Key to Umbria: Trevi

St Emilianus of Trevi (28th January)

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Gilded wooden statue (1753)

of St Emilianus enthroned

Two copies of the "Passio Sancti Miliani" (BHL 0107) survive:

  1. a copy (9th century) in the Abbazzia di Montecassino; and

  2. a copy (12th century) in the Leggendari del Duomo.

According to this legend, St Emilianus came from Armenia to Spoleto in the reign of the Emperor Maximian (286-305).  They were aware that the Christians of nearby “Civitas Lucana” did not have a bishop so they recommended St Emilianus for the position.  They duly arranged for an unknown pope to consecrate St Emilianus as their bishop.

St Emilianus was subsequently arrested and tortured in an attempt to force him to renounce his faith.  Among the tortures that he survived:

  1. he was thrown into a river called “Cleoton” with a stone to weigh him down, but emerged from the water;

  2. he was thrown to wild animals, but the lions licked his face and the leopards lay at his feet;

  3. he was summoned to the theatre and then taken to a high place where he was tied to a wheel, but the bonds released themselves and the wheel sped downhill, killing some of the onlookers.

He was finally tied to an olive tree at a place outside Civitas Lucana called Carpiani, where he was beheaded.

Scholars have identified:

  1. Civitas Lucana as the ancient settlement below modern Trevi, near the church of Santa Maria di Pietrarossa;

  2. the river Cleoton as the Clitumnus; and

  3. Carpiani as nearby Bovara, the site of an ancient olive tree that is traditionally associated with the execution of St Emilianus.  

Cult of St Emilianus

The original location of the relics of St Emilianus is unknown, although they may well have been preserved in Sant’ Emiliano.  The Spoletans destroyed Trevi in 1214, and it seems likely that this provided the opportunity for them to seize the relics.  They were certainly there before 1296, when St Emilianus was mentioned in the statutes of Spoleto alongside the other patron saints of that city. 

The disaster of 1214 did not wipe out the memory of the cult of St Emilianus in Trevi.  The present church of Sant’ Emiliano there was first documented in 1226, soon after the city was rebuilt.  The Processione dell' Illuminata, in which a statue of St Emilianus is taken in procession each year on his feast day was documented in the earliest surviving the statutes of Trevi (1417-31).  This procession still follows the line of the inner walls of Trevi, and is thus believed to date back to a time before 1264, when the outer walls were built.   (The present gilded wooden statue that is used in the procession  - illustrated above - was commissioned in 1753).

In 1660, during work to lower the floor of the presbytery of the Duomo, Spoleto some relics were discovered along with an inscription that identified them as those of St Emilianus.  They were translated to Sant' Emiliano, Trevi in 1935 and are now in the right aisle of this church.

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