A bronze statue* of St Julian the Hospitaller surmounts the entrance to the 18th century church of San Giuliano dei Fiamminghi (St Julian of the Flemish), the national church of Belgium.
According to the medieval Legenda Aurea (Golden Legend), Julian was a nobleman imbued with an impulsive and jealous temperament. While out hunting, he had a vision that he would accidentally kill his own parents. One night, while Julian was away, his wife gave the marital bed to Julian's parents who had paid the couple a surprise visit. On his return, Julian assumed that his wife was in bed with another man and killed them both!
To atone for his crime, he set up a hospice by a ford where travellers could find refuge. One day he ferried across the river a leper, who was dying of the cold. Out of charity, he gave the leper his bed. The next day he discovered that the leper had been transformed into an angel, who announced that Julian had been forgiven.
In art, St. Julian the Hospitaller's attribute is a wrapped sword. His feast day is February 12th and he is the patron saint of travellers, innkeepers and ferrymen.
*It is a modern copy of a statue carved in elm by Jodocus Haerts in 1634.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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