Seven Martyred Monks of Gafsa
Liberatus, Boniface, Servus, Rusticus,
Rogatus, Septimus, and Maximus
Martyred 483 A.D.
Today (August 17) is the traditional feast day for these seven martyred monks. This is their story…
HUNERIC, the Arian Vandal king in Africa, in the seventh year of his reign, published fresh edicts against the Catholics, and ordered their monasteries to be demolished everywhere. Seven monks, named Liberatus, Boniface, Servus, Rusticus, Rogatus, Septimus, and Maximus, who lived in a monastery near Gafsa, in the province of Byzacena, were at that time summoned to Carthage. They were first tempted with great promises, but as they remained constant in the belief of the Trinity, and of one Baptism, they were loaded with irons and thrown into a dark dungeon.
The members of local churches, having bribed the guards, visited the saints day and night, to be instructed by them and mutually to encourage one another to suffer for the faith of Christ. The king, learning this, commanded them to be more closely confined, loaded with heavier irons, and tortured with a cruelty never heard of before that time. Soon after, he condemned them to be put into an old ship and burnt at sea. The martyrs walked cheerfully to the shore, contemning the insults of the Arians as they passed along.
Particular endeavors were used by the persecutors to gain Maximus, who was very young; but God, who makes the tongues of children eloquent to praise his name, gave him strength to withstand all their efforts, and he boldly told them that they should never be able to separate him from his holy abbot and brethren, with whom he had borne the labors of a penitential life for the sake of everlasting glory. An old vessel was filled with dry sticks, and the seven martyrs were put on board and bound on the wood; and fire was put to it several times, but it went out immediately, and all endeavors to kindle it were in vain. The tyrant, in rage and confusion, gave orders that the martyrs’ brains should be dashed out with oars, which was done, and their bodies cast into the sea, which threw them all back onto the shore.
The Catholics interred these saints honorably in the monastery of Bigua (in modern day Tunisia), near the Church of St. Celerinus. They suffered in the year 483.
— Text adapted from Butler’s Lives of the Saints, 1894 edition.
IMAGE CREDIT: Tewy, Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com