Sts. Chrysanthus and Daria were Roman martyrs, buried on the Via Salaria Nova, and whose tombs, according to the testimony of the itinerary guides to the tombs of the Roman martyrs, were publicly venerated (De Rossi, “Roma Sotterranea”, I, 176).
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A church erected over the tomb was situated near that of St. Saturninus, which was built over the catacomb of Thraso (coemeterium Thrasonis ad S. Saturnium). Their tomb was in fact in a disused sandpit (arenaria) near this catacomb. The two martyrs were revered in Rome in the fourth century, as the appearance of their names in the “Martyrologium Hieronymianum” proves.
The existing Acts of these Martyrs are without historical value; they did not originate until the fifth century, and are compiled in two texts–a longer one, written originally in Greek, but afterwards translated into Latin, and a shorter one in Latin. The historical notices of Chrysanthus and Daria in the so-called historical martyrologies of the West, as in the Greek synaxaria, go back to the legend which makes Chrysanthus the son of the noble Polemius of Alexandria.
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He came to Rome with his father and was converted by the presbyter Carpophorus. Everything was done to make him apostatize. Daria, a beautiful and very intelligent Vestal, entered into relations with him, but she herself was won over to the Christian Faith by Chrysanthus, and both concluded a virginal matrimonial union. Many Romans and Roman ladies were converted by these, among them the Tribune Claudius, his wife Hilaria and two sons Maurus and Jason, all of whom, with the exception of the mother, suffered martyrdom. Chrysanthus and Daria were themselves condemned to death, led to a sandpit in the Via Salaria, and there stoned to death.
This legend is evidently connected with a number of Roman martyrs, whose tombs were venerated in the catacombs of the Via Salaria, near those of Chrysanthus and Daria. The story, apart from the assured fact of their martyrdom and the veneration of their tombs, has, perhaps, some historical value, in assigning the date to the reign of the Emperor Numerianus (283-84). As this ruler was never in Rome, some historians believe (for instance, Allard; see below) that the name is Valerianus, and transfer the martyrdom to the persecution under this emperor. But perhaps the name of Numerianus ought to be adhered to, and the origin of this indication is to be found in the legend of an Oriental martyr having the same name. There is another martyrdom closely connected with the tomb of the two saints, which is related at the end of the Acts of these martyrs. After the death of the Chrysantus and Daria, when many of the faithful of Rome were assembled at their tomb to celebrate the anniversary of their death, they were surprised by the persecutors, who filled in with stones and earth the subterranean crypt where the Christians were assembled, so that all perished. Later, when the tomb of Sts. Chrysanthus and Daria was looked for and found, the bones of these martyrs, and even the liturgical silver vessels, which they used for the celebration of the Eucharist, were also discovered. Everything was left as it was found, and a wall was erected so that no one could enter the place. Only through a window-opening in the wall could be seen the tomb of Sts. Chrysanthus and Daria, as well as the bones of the Christians killed in the tomb. This tomb, like so many others, was embellished by Pope Damasus, who had poems in praise of the martyrs engraved on marble and placed there. Gregory of Tours describes this sanctuary in an interesting chapter of his “De gloria martyrum”, I, xxxviii (P. L., LXXI, 739). During the invasions of the Goths the sanctuary was desecrated, but later it was restored, as a metrical inscription composed at that time and falsely attributed to Pope Damasus asserts. In the ninth century the remains of Sts. Chrysanthus and Daria were brought to Prum and were thence transferred to Munstereifel in Rhenish Prussia, where they are still greatly venerated. The feast of these saints stands in the Roman Martyrology on the 25th of October, on which day, also, it appears in some martyrologies dating from the seventh century. In the “Martyrologium Hieronymianum” the martyrs were mentioned on 12 August and 29 November; according to some manuscripts, on other days also.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.