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International exhibition dedicated to St. Anastasia of Sirmium

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The Life of Saint Anastasia of Sirmio (281-304)

The Saint Martyr Anastasia was born in 281 A.D. in Rome from a patrician family. Her father Pretestatus was a Senator. Her mother Fausta was Christian. Fausta christened her daughter in secret and chose Chrysogonus, a Christian gentleman, as her tutor. The girl visited the catacombs with him. Anastasia became motherless early and she married Publius, a pagan, who prohibited her to help the poor and Christian people persecuted in Rome. Her husband died during a tempest; after that, Anastasia was allowed to practise freely her Christian charity.

Afterwards, Chrysogonus was posted to Aquileia, where was located Diocletianus' Imperial Court; there he was arrested and martyred. Anastasia buried her master Chrysogonus together with the three Christian sisters, Agape, Chionia, Irena and the priest Zoilo. Then she moved to Sirmio which is the capital of North Illyria, in Orient. There she carried out her actions of charity and helped the Christian prisoners placating their sufferings, curing their sores and injuries and bringing them food. She used to pay the jailers in order to carry out her merciful service. Later on, Anastasia was discovered and accused in front of the Prefect Probus. He interrogated her but failed to make her forswear the Catholic belief, so he tied her to the fetters for one month and then he embarked her on a damaged ship, along other people convicted to death, in order to scupper them. However, the ship didn't sink and shored on Palmaria Island, where all the survivors, converted to the Christian belief, were killed. Anastasia, after being crucified on four poles, was burned and subsequently beheaded. Her mortal remains were gathered by Apolonia, a woman who buried them in a vineyard in 304. According to the calendar of the Saint Martyrs, it happened on the 25th of December. In 314, when practicing the Christian religion was allowed by the Emperor Costantinus, a church was built in Sirmio in honour of Anastasia.

The veneration towards Anastasia spreaded across the provinces of Illyria and Pannonia and arrived up to Byzantium, where her memorabilia were moved in 467, in the age of Patriarch Gennadius. According to some sources, these mortal remains were lodged in the basilica of the Resurrection of the Saviour; while according to other sources in the church of Panagea of Blaferne in the Imperial Palace. In these circumstances, she was beatified. Then, a church was built in her honour and her veneration spreaded up to Rome. There, a church located near the Palatino was dedicated to her and became one of the most important basilicas in the city. Still now this church exists. Since the age of Pope Gregorio Magnum, the three Christmas Masses were celebrated there. The second of them was dedicated to St. Anastasia and was celebrated by the Pope himself; nowadays, the celebration has been reduced to a memory called Aurora, given the importance of Christmas.

From the fifth century to fifteenth century, St. Anastasia has gained a great veneration in the whole Mediterranean, Alpine and Danubian Europe: in particular, in the eleventh century the Benedictine Monks dedicated to Anastasia many churches and chapels in Italy, France and Germany.

In Russia the veneration to Anastasia arrived in the tenth century from Constantinople, in conjunction with the diffusion of the Christian belief. In the Balkans she was venerated by the forebears of the currents Serbians, Croatians and Bosnians. In Greece she was called Farmacolitria (which means Healer of poisons), and in Russia Uzoreshiteljnitza (The one who relieves the ties): a symbolism that combines the image of the cure of the diseases and the image of the dissolution of the demoniac deceits. In Orient and Occident she was venerated as procuress of the victims of the earthquakes and of the pregnant women. She was also considered a symbol of the Resurrection (according to the meaning of her name, from the Greek Anastasis). In the Catholic world until the nineteenth century, the memory of her martyrdom was celebrated on the 25th of December, while in the Orthodox world on the 22nd of December, gathering the symbolism of the birth of Christ and the Resurrection.

At the beginning of the sixth century Anastasia was upgraded to the rank of Megalomartyr (that means Great Martyr, according to the Christian belief) and included among the fifteen Martyrs nominated in the First Canon of the Mass, called Eucharistic Canon of the Church of Orient. Following the separation between Orient and Occident, her image of link between the two worlds lose importance. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the third millennium, her human and spiritual dimensions (the image of Mother Theresa of Calcutta ante litteram, symbol of charity and aid to the persecuted people) combine the history and the culture of the West and the East of Europe. She is considered an historical proto-European character and the ideal reference to define the common roots and to build the culture and morality of a balanced and peaceful Europe.

Her character against the war increased its value in a world rived by the long civil conflict in the ex-Yugoslavia. St. Anastasia (Martyr of a Balkanic conflict in the fourth century) could become the symbol of the reconciliation of the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian populations, intended as the Peacemaker and the Ambassador of Dialogue in Europe and in the future she could be declared Patron of the all people of our Continent.


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