September 3 Saints of the Day – Anthimus of Nicomedia and Guala of Brescia

On this day in 301, San Marino, one of the smallest nations in the world and the world’s oldest republic still in existence, was founded by Saint Marinus. The landlocked nation sports no marinas and few mariners, but that’s linguistics for you.

Anthimus of NicomediaAnthimus of Nicomedia (d. 303 or ca. 311) was the bishop of Nicomedia when he imperial court in that city suffered a fire of unknown origin. The Christians, naturally, were blamed, and on the feast of the Nativity of Christ (whether December 25 or some other day, we will not get into), 20,000 Christians were martyred in the church. (An uncommonly large church for the fourth century, but stranger things have happened. Perhaps it was larger on the inside than on the outside, like, say, Snoopy’s doghouse.) At the request of his (remaining) flock, Anthimus went into hiding in nearby Omana (if it doesn’t say “Omana,” it’s not — never mind).

Anthimus sent letters encouraging the brethren and sistren back home, but eventually his mailman was caught. The latter did not, however, even under torture unto death, betray the bishop’s whereabouts — but somebody did, as the emperor (Maximinus or a different one) eventually learned of it. Soldiers were sent to fetch Anthimus, who went out to meet them and fed them a nice meal before revealing who he was.

“Ack, we can’t report you, you’re such a nice guy,” they said. “We’ll send back a message saying you got away or something.” Anthimus wouldn’t hear of it. “That would be like lying,” he said. “You’ll have to do your job. Besides, what’s martyrdom to a Christian?” He explained the faith to them, and they believed and were baptized.

When they got to emperor, he had the torture implements all set out for Anthimus to see. “You’re trying to frighten me, aren’t you?” our hero said. “Bah. Execution is only frightening to cowards, who think this world is what’s important. Do your worst.” The emperor did his worst, and Anthimus followed so many of his followers into glory.

Guala of BresciaBlessed Guala of Brescia (d. 1244) (aka William of Bergamo) was one of the first disciples of Dominic of Dominican fame, and was monkified by the great man himself, who made him prior in Bergamo. Guala served on a committee tasked with building a convent in Bologna, but as with most building projects directed by committees, this one ran late and over budget (seriously), so Guala was made prior in Brescia. One day he fell asleep leaning his head against the bell tower (not sure why this detail is important), and saw a vision of two ladders, our Lord atop one and our Lady atop the other. Angels were going up and down the ladders (as angels will). A Dominican friar, face covered, stood at the bottom and was carried up to heaven. Guala awoke and hotfooted it to Bologna, where he knew Dominic was lying ill. There he learned that Dominic had died at the very hour of his vision.

After that it was only natural that he become a diplomat, and he brokered many peace deals (not all of which fell through due to treachery of one or the other party) between neighboring cities, both before and after he became bishop. In one instance the Emperor Frederick II besieged Brescia, whose city fathers had remained loyal to the Pope when Freddie hadn’t, but Guala did something or other (vague sources are so frustrating) that raised the siege within three months.

He was described as having great prudence, accomplished manners, and a level of holiness that enabled him to perform wonders, both before and after his death. These attributes endeared him to his flock, but not to the jealous local politicos (ingrates) or clergy. When he heard the latter were trying to privatize diocesan property, he had the deeds moved to Bologna for safekeeping. This may have been the straw that broke the cliché’s back, and he was forced into retirement not long after. He took up a hermit’s life (which hermit’s life, we aren’t told), and died peacefully at the monastery of San Sepolcro d’Astino.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

September 3 (Wikipedia)
Hieromartyr Anthimus the Bishop of Nicomedia (OCA) – Main source
Anthimus of Nicomedia (Wikipedia)
Image of Anthimus from Wikimedia (Public domain according to this rule) – It is well worth going to see the original image from which this is a detail.
Blessed Guala of Brescia (St. Patrick DC) – Main source
Butler’s Lives of the Saints: September (book on paper)
Image of Guala from (copyright unknown)