Friday, December 09, 2022

The Altar and Relics of St Syrus of Pavia

Today is the feast of St Syrus, the first bishop of the little city of Pavia in northern Italy, located about 22 miles south of Milan. The Roman Martyrology states that he “became famous with apostolic signs and virtues”, a nod to a charming legend about him, that he was the boy whose five barley loaves and two fish Our Lord multiplied, as recounted in John 6, 1-15. This tradition, which is first attested only in the 14th century, goes on to say that he remained a companion of the Apostles, and traveled to Rome with St Peter, who sent him to evangelize in the north of Italy, and that he preached in various city before becoming bishop of Pavia and dying there. His relics are housed in a beautifully decorated altar of the cathedral; here are some pictures from Nicola de’ Grandi.

The marble and alabaster altar was created by Tommaso Orsolino between 1645 and 1650, and originally placed in the cathedral crypt. It was translated to the building’s right transept in 1932.
On the front of the altar is shown the episode of the boy Syrus bringing the five loaves to the Lord, and on the right, the crowd at the multiplication.

To the left, St Marcian, a disciple of Syrus and the first bishop of Tortona, about 27 miles to the south-southwest of Pavia, martyred there ca. 120 A.D.

To the right, St Maternus, a native of Pavia whom Syrus is said to have sent north, where he became the first bishop of Triers, Liège and Cologne.

St Syrus receives keys directly from the hands of the Christ Child in the arms of his Mother, while angels hold his crozier, Gospel book, and the basket with the five loaves.   
On the side of the altar, Syrus preaches to the people of Pavia and converts them to the Faith.
Syrus is consecrated bishop by St Peter.
“The bodies of Saints Syrus, Damian, Litifred, Fulco, and Roboald, bishops, and the priest Romaninus, formerly were kept in a single grave in the crypt beneath this altar.”
At the back of the altar, a relief sculpture of St Syrus presenting the city of Pavia to the Virgin and Child, and below, the crystal urn with his relics.

Two paintings of St Syrus by Giovanni Battista Carloni, 1646, which were used as models for the frescoes in the vault of the sanctuary of church dedicated to him in Genoa. The first shows him chasing away a basilisk from the city; the exterior of the church looks a great deal like the city’s cathedral, which is didicated to St Lawrence.
The Glory of St Syrus

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