Martyr Saint (Spire of the Milanese)

Santo Martire (Guglia dei Milanesi)
Martyr comes from the Greek verb amartanein which means “to witness”. A martyr is a witness of something, also via the ultimate sacrifice. From the time when Milan became the capital of the Western Roman Empire, the city saw dozens of martyrs in its streets and squares, i.e. witnesses in the broadest sense of the term. Milanese Christianity had its martyrs right from the 3rd century. These included Calimerius, the fourth bishop of the city, on whose tomb a church was built that still exists today: the church of St. Calimerius, a splendid neo-Romanesque style basilica, where the effigy of the saint can be admired, so worn by time that Calimerius has a frowning expression. Certainly better known are Gervasius and Protasius, whose relics were found by Ambrose, and who lie alongside him in the Church of St. Ambrose. They were the sons of two saints, Vitalis and Valeria, Milanese who had moved to Ravenna, who also underwent martyrdom like Ursicinus, a friend of theirs originating from Liguria who was a doctor and practiced the profession in Ravenna. Subsequently Ambrose also found what were assumed to be the bodies of Nazarius and Celsus, another two Milanese martyrs, but very soon it became evident that the identification was incorrect and that the period during which they had lived was not even known. No matter. Before becoming the capital, Milan had undergone the persecution of the pagans, and it now glorified its martyrs. Nazarius and Celsus were master and pupil, both Christians. They travelled around Europe preaching and fleeing from arrest, but in the end were captured in Milan where they were beheaded and buried. It was once again Ambrose who discovered saints Vitalis and Agricola, and organised a great procession to transfer them from Bologna to Milan, and it was also Ambrose who brought to light an illustrious Milanese martyr, Victor. He was an African soldier who, together with his fellow soldiers Nabor and Felix, underwent martyrdom for not having recanted his faith at the time of the emperor Maximinianus Herculius. He was imprisoned several times but managed to escape. He was arrested again and beheaded. Due to his suffering in prison, he is now the patron saint of prisoners. These were the first of a long series of martyrs witnessed by the city. No less important are those who died in the Piazza Fontana massacre, the Jews deported from railway platform 21, men and women who lost their lives for the city. Today they are all represented by this statue, a symbol of Milanese martyrs, ensuring that they are not forgotten.