2 November 2019

San Giusto di Trieste - martyr

Patron saint of maritime city 


A 14th century statue of San Giusto di Trieste adorns the bell tower of the cathedral
A 14th century statue of San Giusto di Trieste
adorns the bell tower of the cathedral
San Giusto di Trieste - also known as Saint Justus of Trieste - died on this day in 293 after being found guilty of being a Christian, which was illegal under Roman law at the time.

His death occurred during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, who was notorious for his persecution of Christians.

After his trial, San Giusto was given the opportunity to renounce his faith and make a sacrifice to the Roman gods.

He refused to do so and was condemned to death by drowning. The story handed down over the centuries was that weights were attached to his ankles before he was thrown from a small boat into the Gulf of Trieste, off the shore of the area known today as Sant'Andrea.

The legend has it that on the night of San Giusto’s death, his friend Sebastian, said to have been a bishop or priest, was told in a dream that the body had broken free of the weights and been washed ashore.

When he woke from his sleep, Sebastian assembled a group of fellow Christians to search for the body, which they discovered near what is now the Riva Grumula, less than a kilometre from Piazza Unità d’Italia, Trieste’s elegant sea-facing main square.

A mosaic inside Trieste's cathedral depicts Christ with the Saints Justus and Severus to either side of him
A mosaic inside Trieste's cathedral depicts Christ with
the Saints Justus and Severus to either side of him
It is said San Giusto’s body was then buried not far from the shore in a burial ground near what is now Piazza Hortis, and transferred at some point during the Middle Ages to a chapel next to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption.  The two buildings were later joined together as one church, called the Basilica Cattedrale di San Giusto Martire - Trieste’s duomo.

As well as being patron saint of the city and diocese of Trieste, San Giusto is also patron saint of Albona in Croatia (on what used to the Istrian peninsula), San Giusto Canavese, near Turin in Piedmont, and Misilmeri, near Palermo in Sicily.

Although his feast day is technically November 2, the celebration takes place the following day,  for liturgical reasons.

In 1984 a bronze statue of San Giusto, made by artist Tristano Alberti, was submerged beneath the sea off Grignano, near the Castello Miramare. Its position became inaccessible to divers after the establishment of the Miramare Marine Reserve, leading to the statue being repositioned in 2010, away from the reserve. Recently, it was recovered from the sea and placed on display within the cathedral, contained in a transparent cylinder filled with water.

The bell tower of the cathedral has a niche containing a 14th century sculpture of San Giusto holding a martyr's palm and a model of the walled city he protects.

Inside, a mosaic in precious stones depicts Christ flanked by Saint Justus and Saint Servulus.

The grand Piazza Unità d'Italia, which faces the sea, is the main square in elegant Trieste
The grand Piazza Unità d'Italia, which faces the sea, is
the main square in elegant Trieste
Travel tip:

The seaport of Trieste, capital of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, officially became part of the Italian Republic in 1954. Trieste had been disputed territory for thousands of years and after it was granted to Italy in 1920, thousands of the resident Slovenians left. The final border with Yugoslavia was settled in 1975 with the Treaty of Osimo. The area today is one of the most prosperous in Italy and Trieste is a lively, cosmopolitan city and a major centre for trade and ship building.  The city has a coffee house culture that dates back to the Hapsburg era.  Caffè Tommaseo, in Piazza Nicolò Tommaseo, near the grand open space of the Piazza Unità d’Italia, is the oldest in the city, dating back to 1830.

The Castello di Miramare overlooks the harbour at Grignano, along the coast from Trieste
The Castello di Miramare overlooks the harbour at
Grignano, along the coast from Trieste
Travel tip:

The Castello di Miramare, which stands over the harbour at Grignano, is located on the end of a rocky spur jutting into Gulf of Trieste, about 8km (5 miles) from Trieste itself. The Hapsburg castle was built between 1856 and 1860 for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, based on a design by Carl Junker.  The castle's grounds include an extensive cliff and seashore park of 22 hectares (54 acres) designed by the archduke, which features many tropical species of trees and plants.  Legend has it that Ferdinand chose the spot to build the castle after taking refuge from a storm in the gulf in the sheltered harbour of Grignano that sits behind the spur.

Also on this day:

1418: The birth of builder and diarist Gaspare Nadi

1475: The death of condottiero Bartolomeo Colleoni

1893: The birth of car designer Battista 'Pinin' Farina

1906: The birth of film director Luchino Visconti


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