Images of Medieval Art and Architecture

Saint Peter the Exorcist

General Information

Saint's Day -June 2.

Text from Sacred and Legendary Art
by Anna Jameson
Third Editon: London, 1911
Pages 632-3

Headings added and references to Renaissance art deleted by Jane Vadnal


In the valley behind the Esquiline (Hill in Rome), in that long lonely road between Santa Maria Maggiore and the Lateran, stands the church of S.S. Pietro e Marcellino, whom we style ST. PETER EXORCISTA and MARCELLINUS. They are always represented together. Their legend relates, that in the last persecution under Diocletian they were cast into prison. Artemius, keeper of the dungeon, had a daughter named Paulina, and she fell sick; and St. Peter offered to restore her to health if her father would believe in the true God. And the jailer mocked him, saying, ' If I put thee into the deepest dungeon, and load thee with heavier chains, will thy God then deliver thee ? If he doth, I will believe in him.' And Peter answered, ' Be it so; not out of regard to thee, for it matters little to our God whether such an one as thou believe in him or not, but that the name of Christ may be glorified, and thyself confounded.'

And in the middle of the night Peter and Marcellinus, in white shining garments, entered the chamber of Artemius as he lay asleep, who, being struck w th awe, fell down and worshipped the name of Christ, and he, his wife, his daughter, and three hundred others were baptized. After this the two holy men were condemned to die for the faith. And the executioner was ordered to lead them to a forest three miles from Rome, that the Christians might not discover their place of sepulture. And when he had brought them to a solitary thicket overgrown with brambles and thorns, he declared to them that they were to die, upon which they cheerfully fell to work and cleared away a space fit for the purpose, and dug the grave in which they were to be laid. Then they were beheaded, and died encouraging each other (June 2).

Veneration in the Court of Charlemagne

The fame of SS,. Pietro e Marcellino is not confined to Rome. In the reign of Charlemagne they were venerated as martyrs throughout Italy and Gaul: and Eginhard, the secretary of Charlemagne, wh rnarried his daughter Emma, is said to have held them in particular honor. Every one I believe, knows the beautiful story of Eginhard and Emma. And the connection of these saints with them as their chosen protectors lends an interest to their solitary deserted church.

Depictions in art

They are always represented together, in priestly habits, bearing their palms. In the Roma Sotterranea of Bosio, p. 126, there is a ancient fragment found in the catacombs which represents St. Peter Exorcista, St. Marcellinus, and Paulina standing together. In picture by Gervasio Gatti, over the altar of their church at Cremona, the two saints, habited as priests, baptize Paulina, the daughter the jailer-the rest of the farnily and many converts being present.

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Updated by Jane Vadnal, February, 1998