Sunday, January 18, 2009
St. Petronilla, Virgin, 1st c. Martyr
Petronilla's name does not appear in martyrologies before the 4th century. Probably because there are no martyrology lists for the 1st and 2nd c. martyrs before that time. Little is known about Petronilla. What we do know is that she was a real person and a martyr. Probably one of the vast numbers of Christians who would rather be torn apart by the wild beasts in the arena than give up their belief in the Saviour of the world. A basilica was erected over her remains, along with those of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, and her cult (devotion) was widespread.
There is an apocryphal story that she was the actual daughter of St. Peter. In some early apocraphal 'Acts' a daughter of St. Peter is mentioned but not named. However, the rumor that St. Petronilla was that fictional daughter did not come about until centuries later probably only due to the fact that her name is so similar to his. It is much more likely that she was a "spiritual" daughter--one of the hundreds or thousands converted to Christianity by St. Peter.
"In 757 the coffin containing the mortal remains of the saint was transferred to an old circular building (an imperial mausoleum dating from the end of the fourth century) near St. Peter's. This building was altered and became the Chapel of St. Petronilla.... At the rebuilding of St. Peter's in the sixteenth century, St. Petronilla's remains were translated to an altar (still dedicated to her) in the upper end of the right side-aisle (near the cupola). Her feast falls on 31 May."
Patroness of the treaties concluded between the popes and the Frankish emporers, the dauphins of France, mountain travellers, and against fevers.
Information and quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia with additional information from the Patron Saints Index.