St. Julian's Cross
Why was Julian made a Saint?
As mentioned at the beginning of this story, this version is from Malta, and here is an interesting twist: The eight points on the Maltese Cross relate to the Eight Beatitudes found in the Bible (Matthew chapter 5).
- Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)
- Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land. (Matt. 5:4)
- Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matt. 5:5)
- Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. (Matt. 5:6)
- Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:7)
- Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God. (Matt. 5:8)
- Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matt. 5:9)
- Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:10-11)
Piero della Francesca's 15th century fresco of St. Julian, on a wall of St. Agostino Church in Piero's home town of Borgo San-Sepolcro, Tuscany, Italy.
Here, in this story, we can see these Eight Beatitudes in practice: Julian had truly repented his sins to the pope, with remorse and contrition, and the angel had visited him for the final test. Julian was indeed blessed.
Not only did Julian make himself economically poor, more importantly he was poor in spirit. That is, he allowed his own spirit to be supplanted by God's (1st Beatitude). He was meek and inherited peace (2nd Beatitude) and the Kingdom of Heaven. His mourning of the death of his parents was compounded with his guilt for slaying them. He also mourned the injustices of the world and this mourning of evil's influences granted him the eternal comfort of grace. (3rd Beatitude)
On the foundation of these three blessings, he became strong and had a continuous desire to progress in religious and moral perfection. With this, he grew in holiness (4th Beatitude).
Without doubt, Julian displayed mercy; both bodily and spiritually. His many sins will surely have been forgiven (5th Beatitude). Julian's love for his neighbour was clear; in fact the clarity was purity itself (6th Beatitude).
A striking difference between Julian the Knight and Julian the Hospitaller shows how he changed from being a warrior with dubious motives, to a man who endeavoured to preserve peace. It is on account of this godly work, that he became one of the "children of your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:45) (7th Beatitude).
Julian's persecution for his crime was self-imposed. True, he could have used his privileged status to go unpunished, but he didn't. He ensured justice was done (8th Beatitude).
It is curious to note that whilst Julian was apparently absolved his sins by a couple of priests, the pope, and an angel, the story doesn't say what his sins were. We can conjecture that the first sin was killing a defenceless animal, and the second sin was killing his parents. But no mention is made of any remorse for killing countless Turks in the Crusades.
When this story was written, the belief was that killing people for following a different faith was justified. Killing people for their property was justified.
Has much changed today?
Had the leper been a Muslim or Baltic Pagan, then the story would have been closer to the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). This would have given more Christian meaning to the story. The Good Samaritan parable is a beautiful explanation of the law of loving our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39). What an awesome responsibility for us all, especially our world leaders. But what an awesome licence, privilege and opportunity for us all, to show the love of God.
The Eight Beatitudes and the Good Samaritan all rolled into one story.
But hey! Let's remember; this is only a legend. And a legend with a talking beast, no less. The parricide has a striking resemblance to the story of Oedipus, son of the mythical king of Thebes, who was cursed to unknowingly kill his father and marry a widowed queen who reminded him of his mother.
These days, the word legend implies a fable - just a nice romantic bedtime story, invented to teach moral behaviour. But in medieval times, a legend was always based to some extent on fact. Storytellers of the time would have embellished the tales according to their theological conceptions and inclinations, but even so, the basis we can assume to be true.
These days, sane and civilised people question whether slaughtering Muslims in past crusades was 'good'. More subtle ways of spreading Christianity tend to be more successful.
Rather than killing off people who don't share the same faith, showing love, understanding and compassion is a sure way to persuade people to accept a different path in life. Consequently, the merciful and charitable St. Julian continues to be the role model for many people today. And these people are reminded by the St. Julian's Cross to carry their message to the four corners of the world.
The hospital work he founded continued and some people cured there were deemed to have been cured miraculously. Devotion to St. Julian started in the Maltese Islands in the 15th century after the discovery of his relics in Macerata and three churches were built in his honour: in Tabija, Luqa and Senglea. In the 16th century in Gozo, a hospital bore his name, Ospedale di San Giuliano, and another church was built in Birkirkara, the only one ever to be dedicated to the saint in Malta. Over the years, several miracles at and around his relics have been attributed to St. Julian.
The St. Julian's Cross - Four Latin Crosses arranged at right-angles to each other, with the tops pointing to the 'four corners of the world'. Therefore also known as Missionary Cross.