Fact and fiction are intermingled in the traditional history of St. Zenobius, the principle patron of Florence, Italy. There are no contemporary records from which to reconstruct a reliable biography. A member of the Geronimo family of Florence, he is said to have been baptized at the age of twenty-one by Bishop Theodore, who afterwards ordained him and made him his archdeacon. The virtues and learning of Zenobius won him the friendship of St. Ambrose of Milan, by whose advice he was called to Rome by Pope St. Damasus. After carrying out successfully a mission from the Holy See to Constantinople, he returned to Italy. Upon the death of Theodore he was chosen Bishop of Florence, and edified all men by his eloquence, his miracles and the holy life he led with his deacon, St. Eugenius and his subdeacon, St. Crescentius. Five dead persons, we are told, were resuscitated by him, including a child who was run over by a cart as he played in front of the Cathedral. St. Zenobius died at the age of eighty and was buried at first in San Lorenzo and then in the Cathedral. Scenes from the life of St. Zenobius form the subject of many pictures by old masters in the Florentine galleries. His feast day is May 25th.
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By Justin Soutar
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