Virgin Mary and Christ Child with Saints Jovita and Faustinus, c. 1476
Oil on canvas
Height: 238 cm (93.7″); Width: 212.5 cm (83.6″)
Tosio Martinengo Gallery Brescia, Lombardy, northern Italy
Saints Jovita and Faustinus were said to be Christian martyrs under Hadrian. Their traditional date of death is 120. They are patron saints of Brescia.
"Jovita" in modern times is a woman's name. In some accounts the saints were instead Jovinus and Faustinus, brothers.
Marco or Bartolomeo Genovesini (active 1628) was an Italian painter or two brothers of the Roverio family who were painters, and active in the Augustinian Monastery and the Carthusian Monastery of Garignano in Milan
Tradition states that they were members of a noble family of Brescia in Lombardy (northern Italy). Jovinus, the older brother, was a preacher; Faustinus, a deacon. According to the tradition of Brescia, they preached Christianity fearlessly while their bishop lay in hiding. Their zeal excited the fury of the heathens against them, then they were arrested by a heathen lord called Julian.
They were commanded to adore the sun, but replied that they adored the living God who created the sun to give light to the world. The statue before which they were standing was brilliant and surrounded with golden rays. Saint Jovita, looking at it, cried out: “Yes, we adore the God reigning in heaven, who created the sun. And you, vain statue, turn black, to the shame of those who adore you!” At his word, it turned black. The Emperor commanded that it be cleaned, but the pagan priests had hardly begun to touch it when it fell into ashes.
The two brothers were sent to the amphitheater to be devoured by lions, but four of those came out and lay down at their feet. They were left without food in a dark jail cell, but Angels brought them strength and joy for new combats. The flames of a huge fire respected them, and a large number of spectators were converted at the sight.
They were tortured and dragged to Milan, Rome and Naples, and then brought back to Brescia. As neither threats nor torments could shake their constancy, the Emperor Hadrian, who happened to be passing through Brescia, commended them to be beheaded.
The many "Acts" of these saints are chiefly of a legendary character. The Jesuit Fedele Savio questioned nearly every fact related of them except their existence of the martyrdom, which are too well attested by their inclusion in so many of the early martyrologies and their extraordinary cult in their native city, of which from time immemorial they have been the chief patrons.
Their common feast day on 15 February, the traditional date of their martyrdom, was inserted into the General Roman Calendar . It was removed in 1969, because their "Acts are completely fabulous, treating Jovita as a preacher, although she was a woman and a man was Faustinus." However modern minds tend to forget that the name Jovita or Giovita was a man's name in the pre-Christian and early Christian era The two saints remain listed in the Roman Martyrology. The cities of Rome, Bologna and Verona share with Brescia possession of their relics.
Modern tradition considers Faustine's day as the anti-Valentine's Day. This is why (mostly in southern Europe) single people celebrate on 15 February. More on Jovinus and Faustinus
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