Commemoration - January 22
Vincent was born in Huesca, near Saragossa, Spain, sometime during the latter part of the 3rd century; it is believed his father was Eutricius (Euthicius), and his mother was Enola, a native of Osca.
Vincent spent most of his life in the city of Saragossa, Spain, where he was educated and instructed in the Catholic religion. He was ordained to the diaconate by Saint Valerius, Bishop of Saragossa, and commissioned to do the preaching in the diocese.
Because Valerius suffered from a speech impediment, Vincent acted as his spokesman. When the Roman Emperor Diocletian began persecuting Christians in Spain, Vincent answered in the bishop's name and both were brought before Dacian, the Roman Governor. He spoke eloquently for both his bishop and his church, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and condemning paganism.
By order of the Governor Dacian, he and his bishop were dragged in chains to Valencia and kept in prison for a long time. Then Valerius was exiled, but Vincent was subjected to many cruel torments. He was stretched upon a rack, torn with metal hooks, and laid upon a frame of sharp iron bars heated from beneath by fire; lard and salt were rubbed into his wounds; and amid all this he kept his eyes raised to heaven, and remained unmoved. When even this cruelty failed to break his will, he was again imprisoned and thrown into a solitary dungeon the floor of which was strewn with broken crockery that added to the agony of his already lacerated body.
Vincent declared that God sent the angels of heaven to comfort him. His cell, he said, was illuminated with a heavenly light, and might have been filled with roses, so sweet was its fragrance. He sang hymns as he suffered, so that even the jailer was astounded. As he looked into the cell of the tormented saint and saw him upon his broken knees, suffering agony yet singing the praises to God, he was overcome by wonder, and confessed in that hour his conversion.
On hearing this, the Roman governor was infuriated, but finding all his efforts to unnerve his victim were useless, gave orders for the torture to stop - perhaps to win Vincent by clemency or to prevent him from becoming a martyr. For a time Vincent had some relief. The faithful were permitted to gaze upon his broken body, probably in the hope that they would abandon their faith. Instead, they came in troops, kissed the open sores, and carried away as relics cloths dipped in his blood. The gentle hands of Christian women tended his wounds. But he did not survive long and died of his injuries in prison on January 22 in 304. When he died, the anger of the authorities was renewed. His body was thrown in a bog as prey to the wild birds and beasts, but it was strangely preserved it is said by the protection of a raven. When any wild beast or bird tried to attack the mortal remains of the saint, the raven drove them away. Thwarted, Dacian had Vincent's body sewn into a bag, tied to a stone, and cast into the sea. But in the night it was washed ashore, and again loving hands gave it reverent care and secret burial. After peace was restored to the Church, a chapel was built over the remains outside the walls of Valencia. His feast day has been celebrated on January 22 since the persecutions ended in 312. He was the protomartyr of Spain. There can be no doubt of Vincent martyrdom; however, much of the legend and mythology of St. Vincent and his manner of death is of questionable accuracy. In spite of that, the story has remained so strong that St. Vincent's feast, January 22, is widely celebrated in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, and England. Prudentius devoted a poem to his praise and embroidered acts of his martyrdom have been preserved. The fame of Saint Vincent spread very rapidly and far, as Saint Augustine testifies, in a sermon, that his cultus extended to every part of the Roman Empire and everywhere the name of Jesus was known. In 1175, Saint Vincent's relics were brought to Lisbon; others claim that they came to Castres in 864. Cremona, Bari, and other cities claim to have relics. Childeric I brought the stole and dalmatic to Paris in 542, and built a church in honor of St. Vincent, later called St-Germain-des-Prés. Regimont, near Bezières, had a church of the saint as early as 455. Rome had three churches dedicated to St. Vincent: one near St. Peter's, another in Trastevere, and the one built by Honorius I (625-638) and renewed by Leo III in 796. This most renowned martyr of Spain is represented in the dalmatic of a deacon, and has as emblems a cross, a raven, a grate, or a fire-pile. On occasion he is shown (1) holding an iron hook; (2) with a gridiron with spikes; (3) torn with hooks and burned with torches; or (4) his corpse protected by eagles or ravens.
He is honored as patron in Valencia, Saragossa, Portugal, and other places, and is the patron of bakers, roof-makers, sailors, schoolgirls, vinedressers, vintners, tile-makers, and roofers.