Saints Acislus and Victoria: The Iconography

In Cordoba, Spain, the holy martyrs Acislus and Victoria, who were brother and sister. During the persecution of Diocletian and on the orders of the Prefect Dio, they were most savagely tortured and by their noble suffering merited the crown of martyrdom. – Roman Martyrology for November 17

St. Acisclus and his sister St. Victoria have been venerated in Cordoba since at least the 5th century. Butler's Lives of the Saints and several web sites say that the two are mentioned in St. Eulogius' 8th-century Memorialis Sanctorum, though my search through that book did not find them. Enrique Florez' 18th-century España Sagrada, vol. 10, prints the medieval story of their martyrdom and adds that according to several early martyrologies roses bloom miraculously on their feast day "in praise of the precious deaths of these saints" (p. 294).

Some sites on the web say images of these saints are portrayed with crowns of roses as attributes. This would consist with the rose miracles, but I have not yet found any such images.

The story has it that they died after lengthy tortures at the hands of Dion, the Roman governor of Cordoba. At one point he tells Acisclus "to think about the beauty of your youth, lest you perish." This comment may account for the manner of portraying the latter as a handsome young man, as at right. The bust shown at right also refers to the decapitation by tracing a line of blood along the neck.

Many of the tortures undergone in their story are shared with more famous figures. Like the three young men in Daniel 3 they are cast into a fiery furnace where an angel protects them. Like St. Agatha, Victoria suffers the removal of her breasts. And as in many early martyrs' tales repeated attempts to kill the saints lead only to opportunities for them to reassert the power of God and the impotence of the idols they have been urged to worship.

At the end, Victoria is killed with arrows and Acisclus is decapitated.

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University, revised 2015-09-16.

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Bust of St. Acislus, 17th century (See description page)