November 8th: The Four Crowned

SS Coronati2On 8th November the stone masons celebrate their patron saints:  The Four Crowned. Their history is confused and a little bit mysterious: they are called Four Crowned, but probably they were five and we don't know where the name exactly comes from.

The name may derive from honour, in other words from the ‘crown' of their martyrdom or from the word “curnicolari”, the military rank of the non-commissioned officer in the Roman Caesarean Army. The Crowned Saints' tradition originates, indeed, two stories: the first one is about four roman centurions who were Christians and therefore sentenced to death, whereas the second story tells us about four or five stonecutters, who were killed only little later for the same reason. All of them are said to be buried in one of the oldest church in Rome named after the Four Crowned in the V.  or VI. century.  That's the reason for all this confusion.

Claudio, Nicostrato, Simproniano, Castorio and, perhaps,  Simplicio were stonecutters, the best artists among all the other workers in the stone cave of Pannonia, and they were Christians. The others envied the high-talented stonecutters and believed them to be magicians and thought that they'd pronounce spells every time they crossed themselves, prayed or chanted during the work.  When the four refused to carve the statue of God Asclepius and to offer sacrifices to the Gods, as the emperor Diocletian had ordered, they were condemned in 287, locked alive in a lead case and thrown into the Danube.

Here the result of such confusion: the Four Crowned are named after the Roman soldiers but rated as the patrons of building art.

The fame of the Four Crowned spread rapidly from Italy to Europe.  We find the oldest mention in the stonecutter statutes of Venice in 1317.  In Florence the Four Crowned Saints are patrons of the stone and wood masons.  In 1459 the Saints are mentioned as patrons in the stonecutter statutes of Strasbourg, in the fifteenth century bricklayers, stonecutters and sculptors followed several corporations of the Four Crowned in Brussels and Antwerp. The Four Crowned are represented in the cathedral of Pavia and a marble group is dedicated to the Saints in Florence. They've got a hammer, a compass and a scalpel and therefore they are highly appreciated by the Freemasons: the lodge for the Four Crowned Saints' research in London for example celebrates every year their festival on 8th November.