08 MayFaçade Spire-G17
Patron Saint: Patron Saint of: prisoners and exiles Symbol: Palm leaf

At the risk of seeming too frivolous and disrespectful, we might say that St. Ambrose was one of the most effective “talent-scouts” in history. Literally digging into the history of Milan, he found illustrious personages there, who honoured the diocese at the head of which he so unexpectedly found himself. And as a good “talent-scout”, he also knew how to launch his favourites with all the means then available, above all feast days, hymns and monuments. One of St. Ambrose’s discoveries was indeed St. Victor, of whom he wrote at length in his Explanatio evangelii secundum Lucam and in the hymn Victor, Nabor, Felix pii. The other “historical” source from which we can learn about the life and above all the martyrdom of St. Victor are the Acts, dating from the 8th century.
Victor, Nabor and Felix were three soldiers originating from Mauretania and stationed in Milan. Forced, like others of their companions in the army and in their religion, to choose between the Emperor and God, their choice was clear and determined, but Victor’s conscientious objection brought him only arrest and solitary confinement. After keeping him six days without food and water to weaken his resistance, he was dragged to the hippodrome in the circus (near the present-day Porta Ticinese): despite the fact that his interrogation was conducted by Maximian himself and by his adviser Anulinus, Victor determinedly refused to sacrifice to the idols, even after a severe flagellation. Taken back to prison, near today’s Porta Romana, St. Victor was further tortured: molten lead was poured into his wounds, but this African soldier’s strong character was still not weakened. Indeed, one day, taking advantage of the carelessness of his gaolers, he succeeded in escaping and taking refuge in a stable near a theatre, near where Porta Vercellina now stands. But by then his wandering had ended: discovered, he was dragged to a nearby elm wood and beheaded. His body remained unburied for a week, but the bishop, St. Maternus found him still intact and faithfully watched over by two wild beasts. A magnificent tomb was then built for him, beside which St. Ambrose decided to have his brother Satyrus buried. St. Victor is one of the saints best loved by the Milanese people, who have built and named churches and other buildings after him, the most sadly famous of which is … the San Vittore prison. Indeed, he is the patron saint of prisoners and exiles.