Genesius of Rome
Saint Genesius of Rome
|Actor & martyr|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church|
|Major shrine||Church of Santa Susanna,|
|Patronage||Actors, clowns, comedians, comics, converts, dancers, musicians, stenographers, printers, lawyers, epileptics, thieves, torture victims|
Genesius of Rome is a legendary Christian saint, once a comedian and actor who had performed in plays that mocked Christianity. According to legend, while performing in a play that made fun of baptism, he had an experience on stage that converted him. He proclaimed his new belief, and he steadfastly refused to renounce it, even when the emperor Diocletian ordered him to do so.
Genesius is considered the patron saint of actors, lawyers, barristers, clowns, comedians, converts, dancers, people with epilepsy, musicians, printers, stenographers, and victims of torture. His feast day is August 25.
One day Genesius, leader of a theatrical troupe in Rome, was performing before the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Intending to expose Christian religious rites to ridicule by his audience, he pretended to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.
As the play continued, however, Genesius suddenly lay on the stage as if very ill. Two performers asked what was wrong. Genesius said he felt as if a weight was on his chest and he wanted it removed. Two actors, dressed as a priest and exorcist, were called on stage. He said he had had a vision of angels bearing a book listing all of his sins. The "priest" asked, "My child, why did you send for me?" Genesius said he could still see angels and asked to be baptized right there. The "priest" did so. Enraged, Diocletian had him arrested and sent to Plautia, prefect of the praetorium, to be tortured. Despite his agonies, Genesius persisted in his faith, and he was finally ordered to be beheaded.
Burial and legacy
Genesius is said to have been buried in the Cemetery of St. Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina. His relics are claimed to be kept in San Giovanni della Pigna, Santa Susanna di Termini, and the chapel of St. Lawrence. His legend was dramatized in the fifteenth century. It was embodied later in the oratorio "Polus Atella" of Löwe, and more recently in a play by Weingartner. The accuracy of the Acts, dating from the seventh century, is very questionable, though it was defended by Tillemont (Mémoires, IV s. v. Genesius). Nevertheless, Genesius was venerated at Rome as early as the Fourth Century. A church was built in his honor, and it was repaired and beautified by Pope Gregory III in 741. A gold glass portrait of him dating to the Fourth Century also exists.
Origins of the legend
The legend of Genesius of Rome originated with the historical Genesius of Arles, a notary who died as a martyr in about 303 AD under the Emperor Maximianus. As his cult spread to Rome, he was presumed to be a Roman martyr and buried in that city. Later, this mistaken belief helped create an entirely fictional tale, which turned him into a comedian who converted to Christianity while performing an anti-Christian satire and was beheaded for his faith. This version had begun by at least the 6th century. A similar tale was told about Gelasius of Heliopolis.
The veneration of St Genesius continues today, and the actor-martyr is considered the patron of actors and acting societies, including those that assist actors. The British Catholic Stage Guild regards him as their patron saint, and the Shrine of St. Genesius in Saint Malachy's Roman Catholic Church in the New York City Borough of Manhattan, serves as a spiritual landmark for the city's acting community. As the patron saint of epilepsy, many thus afflicted turn to him for his help. Because he is associated with stagecraft, Genesius is also venerated by stage magicians and illusionists. He is one of the patrons of the Catholic Magicians' Guild.
A Genesian Theatre in Sydney, Australia hosts six seasons each year and is the centre of a vibrant amateur acting community. Other amateur companies around the world also use his name, including the Genesius Guild of Hammond, Indiana, which hosts an average of four productions each year and an annual children's theater camp, the Genesius Theater of Reading, Pennsylvania, basis for the Lincoln Center production of Douglas Carter Beane's "Shows for Days" starring Patti LuPone. Genesius Studios, a film production company in New York, New York founded by a group of traveling actors, whose slogan is "Freedom of Thought" and whose focus is producing motion pictures with wayward, lost protagonists and anti-heroes who often find something inside themselves worth standing for in tales of self-discovery, hubris and redemption, among other notably relative themes, and the Genesius Guild and Foundation in the Quad Cities in the United States, which focuses on classical Greek Drama.
- Saint Genesius of Rome
- Mershman, Francis. "Genesius." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 25 Jan. 2013
- Grig, Lucy, "Portraits, Pontiffs and the Christianization of Fourth-Century Rome", p. 219, Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 72, (2004), pp. 203–230, JSTOR
- David Hugh Farmer, Oxford Dictionary of Saints. Fifth Edition (Revised). (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 180.
- J. C. Cooper, ed. Dictionary of Christianity, page 104.
- Bunson, Margaret; Bunson, Matthew; Bunson, Stephen (1 January 2003). Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Saints (Revised ed.). Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. p. 352. ISBN 978-1931709750. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- Fraternity of St Genesius