A-Z of Saints: Quirinus

Less than half a per cent of the saints commonly recognised have names beginning with ‘Q’, and that’s generously allowing alternative spellings, and most of these are far from well known – so it’s not that easy to find much about them.

Here at least is a potted guide to not one but five martyrs who all bore the name Quirinus, suggesting at least that it was not a lucky name to have.

1. Our first Quirinus was Bishop of Sisak (or Siscia) in Croatia, alive in the late third and early fourth centuries. During a wave of persecutions by the Roman emperor Galerius, the bishop was ordered to make a sacrifice to the old gods. When he refused he was drowned in the River Raab with a millstone around his neck (around 308/9AD).

We are told that he did not sink immediately and was still praying as he was swept downstream. His bones were taken to Italy in the 5th century and are believed to remain in a vaulted chamber in Rome to this day. His feast is 4 June, and he is the patron of obsession and possession by evil spirits.

2. Another Quirinus was buried in the same part of Rome – this one a Roman himself, said to have been a tribune, and the jailer of Pope Alexander I. He was converted by the pope’s daughter. He was once remembered on 30 March. A cathedral at Neuss in the lower Rhineland is named after him still – his relics were taken there by the sister of Pope Leo IX in the 11th century. A new shrine to him was erected there in 1900.

3. Another Roman Quirinus is recalled sometimes on 25 March. Almost nothing is known of him, and his relics are said to be in a Benedictine abbey in Bavaria.

4. A fourth St Quirinus is remembered in Prussia, with his remains in an abbey at Malmedy. He and a companion were put to death, but when, by whom and why are unclear. He is remembered on 11 October.

5. People in Tivoli remember another martyred Quirinus on 4 June, though of course this could be a conflation of our first Quirinus above.

Other ‘Q’ saints

  • St Quentin was, according to legend, a Roman citizen, son of a senator, martyred in Gaul. He was imprisoned by a prefect, tortured and beheaded, supposedly in the place that now bears his name. He is remembered on 31 October and is patron against coughs.
  • Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi (1880-1951), remembered on 25 November, was a layman who made his home a shelter for refugees in World War Two. He has been beatified (but not yet canonised) for an alleged miraculous healing of a young man with a severe circulatory disorder, who is now a neurosurgeon in Italy.