonishes Saint Paul. (Ephesians 4) This, as Saint Chrysostom explains, means: speak only that which is not sinful, and which serves to edify others. “Let all bitterness,” continues Saint Paul, “all anger, indignation and clamor and blasphemy be put away from you.” The meaning of this is, that you should abstain from all sinful speeches, as bitter, angry, indignant and blasphemous words. Saint Clement of Alexandria writes: “We ought entirely to abstain from all sinful speeches; and those who indulge in them we should silence by an earnest or averted face, or by a sharp reproof.”

• Do you not think that Rictiovarus, the prefect, acted very foolishly when, in his rage, he cast himself into the fire, and thus miserably ended his life? But will you not act just as foolishly, if, by sin, you throw yourself wantonly into the fire of hell, where your body and your soul will be ceaselessly tormented? Our two holy martyrs rather allowed themselves to be cast into the fire, than offend God by forsaking the true faith. How wisely they acted! Had they done the contrary, they would have been in danger of being precipitated into fire which is never extinguished. You are not threatened with fire or with molten lead, and yet you offend the Almighty, who menaces you with an unquenchable fire. Is not that a sign that you either do not believe in hell, or that you have lost your reason? Consider your dreadful folly, and correct it. It will be very useful to you to think frequently of hell and of the fire which is never extinguished; for the thought of this is an efficient means to save you from it, because it will keep you from committing sin. Saint Chrysostom writes: “None of those, who often think of hell, will lose their souls; while, on the contrary, none of those, who do not heed hell, will escape it. How many discard all thought of hell, not to be disturbed in their sinful conduct, and by so doing, precipitate themselves into the eternal flames! Hence, I beg of you, think frequently of hell, as it will prevent you from doing wrong.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian, Martyrs”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 20 May 2018. Web. 16 December 2018. <>