Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
SS. Vitalis and Agricola, Martyrs
ST. AMBROSE informs us that Agricola was a gentleman of Bologna, whose behaviour in the world had engaged the affection of the idolaters amongst whom he lived. Vitalis, his slave, learned from him the Christian religion, and first received the crown; for the servant and the freeman are one and the same thing in Christ, nor is there any difference from their condition in their reward. They were both seized, probably in the year 304, and Vitalis first put to the torture. He ceased not to praise God so long as he had the use of his tongue; and seeing no part of his body left which was not covered with wounds and blood, he prayed Jesus Christ to receive his soul, and to bestow on him that crown which his angel had shown him. His prayer was no sooner ended than he gave up the ghost. Agricolas execution was deferred out of a cruel compassion, that time and the sight of the sufferings of his faithful servant might daunt his resolution. But he was animated and encouraged by such an example. Whereupon the affection of the judges and people was converted into fury; and the martyr was hung on a cross, and his body pierced with so many huge nails that the number of his wounds surpassed that of his limbs. The bodies of the martyrs were laid in the burial place of the Jews. St. Ambrose flying from the arms of the tyrant Eugenius, came to Bologna in 393, and there discovered these relics. He took to himself some of the blood that was found in the bottom of the grave, and the cross and nails which were the instruments of Agricolas martyrdom. Juliana, a devout widow of Florence, invited him to dedicate a church she had built in that city, and begged of him this treasure, which he was not able to refuse her, and the value of which he much extols to her three daughters, bidding them receive with respect these presents of salvation, which were laid under the altar. See St. Ambrose, Exhort. ad Virginit. c. 1, 2. St. Gregory of Tours, l. de Glor. Mart. c. 44.