Born in the early 200s, Saint Crispin and Chrispinian were noble Roman brothers, who are rumored to be identical twins by late Danish pianist Victor Borge, but due to a poor joke made by Borge, stating that his father and uncle were identical twins, but he was not sure which was the identical one, it is now thought that they were fraternal. Either way, I’m sure they were used to having their names mixed up.
After moving to Gaul (modern day France) with their companion St. Quintinus, the dynamic duo settled in Soissons. During the day they preached the Gospel, and at night, they crafted shoes in an effort to support themselves and the poor whom they served.
If their names sound familiar, there’s good reason why. Shakespeare references both Crispins during a speech made by King Henry V before fighting the Battle of Agincourt. In an attempt to rally his greatly outnumbered troops, Henry is quoted as saying:
Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.Shakespeare, W., The Life of King Henry the Fifth, Act 4, Scene 3.
Unfortunately, this feast was removed from the universal liturgical calendar following Vatican II, but can still be found in Roman Martyrology and is celebrated October 25th, the date of their martyrdom. As further proof of their holiness, they suffered quite a bit of torture before their eventual death. During the Diocletian prosecution, in either 285 or 286, the brothers were encourage to abandon their faith in favor of riches, and when that did not work, they were threatened to renounce the faith or else. They are recorded to have responded with:
“Thy threats do not terrify us, for Christ is our life, and death is our gain. Thy rank and possessions are nought to us, for we have long before this sacrificed the like for the sake of Christ and rejoice in what we have done. If thou shouldst acknowledge and love Christ thou wouldst give not only all the treasures of this life, but even the glory of thy crown itself in order through the exercise of compassion to win eternal life.”
After this, they were handed over to governor Rictiovarus, who had a reputation for his cruel treatment of Christians. He ordered that the most faithful brothers be stretched on a rack, when that failed they had pieces cut out of their flesh. Crispin and Crispinian continued to proclaim Jesus as Lord so they had nails hammered under their fingernails. Next, they had a millstone tied around their necks and were throw into the Aisle, but they managed to swim to the other bank of the river. In a last ditch effort, Rictiovarus set a great fire which did nothing to harm the brothers, so Rictiovarus, accepted defeat, and chose to end his own life. After all this, a simple beheading finally ended their lives and these great men are now enjoying the true treasure of eternal life.
Patron saints of shoemakers, saddlers, and tanners (and all other leather workers). Saints Crispin and Crispinian, faithful brothers and twins, pray for us.
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