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[Raba River by Piotr Matyga [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons]

In the early fourth century, when Quirinus, bishop of Siscia (in modern Croatia), learned that Maximus, the local magistrate, had ordered his arrest, he fled town. Maximus’s men overtook him and brought him before the magistrate. Maximus asked him why he fled. Quirinus replied that Jesus had ordered his disciples “When they persecute you in one town, fly to the next.”

Maximus’s interest in Quirinus was not arbitrary. Emperor Diocletian, at the instigation of his co-ruler Galerius, had cracked down on Christian leaders throughout the Roman Empire. They hoped that by cutting off Christian leadership the church would crumble. In compliance with the imperial order, Maximus now commanded Quirinus to sacrifice to the Roman gods.

Quirinus refused:

It would be a sacrilege. The gods whom you serve are nothing. My God, whom I serve, is in heaven and earth, and in the seas and everywhere; but He is higher than all because He contains all things in Himself; all things were created by Him, and by Him alone do they subsist. 

The magistrate threatened torture. Quirinus replied that torture would be more a matter for glory than for grief. And so Maximus had him beaten, promising to make him a priest of Jupiter if he would renounce Christ. But the bishop responded that he was already acting as a priest by offering the sacrifice of suffering to God:

I scarce feel my torments, and am ready to suffer still greater, that my example may show those whom God has committed to my care the way to the glory we wish for.

Imprisoned, Quirinus converted some of his guards. So he was sent to Amantius, the nearest governor, who could carry out a sentence of death. Amantius loaded him with chains and exhibited him in towns where crowds mocked and jeered at the old man.

Eventually he brought Quirinus to his (the governor’s) residence at Sabaria (in modern Poland). After reading the transcript of Quirinus’s trial before Maximus, Amantius asked if it was correct. Quirinus said it was. “I have confessed the true God at Siscia, I have never worshiped any other. Him I carry in my heart and no man shall succeed in separating me from Him.”

Amantius ordered the bishop drowned. On this day, 4 June 308 (or 309), executioners tied a stone around Quirinus’s neck and dumped him into the River Raab (known as the Rába today). Quirinus did not sink at once, but preached and prayed as he drifted downstream. His final prayer was,

It is no new thing, O all-powerful Jesus! for thee to stop the course of rivers, or to cause a man to walk upon the water, as thou didst thy servant Peter: the people have already seen the proof of thy power in me; grant me now to lay down my life for thy sake, O my God!

Christians buried Quirinus. He was mentioned in various old texts and martyr lists, and the Roman Christian poet Prudentius (348–c. 413) wrote a hymn in his honor. Legends said his stone floated until his final prayer and that he sat on it while he preached.

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