09 FebruaryCentral north terrace spire-G112

While the St. Primus on Spire 86 was a Roman martyr, this young man portrayed with a classical type of appearance, holding a staff which, given his physique and position, may once have been a lance, may be the saint who, together with his friend the martyr Donatus, died in Mauritania, a region of North Africa under Roman domination. Under the Emperor Julian the Apostate (361 – 363), paganism once again became the state religion and Christianity was considered to be illegal. Yet the two were not martyred because of this new trend. At that time the church had been split between Catholics and Donatists: the latter belonged to an African denomination founded in 311 at the wishes of Donatus of Casae Nigrae. The Donatists claimed that the sacraments officiated by bishops who, during the persecutions, had abjured the Christian faith to save their lives, should not be considered valid. This created a fundamental problem: the sacraments, if this was so, were not holy in themselves but depended on the dignity of those who administered them. A proud opponent of the Donatists was St. Augustine, who succeeded in obtaining condemnation of the schismatic doctrine at the Council of Carthage in 411, and it very soon died out. Primus and Donatus were two Catholic deacons from Mauritania, when a number of Donatists invaded the castle of Lemellefense and attacked the Catholic church of the citadel. The two rushed to defend the altar, but were stoned to death. This Primus, then, could be the defender of the Catholic faith in a period of great inner conflict within the Roman Empire, and strong pressure from the outside due to new people. He stands on the north walkway, straight and proud, the guardian of those who have the strength to believe and resist.