Home  »  Volume VII: July  »  SS. Maximian, Malchus, Martinian, Dionysius, John, Serapion, and Constantine, Martyrs

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

July 27

SS. Maximian, Malchus, Martinian, Dionysius, John, Serapion, and Constantine, Martyrs

[Commonly called the Seven Sleepers. 1]  HAVING confessed the faith before the proconsul at Ephesus, under Decius, in 250, they were walled up together in a cave in which they had hid themselves, and there slept in the Lord. Some moderns, mistaking this expression, have imagined that they only lay asleep, till they were found in 479, under Theodosius the younger. The truth seems to be, that their relics were then discovered. They are much honoured by the Greeks, Syrians, and all the oriental nations. Their relics were conveyed to Marseilles in a large stone coffin, which is still shown there in St. Victor’s church. In the Musæum Victorium at Rome is a factitious plaster or stone, (made of sulphur melted with fire and mortar,) formed in imitation of a large precious stone, in which is cut a group of figures representing the Seven Sleepers, with their names, and near Constantine and John are exhibited two clubs; near Maximum a knotty club, near Malchus and Martinian two axes, near Serapion a burning torch, and near Danesius (whom others call Dionysius) a great nail. That large nails (clavi trabales, or such as were used in joining great rafters or beams in buildings,) were made use of as instruments of torture is evident from St. Paulinus 2 and Horace. 3 From this ancient monument some infer that these martyrs were put to death by various torments, and that their bodies were only buried in the aforesaid cave. In this group of figures these martyrs are represented all as very young, and without beards. In ancient martyrologies and other writings they are frequently called boys. 4 The cave in which their bodies were found became a place famous for devout pilgrimages, and is still shown to travellers, as James Spon testifies. 5 See St. Gregory of Tours, l. 1, de Glor. Mart., c. 95, and Cuper the Bollandist, Julij, t. 6, p. 375. Also, Dissertatio de Sanctis Septem Dormientibus, Romæ, 1741, in 4to., in which the above said group of figures is explained, c. 5, &c.  1
Note 1. 2 Paral. xv. 12. [back]
Note 2. Paulin. Nat. 9, or Carm. 24. [back]
Note 3. Herat. l. 1, od. 3. [back]
Note 4. Pueri. See Dis. de SS. 7; Dormient. c. 18, p. 65, et c. 6, p. 11. The Menology of the Emperor Basil, printed at Rome in 1727, &c. [back]
Note 5. Spon, Voyage d’Italie et du Levant, t. 1, l. 3, p. 327. [back]