25 February 2007

Ascoli Piceno - Patron Saint

Sant Emidio

The Patron Saint of Ascoli Piceno is Sant Emidio who was the city’s first bishop in the late third century. The legend is that Sant Emidio was such an effective evangelist that the Romans had him beheaded, after which the saint is said to have miraculously picked up his head and carried it to a nearby Christian cemetery for a proper burial. There is a small temple, Tempietto di Sant Emidio Rosso, where he was beheaded, and the grotto where he carried his head has been turned into a fine example of Baroque architecture, Chiesa di Sant Emidio alle Grotte.
Sant Emidio has also been considered the city’s protector against earthquakes since 1703, when earthquakes destroyed many cities in central Italy but Ascoli Piceno was untouched. Many paintings from this time period depict the saint holding up the towers of the city. There is also a story that at the end of World War II when the Germans were fleeing Ascoli they were intent on destroying all of the bridges to the city but that there was an earthquake that frightened them and they fled without finishing this task; an earthquake attributed to Sant Emidio to save the last remaining bridge. In Ascoli Piceno there are many places to visit related to or named after the saint: Duomo di Sant Emidio with the Crypto di Sant Emidio beneath the Duomo, the Tempietto di Sant Emidio Rosso and Chiesa di Sant Emidio alle Grotte already mentioned above, the Fonte di Sant Emidio, and nearby Mount Ascension where tradition states that a Roman Prefect’s daughter who was baptized by the saint leaped to her death to avoid troops sent by her father.

The feast day of Sant Emidio is August 5, the day he was beheaded in 303 AD.

For tours of Ascoli Piceno visit Panorama Italy.

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