St. Victor

S. Vittore
If the appellative did not risk sounding too light and irreverent, we could say that St. Ambrose was one of the most effective “talent scouts” in history. Digging, literally, into the history of Milan, he discovered illustrious figures that honored the diocese at the head of which he so suddenly found himself. And like any good “scout,” he also knew how to “launch” his favorites with every means of publicity available at the time, especially traditional feasts, sacred hymns and monuments. One of St. Ambrose's discovers was precisely St. Victor, of whom he spoke at length in his Explanatio Evangelii Secundum Lucam and in the hymn Victor, Nabor, Felix Pii. The other “historical” sources from which we learn about the life but especially about the martyrdom of St. Victor are the Acts, that date back to the 8th century. Victor, Nabor and Felix were three Mauritanian soldiers stationed in Milan. Forced, like other fellow soldiers in the militia and in faith, to choose between the emperor and God, their choice was clear and firm. But his conscientious objection caused Victor to be arrested and placed in solitary confinement. After leaving him without food or water for six days in the attempt to wear down his resistance, he was dragged into the circus hippodrome (where Porta Ticinese was later erected). Despite the fact that the interrogation was being carried out personally by Maximian Hercules and his advisor Anulinus, Victor solidly refused to make a sacrifice to the gods, and continued to do so even after a severe flagellation. Brought back to prison, where Porta Romana now stands, St. Victor continued to suffer torture: among other things, they poured molten lead into his wounds. Yet the spirit of the African soldier was never broken. Quite the opposite: one day, taking advantage of his jailor's carelessness, he managed to escape and hide in a cattle shed near a theater, in the area where Porta Vercellina is now located. But his wandering days were soon over: once he was discovered, he was dragged in a nearby elm-wood and decapitated. His body remained unburied for a week but was found still intact by the bishop St. Maternus while being faithfully watched over by two wild beasts. A sumptuous tomb was then built for him, alongside which St. Ambrose wanted his brother Satiro to be buried. St. Victor is one of the most beloved saints of the people of Milan, after whom they have built and named churches and monuments, the most infamous being the prison of San Vittore. After all, he is the patron saint of prisoners and exiles.