Vitalis of Milan

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Holy martyr Vitalis of Milan, (Italian: San Vitale, French: Saint Vital), was an early martyr for Christ. Also known as Vitalis of Ravenna. He is remembered principally thought the dedication to him of the Orthodox basilica in Ravenna, Italy.


The story of Vitalis and his martyrdom is largely legendary with little historical evidence. Vitalis was a citizen of Milan, married to St. Valeria, and the father of Ss. Gervasius and Protasius. Finding himself in Ravenna by divine providence, Vitalis came upon a Christian named Ursicinus who was condemned to die for his faith. Faced with death by beheading, Ursicinus stood aghast, seemingly ready to yield when Vitalis moved by the moment, encouraged Ursicinus to remain steadfast and triumph over death. After the martyrdom of Ursicinus, Vitalis collected his body and gave it a respectful internment.

Discovered then to be a Christian, Vitalis was brought before the judge Paulinus who sent him to be tortured on the rack and then buried alive in a pit with stones laid over his head.

The date of his martyrdom is uncertain. Sources vary, some saying he was martyred during the time of Nero, others during the time of Marcus Aurelius. He was martyred in Ravenna, but all else is uncertain.


St. Vitalis is remembered principally through the dedication to him of the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy that was erected on the purported site of his martyrdom. St. Vitalis was memorialized in the mosaics in the church. In one of the mosaics in the apse of the Church of San Vitale, St. Vitalis is shown receiving the crown of martyrdom from the seated Christ.


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