09 JuneSpire walking north-G86
This is the first of the two saints named Primus who stand on the Duomo (the other is on Spire 112). One characteristic of this saint, according to the sources, seems to be inherent in his name: he is never mentioned on his own, but is always part of a group of martyrs, as if his “numeral” name never leaves him on his own, but always a companion of other Christians in misfortune and in faith. It is difficult to understand which of the numerous saints that the Martyrologies have passed down to us this young man wearing a long cloak may be. He is on the first row of Spires just behind those crowning the façade: his body is rigid, his left arm lies at his side, his head is turned towards the South and his proud look would seem to identify him with a Roman martyr who, with his brother Felician, was killed by Diocletian (284 – 305). The Passion tells of these two eighty-year-old brothers who, exposed as Christians, were first asked by the Emperor to abjure their faith and, when they refused, underwent terrible tortures, including the pouring of molten lead into Primus’ mouth. Thrown to the lions and spared by them, they were finally beheaded. They were buried at the 14th mile along the Via Nomentana, and moved to the Caelian Hill by Pope Theodore (642 – 649) in the church of Santo Stefano al Celio. Despite the fact that traditionally they were old men, both are often depicted as young men.