Vincent of Saragossa

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St Vincent polyptich

Saint Vincent of Saragossa, born at Huesca and martyred under Diocletian, traditionally January 22, 304, is the patron saint of Portugal. He was originally from Zaragoza in Spain (Saragossa in English) and is also known as Saint Vincent the Deacon. The title "deacon" (diakonos) means only minister or servant. See entry Deacon.

Vincent served as the deacon of Saint Valerius, bishop of Saragossa. Imprisoned in Valencia for his faith, and tortured on a gridiron — a story perhaps adapted from the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence— Vincent, like many early martyrs in the early hagiographic literature, succeeded in converting his jailer. Though he was finally offered release if he would consign Scripture to the fire, Vincent refused. The earliest account of Vincent's martyrdom is in a carmina (lyric poem) written by the poet Prudentius, (348 – after 405), who wrote a series of lyric poems, Peristephanon ("Crowns of Martyrdom"), on Spanish and Roman martyrs. Prudentius describes how Vincent was brought to trial along with his bishop Valerius, and that since Valerius had a speech impediment, Vincent spoke for both, but that his outspoken fearless manner so angered the governor that Vincent was tortured and martyred, though his aged bishop was only exiled. Three elaborated hagiographies, all based ultimately on a lost 5th century Passion, circulated in the Middle Ages.

Though Vincent's tomb in Valencia became the earliest center of his cult (it has been the subject of recent archeological research), he was also honored at his birthplace and his reputation spread from Saragossa. The city of Oviedo in Asturias grew about the church dedicated to Saint Vincent. Beyond the Pyrenees, he was venerated first at Régimond near Béziers, and at Narbonne. Castres became an important stop on the international pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela when the relics of Vincent were transferred to its new abbey-church dedicated to Saint Benoit from Saragosse in 863, under the patronage of Salomon, count of Cerdagne.

When the Catholic bishops of Visigothic Spain succeeded in converting King Reccared (586 - 601) and his nobles to Trinitarian Christianity they built the cathedral of Cordoba in honor of St Vincent the Deacon. When the Moors came, in 711, the church was razed and its materials incorporated in the Mezquita, the "Great Mosque" of Cordoba.

The Cape Verde island of Săo Vicente was named to honor him.

St Vincent the Deacon is also the patron of vintners and vinegar-makers. His feast day is January 22nd.

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