St. Julian

S. Giuliano
St. Julian the Hospitaller is the patron saint of the city of Macerata and is portrayed everywhere there as the central or secondary figure in churches, on the city entry gates along the walls, in paintings housed in the picture gallery, on the ancient university seal, on commemorative municipal medals as well as on seigniorial palaces and banners. The oldest known image of him, riding a horse, dates back to 1326, and is a wooden sculpture that was once in the main Fountain and now adorns the entrance hall of the municipal picture gallery. The most spectacular is in the Church of the Virgins, where he is depicted holding a model of the city in the palm of his hand. The most modern is in the cycle that decorates the presbytery arch of the Duomo where, during the 1930s, the story of his redemption following a tragically incredible event is depicted in a fresco. Gustave Flaubert had already written a novel about Saint Julien l'Hospitalier, painting a black picture of this Flemish youth who was a violent hunting enthusiast, and an untiring horseman with such a vindictive character that he did not hesitate to kill his parents laying in his bed, thinking they were his wife and her presumed lover. Then came a life of atonement and prayer dedicated to welcoming the poor and ferrying pilgrims from one bank to another of a perilous river. Nonetheless, there are quite a few doubts regarding the identity of this saint, partly expressed also by the curia of Macerata and that a journey to Paris to compare the story of the St. Julian, to whom the Duomo of Macerata is dedicated, with that of the twin church of Saint Julien-le Pauvre in the Latin quarter, was not able to clarify entirely. The Parisian church, built by the Benedictines between 1170 and 1240 upon the original 6th century chapel dedicated to Saint Julien-l'Hospitalier, was one of the approximately twenty churches built around Notre Dame, all of which have disappeared, except for that one. Located in the heart of the 12th and 14th century university center, it was a meeting place for students and masters, when classes were held in the open air, and within its walls the assembly would meet to elect the Rector Magnificus. It appears that here Dante listened to the lectures by Sigieri and that it was definitely attended by Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas and Petrarch, and later by Villon and Rabelais. Only when the colleges of Montagne Sainte Geneviève were built nearby, including mainly the Sorbonne, the church lost its importance. As for the saint after whom it is named, popular fame always combined the historical Julian with the hospitaller, so much so that, portrayed as a ferryman, he appears standing on a boat in a medieval bas-relief lodged in façade number 42 of Rue de Galande, beside the church. In the nearby garden that separates it from the Seine and the right side of the imposing Notre Dame, the outer portion of a recently built bronze fountain is decorated with a cascade of the salient facts of his life. However, the booklet published by the Greek-Melkite parish and the priest who was consulted tend to identify the saint as being St. Julian the martyr of Brioude. The legendary Julian, to whom the people gave the name “hospitaller,” making him de facto a patron saint also in the church in Paris, would be the usurper of the title and, in any case, as the attentive custodian also confirms, is not recognized by the church authority. A fine dilemma for all the French, Italian and Spanish churches that have chosen him as their patron saint. And what about the relic of the left arm preserved in the Duomo of Macerata? Who does that belong to? The miraculous recovery occurred on January 6th, 1442, and the notarial deed describing it is registered in the priory archives while the bones, after having been moved several times, are preserved in a silver urn chiseled by the goldsmith Domenico Piani. What counts is that in the name of the patron saint, whether real or possible, cultural interests and events combine to show the deep-rooted “hospitality” of the city. This is what the committee of “Friends of St. Julian” thinks, established with an active spirit not so much for receiving official acknowledgment but rather to promote in its name, especially in such anguishing times, the value of welcoming others. On January 14th, 2001, resuming an age-old tradition, a bright star was raised to the sky in honor of the saint and his story was told throughout the streets of the city, almost like a town crier, by actor Giorgio Pietroni, while songs of Pasquella - that wish good luck for the year to come and invite all to prepare for the Easter that is approaching – resounded for the joyous continuation of an event that would have lasted too little if it had ended on the Twelfth Night (January 6th). He is not mentioned in the Roman Martyrology, while the Bibliotheca Sanctorum places him on January 29th. He is the patron saint of the diocese and city of Macerata, which celebrate him on August 31st.