On this day in 1859, the French Government passed a law to set the A-note above middle C to a frequency of 435 Hz, in an attempt to standardize the pitch, after complaints by sopranos that the constantly-rising pitch of the orchestras of the day was cramping their style. Altos testified that the sopranos had no style, but the basses and tenors in Parliament merely laughed.
Our eastern saint today is Romanus the New Martyr (d. 1694). (He is also celebrated on January 5, but it’s too late for that, so here he is on his other feast day.) Romanus was illiterate and from Karpenisi, although there’s no reason to hold either of those against him. On a pilgrimage to Jerusalem he learned about martyrdom, and decided that was the life (well, death) for him. He hastened to Thessaloniki, where he told the judge that Islam was risible, and called Muhammad names. “This ought to do it,” he thought. They tortured him a bit, then turned him over to the admiral of the fleet, thinking a spot of rowing would probably finish him off. After a short while, though, some Christians bribed the captain of his ship, and hustled him off to Mount Athos. There he pined for martyrdom, and after his abbot had a vision (we shudder to think of the contents), he let him go to seek his (mis)fortune.
He then went to Constantinople where he adopted a stray dog, leading him around on a leash and telling anybody who asked, including the Vizier, that he fed his dog the way the Christians fed the Turks. (I don’t get it either.) He was seized and tossed into a dry well, where he fasted (somewhat involuntarily) for 40 days (and nights; I’ve always wondered why it’s necessary to say “and nights” as if you could have a string of days without them). Seeing this didn’t work, they hauled him out and took him off to behead him. All along the way he greeted Christians he saw and joyfully told them he was going to a wedding, not an execution. They said (approximately), “Um, yeah.” After his death his body glowed for three days, then was purchased (for 500 piasters, back when 500 piasters could actually buy you something) by an Englishman, who took it to England. A cloth soaked with his blood is kept at the Monastery of Docheiariou on the Holy Mountain, although our sources don’t mention any miracles associated with it.
Our western saint today is Juliana of Nicomedia (d. ca. 304). Born of pagan parents and betrothed at a young age to Eleusius, a Roman Senator, she secretly converted to Christianity while nobody was looking. When it came time for her to marry Eleusius, she refused. Thinking maybe she wanted somebody of a higher station, Eleusius spent a good deal of money and political capital to become governor, and pressed his suit again (it was quite wrinkly by then). Juliana demanded that he first convert to Christianity, saying, “It is impossible for our bodies to be united while our souls are at war,” which I’m sure you’ll agree is a great line.
The governor (which is to say, Eleusius) ordered her stripped and flogged and subjected to the usual panoply of gruesome tortures. After each round she was miraculously healed and strengthened for the next. (I think personally I’d rather just be tortured once and die and get it over with. I’d probably make a lousy martyr.) After demonstrating his love in this way, Eleusius said, “Tell you what, if you marry me I’ll let you go on being a Christian and worshipping with them.” Hope springs eternal, I guess. She was also taunted and tormented by the Devil, although he apparently had no desire to marry her. Eventually she was beheaded. She was 18. Eleusius went on to a kind of fame when he was shipwrecked and eaten by a lion. For reasons I am completely unable to fathom, Juliana is patroness of childbirth.
This Day in History for 16th February (History Orb)
Concert pitch (Wikipedia)
Saint Romanos the New Martyr of Karpenesion – Main source
The Prologue of Ohrid (book on paper)
Juliana of Nicomedia (Wikipedia) – Main Source
St. Juliana (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Patron saints of ailments, illness and dangers (Wikipedia)
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