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December 17, 2018

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Cassius and Florentius, the Martyrs


An urn burial from the first century AD is evidence of a burial ground that already existed on the site of today’s minster basilica. A ‘cella memoriae’ is built around 300 AD, a place within a necropolis furnished with a U-shaped bench where people gathered for the memorial meal. Later, early Christians are presumed to have commemorated Cassius and Florentius here, Roman legionaries who were executed because they had refused to worship the pagan gods. Legend has it that the two martyrs were members of the ‘Thebaeian Legion’, recruited in Egypt, whose 6,000 soldiers were all of them doomed to sacrifice their lives for their Christian belief. ‘Such draconian collective punishment was no longer imposed towards the end of the 3rd century’, states Stefan Bodemann in his guide of the Bonn Minster (‘Das Bonner Münster’), summing up latest research findings on the subject. Cassius and Florentius are proclaimed Bonn’s patron saints in 1643. The vault underneath the crypt of the Minster holding the (legendary) remains of the martyrs is opened for a week once a year on the high day of the city’s patron saints (10th October). Baroque relic busts of the two saints are to be seen in the chancel of the Minster.

Bonn’s Patron Saint Adelheid of Vilich

Abbess Adelheid of Vilich (around 960 to 1025) is an outstanding female figure of Bonn’s medieval history of faith and church. Her memory was perpetuated through over 1.000 years of veneration. She was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1966. The Vatican agreed to her elevation to Patron Saint of Bonn in 2008.

Endowed with extraordinary intellectual and spiritual boons, the young nun took a great interest in philosophy, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music as well as, in later years, theology. As the abbess of two monasteries of Benedictine observance she demonstrated her organisational and creative abilities and leadership and was a benefactress for the poor and the needy in the Rhineland.

Tradition holds that she visited the village of Vilich at a time of dreadful drought sharing out food to the starving villagers. As people beseeched her to rescue them from their misery she sent prayers to heaven and thrust her crosier into the ground causing water to emerge. The spot where this miracle is said to have happened was provided with a rim and has been known as Adelheidisquelle (Adelheidis Spring) ever since. Believers continue to expect cure from their afflictions down to the present day.

There is no trace at all of the whereabouts of the mortal remains and relics. Around 1640, the historian Johannes Bollandus received information to the effect that the remains, originally buried at Vilich, had been translated to Gaul. When opened, the sarcophagus was indeed found to be empty.

The liturgical calendar lists 5th February as the feast day of Saint Adelheid. Observing an old custom, the Lord Mayor of Bonn lights a candle in honour of the city’s Patron Saint on that day.

Last update: October 7, 2014



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