Key to Umbria: Todi

Five Patron Saints of Todi

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Patron saints of Todi (1861) by Luigi Sabatini

High altar, San Fortunato

The figures that were relatively recently painted between the arches of the high altar of San Fortunato (illustrated above) depict the five patron saints of Todi:

  1. St Romana;

  2. St Cassian;

  3. St Fortunatus (who has his own page in this site);

  4. St Callistus; and

  5. St Digna.

St Cassian (13th August)

An entry in the Roman Martyrology under 13th August records:

  1. “At Todi in Umbria, St Cassian, bishop and martyr, under Emperor Diocletian”.

According to a legend discovered in the local archives in 1597, Pope Marcellinus appointed St Cassian as bishop of Todi during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian.  He was arrested in the city and subsequently executed in “un carcer ... in modum cisternae subterraneae ... locatae in muro civitas” (in a prison in a subterranean cistern inside the city walls).  This was probably inspired by traditions surrounding the Carcere di San Cassiano (see below).

In fact, St Cassian of Todi is probably a “double” of St Cassian of Imola, with whom he shares a feast day.

St Callistus (14th August)

An entry in the Roman Martyrology under 14th August records:

  1. “At Todi in Umbria, St Callistus, bishop and martyr”.

According to local tradition, St Callistus was the Bishop of Todi in the early 6th century.  He was a staunch opponent of the Arian heresy during the regency of the Gothic Queen Amalasuntha (526-34), and Arian heretics murdered him in 528.   He is credited with the construction of the church of SS Giovanni e Paolo, which was probably the first Duomo of Todi, and which was demolished in 1298 to make way for what is now Piazza Garibaldi.  He is also said to have adapted the Roman cistern known as the Carcere di San Cassiano into an oratory. 

In fact, St Callistus of Todi is probably a “double” of Pope Callistus I, who died in 222 and was venerated as a martyr from at least the 4th century.  (It is probably significant that the feast of St Callistus I falls on October 14th, the feast of St Fortunatus of Todi.)

St Romana (23rd February)

An entry in the Roman Martyrology under 23rd February records: “At Todi in Umbria, St Romana, virgin, who was baptised by Pope St. Sylvester, led a life of holiness in dens and caves, and wrought glorious miracles”.

St Romana was perhaps the sister of St Firmina of Amelia and a daughter of Calpurnius, the Prefect of Rome.  According to her unreliable legend, she left home at the age of 10 and lived in a cave on Monte Soratte, north of Rome, where Pope St Sylvester baptised her.  She later lived in a cave in the Gole del Forello, to the west of Todi.  She died in 324 when only 18 and her relics were apparently preserved in her grotto on Monte Soratte.  This was a site of pilgrimage until 1301, when the relics were moved to San Fortunato.

St Digna (11th August)

An entry in the Roman Martyrology under 11th August records: “At Todi in Umbria, St Digna, virgin”.

St Digna was a virgin from Todi who lived as a hermit near San Faustino, south of Todi in order to escape the persecution of the Emperor Dioceltian.  She was buried there in ca. 303.  Her grave was a site of pilgrimage until 1301, when the relics were moved to San Fortunato. 

Relics of the Five Patron Saints

According to a postscript added to the legend of St Fortunatus, he was buried within the walls of the city in a place called Apentino, in a church dedicated to St Cassian.  The 13th century chronicle entitled “Historia Tudertine Civitatis” asserted that this church was dedicated to both St Cassian and St Callistus, and was in a place called Apeantina. 

This is traditionally identified as the Roman cistern known as the Carcere di San Cassiano, which was later adapted as an oratory dedicated to the saint.  However, as Enrico Menestò and Emore Paoli (referenced below) set out, most scholars doubt that St Cassian of Todi ever existed.  His tradition was probably inspired by a church in Todi dedicated to St Cassian of Imola, whose dies natalis is also 13th August.  The existence of St Callistus of Todi is equally suspect. 

It is more likely that the burial of St Fortunatus took place in an ancient church that stood on the site of what is now the Cappella Gregoriana of San Fortunato, which might well have been originally dedicated to St Cassian of Imola and St Callistus I.  It is certain that the presumed relics of SS Fortunatus, Cassian and Callistus were in this church at the time of its partial demolition in 1296 to make way for the construction of the apse of the new church of of San Fortunato.  Pope Boniface VIII consented to the translation of these relics to the sacristy of the new church in 1297. 

In 1301, Bishop Nicolò Armati translated the relics of the two female saints to San Fortunato:

  1. St Romana, from Monte Soratte: and

  2. St Digna, from San Faustino.

Later in 1301, Boniface VIII granted indulgences to those attending the subsequent translation of the relics of the five saints to the high altar of the new church.  It is likely that this was an important source of finance for the subsequent phases of its construction.

The high altar was removed in 1580, when Bishop Angelo Cesi commissioned the remodelling of the apse and the construction of the crypt below.  In 1596, when this work was complete, he orchestrated the translation of the relics of these five saints to this new sarcophagus (1593) in the crypt after a procession through the city that lasted for three hours.   (The relics of the Blessed Jacopone da Todi were also translated to the crypt in this ceremony).

This inscription near the sarcophagus records:

  1. the translation by Bishop Nicolò Armati in 1301;

  2. the recognition by Bishop Angelo Cesi in 1580; and

  3. the translation by Bishop Angelo Cesi in 1596.

Read more:

M. Castrichini et al. (eds), “Il Tempio del Santo Patrono: Riflessi Storico-Artistici del Culto di San Fortunato a Todi”, (1988) Todi contains two particularly articles relevant to St Cassian:

  1. E. Menestò, “ ‘Nec Fortunati Tudertini Acta Silenda’: Appunti tra Storia e Agiografia”, pp 7-34

  2. E. Paoli, “ ‘Nobile Depositum Tuderti’: Il Culto e il Tempio di San Fortunato nella Vita Religiose di Todi”, pp 35-66

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