St. Alexander

S. Alessandro
Alexander, patron saint of the city of Bergamo, is traditionally portrayed dressed as a Roman soldier with a banner bearing a white fleur-de-lis. The banner was that of the Theban Legion of St. Maurice (a Roman legion consisting, according to legend, of only Egyptian soldiers of the Thebaide region) in which Alexander was, according to the Acts of Martyrdom, century commander. In 301, the Roman legion, used mainly in the east, was moved west to counter the attacks of the Quadi and the Marcomanni. During the crossing of the Valais River, the legion was ordered to search for Christians against whom persecution had been unleashed. The legionaries, who were also Christians, refused and were punished for their insubordination through decimation carried out at Agaunum (current day St. Moritz). Decimation consisted of killing one man every ten. As the legionaries continued to refuse to persecute the Christians, a second decimation was ordered and, later, the emperor ordered the massacre. Very few survived, among whom Alexander, Cassius, Severinus, Secundus and Licinius, who sought shelter in Italy. However, in Milan, Alexander was recognized and placed in prison, where he refused to recant. While incarcerated, he received the visit of St. Fidelis and the bishop St. Maternus. It was precisely St. Fidelis who managed to arrange Alexander’s escape to Como, where he was captured again. He was brought back to Milan and sentenced to death by decapitation. However, during the execution, the executioner's arms would become stiff. He was therefore thrown in prison again. He managed to escape once more and reached Bergamo passing through Fara Gera d'Adda and Capriate. In Bergamo, he was taken in by Prince Crotacio, who recommended he hide. But Alexander began preaching and converting many citizens of Bergamo, amongst whom the martyrs Fermus and Rusticus. He was therefore discovered and captured yet again and publically beheaded on August 26th, 303, where the church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna now stands. Alexander was most likely a Roman soldier, native or resident of Bergamo, tortured and killed for not having renounced his Christian faith.