Patron Saint of Murderers

Today the church honors a 4th Century saint who is more story than history, and yet that story is interesting and has lasted the ages: Saint Julian the Hospitaller, Patron Saint of Traveling Musicians, Innkeepers, Hunters, and yes, Murderers.

Saint Julian’s life is not verifiable at all, but as the story goes his parents were informed that ancient magicians put a curse on him the day he was born, and he was destined to kill his parents.

It’s a good opener, right?

Saint Julian’s father wanted to be rid of him, but his mother wouldn’t hear of it. She raised him and, when he was ten years old, told him of the prophetic curse upon him. An alternative twist said that while he was out hunting on his tenth birthday a white stag informed him of this terrible fate (which, honestly, is a better plotline if you ask me).

In either case, however he found out, Saint Julian swore that he’d never do such a thing and went on a pilgrimage, staying with whomever would share room on their floor with him. Growing in age on the road, he got as far a Galicia and found a wealthy widow who stole his heart.

Now, as happenstance has it, his parents went on a journey and also found themselves in Galicia some years later. Tired from their journey, they found a home and asked for lodging. The young woman let them in, noting that her husband, Julian, was out hunting and would be back that night. Overjoyed that they had found their long-lost son, the couple stayed the night.

Julian, arriving late from hunting, found two heads in the bed that was his and, in a fearful rage, slaughtered the occupants.

It was his parents (cue ominous music).

From that moment on Saint Julian swore that he would dedicate his life to charitable works, trying to repay the terrible debt he had incurred upon humanity. They went on another pilgrimage together, this time to Rome, and continued to travel until they came to a large river. There they created a hospice center for those with incurable diseases, and Saint Julian was said to help them, “cross the river.”

That language, of course, is purposeful. In Christian the story “crossing the river” is a way to note that you’re walking people through death to life everlasting.

Despite being more robust lore than real, Saint Julian remains an interesting character to me. Of greatest note, at least in my estimation, is the idea that even those who have done the worst in life can lead a meaningful existence in time.

Saint Julian is a reminder for me, and should be for he whole church, that even the worst in us can be redeemed, by God.

-information gleaned from Daily Magic by Judika Illes and public sources.

-painting by Franz Marc depicting Saint Julian on a hunt

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