Feast Day : February 12
Patronage: boatmen; circus people; ferrymen; hotel employees; innkeepers; travelers
Also known as: the Poor Man
The story of Julian the Hospitaller is told in William Caxton’s version of The Golden Legend; a French manuscript dated circa 1286 is the only surviving version in verse. The story was spread by troubadours. Julian was the only child of Geoffrey, duke of Angers, France, and Duchess Emma. As a youth he loved to hunt. One day at age 16, he went off into the woods with a band of men and became separated from them and lost. He came upon a beast lying in rest and fatally shot it with an arrow. Before it died, the beast spoke to him, and foretold a terrible and unavoidable fate, that one day he would slay his mother and father with a single blow. Julian vowed to run away to avoid the fate. He rode his horse into Brittany, where he sold it and his belongings. He set off wandering, praying intensely for God to deliver him from the cruel fate predicted by the beast. Eventually he found himself in Rome, where he had an audience with the pope. The pope ordered him to spend two years across the sea. Julian obeyed, going to Syria. He joined the Order of the Knights Hospitallers and fought in the Crusades against the Turks. He distinguished himself in battle and was made a knight. One day he heard from pilgrims that his father was dead. Thinking himself free of the curse, he resolved to return home to his mother. He crossed the sea, but could not find his way home. He wandered again and eventually found himself in Spain. There he found lodging in a castle that was fortified against attack by the Turks, but the king of the Turks was intent on capturing the countess there. The Turks attacked and Julian fought bravely, succeeding in taking the king hostage. He was made a count, and he and the countess married. For two years they lived in great happiness. Meanwhile, Duke Geoffrey was still very much alive, and he and Emma had spent four years searching in vain for their son. At last they heard news about him and his whereabouts, and they journeyed to the castle disguised as pilgrims. They arrived on a day when Julian was out hunting. The countess welcomed them and bade them bathe and rest in the bed she shared with Julian. They did so, and everyone went to sleep, including the countess in another room. Julian returned and thought it strange that his wife did not come to meet him as was her custom. The hall was empty. Going to their chamber, he perceived two sleeping forms in the bed in the dark. He immediately concluded that his wife was having an affair. Enraged, he cut them both in two, and the bed in half, with a single blow. The countess awakened from the noise and rushed into the chamber. The horror of his crime—the unavoidable destiny—was too much for Julian. He attempted to kill himself with his own sword, but was 196 Juliana of Cumae stopped by his wife. He vowed to do penance in exile, and the countess pledged to join him. After the burial of his parents, Julian and his wife dressed in the clothing of beggars and left the castle. They wandered and begged for food. They suffered hardships and insults. They went to Rome and confessed to the pope, and professed their desire to live in poverty. The pope’s penance was that they should find themselves in a place of perilous passage and there establish a hostel for sheltering travelers and the poor. After more wandering and many hardships and trials, they at last came to a place by a stream where many had died trying to cross the water. The area was full of thieves. There they constructed a humble hostel with beds made from grass, and devoted themselves to serving those who came for shelter. Julian was able to barter for a boat, and ferried people safely across the stream. For a long time they lived this way. One night they were awakened by a man’s voice from the opposite bank asking to be ferried over and given shelter. The traveler was an exhausted leper. Julian and his wife showed him every courtesy. When the stranger asked Julian to lend him his wife to sleep with him for the night, Julian protested but his wife did not, and agreed to comply. But when she went to the leper’s bed, he had vanished. From outside came his voice, telling them that they had been tested, and were now expiated of their sins. For seven more years, Julian and his wife lived at the hostel, serving others. One night thieves came and killed them the same way in which Julian had slain his parents. Afterward, miracles without end occurred there. The bodies of Julian and his wife were placed in a gold and silver reliquary.