Pancras was born around 289, at a place designated as near Synnada, a city of Phrygia Salutaris, to parents of Roman citizenship.
His name is Greek and literally means “the one that holds everything”.
His mother Cyriada died during childbirth, while his father Cleonius died when Pancras was only eight years old.
Pancras was entrusted to his uncle Dionysius’ care.
They both moved to Rome to live in a villa on the Caelian Hill.
When they both converted to Christianity, the teenager Pancras became a zealous adherent of the religion.
Then the 51st Roman Emperor Diocletian began persecuting Christians around 303 AD.
Soon, Pancras was brought before the authorities and asked to perform a sacrifice to the Roman gods.
Diocletian, impressed with the boy’s determination to resist, promised him wealth and power, but Pancras refused, and finally the emperor ordered him to be decapitated on the Via Aurelia, on May 12, 303 AD.
A Roman matron named Ottavilla recovered Pancras’s body, covered it with balsam, wrapped it in precious linens, and buried it in a newly built sepulchre dug in the Catacombs of Rome.
Pancras’ head was then placed in the reliquary that still exists today in the Basilica of San Pancrazio.
The basilica of San Pancrazio fuori le Mura was built by Pope Symmachus (498-514), over the Catacombe di Ottavilla, where the body of the young martyr had been buried.
From an early stage, Saint Pancras was venerated together with Saints Nereus and Achilleus in a shared feastday of the Ice Saints.
The Ice Saints is the name given to St. Mamertus, St. Pancras, and St. Servatius in Flemish, French, Dutch, Hungarian, German, Austrian, Polish, Swiss, Slovene and Croatianfolklore.
In 1595, 25 years after Pope Pius V promulgated the Tridentine Missal, Saint Domitilla was added also.
Together, they are so named because their feast days fall on the days of May 11, May 12, and May 13 respectively; the period from May 12 to May 15 was noted to bring a brief spell of colder weather in many years, including the last nightly frosts of the spring, in the Northern Hemisphere under the Julian Calendar.
Since 1969 Saint Pancras has been venerated separately, still on May 12. He is, traditionally, the second of the Ice Saints.
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