the martyrs of gafsa

The Martyrs of Gafsa by Mario Ferrari, Rome, Italy.In 484, the seventh year of his reign, Huneric, the Arian Vandal king in Africa, published an edict ordering the dissolution of all Catholic monasteries in the region under his rule. The seven members of the monastery of Gafsa in Tunis, established under Augustinian inspiration, were taken captive because of their refusal to renounce their faith and convert to Arianism. Liberatus was the abbot of the monastery; Boniface was a deacon; Servus and Rusticus were subdeacons; and Rogatus, Septimus, and Maximus were lay monks.

As they remained constant in their beliefs they were put in chains and thrown into a dungeon. Faithful Christians bribed the guards and visited them day and night, in order to receive instruction from them and to find encouragement in their own sufferings for the faith. Finally, they were ordered to be placed aboard an old ship and burned at sea. Their march to the sea was a cheerful one, hardly dampened by the insults of the Arians who stood along the way. The youngest of the monks, Maximus, was particularly urged to abandon his companions. His response was firm: “No one is going to separate me from my holy father, Liberatus, or from my brothers who raised me in the monastery. I have learned with them how to live in the fear of God. I desire to share suffering with them, because I hope to share the glory which is to come. Do not think you can lead me astray because I am young. The Lord has willed to reunite us seven; he will deign to crown us seven with the same martyrdom.”

The ship was put adrift and set afire several times, but it would not ignite. Huneric then ordered that the monks be brought ashore and clubbed to death with oars. The date was 2 July 484. Though their bodies were thrown into the sea, they were recovered by some of the faithful and were buried in the monastery of Bigua, next to the Basilica of Celerinus.

In the Augustinian Order they are commemorated on 26 August.