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St Genesius of Rome (oil painting).

During a stage performance before Emperor Diocletion in Rome,3rd. Century, the actor Genesius (leader of a theatrical troupe in Rome) portrayed an aspirant about to be baptized, in a play satirizing the ceremony.

As the play continued, however, Genesius collapsed on the stage as if very ill. Two performers asked what was wrong. Genesius said he felt as if a weight was on his chest and he wanted removed. Two actors, dressed as a priest and exorcist, were called on stage. He said he had had a vision of angels bearing a book listing all of his sins. The "priest" asked, "My child, why did you send for me?" Genesius said he could still see angels and asked to be baptized right there. The "priest" did so. When presented to the Emperor, he declared his new faith.

Diocletian had him turned over to Plautian, prefect of the praetorium, who tortured him in an effort to force him to sacrafice to the imperial cult. When Genesius refused, he was beheaded.

The legend of Genesius of Rome originated with the historical Genesius of Arles, a notary who died as a martyr in about 303 AD under the Emperor Maximianus. As his cult spread to Rome, he was presumed to be Roman martyr and buried in that city. Later, this mistaken belief helped create an entirely fictional tale, which turned him into a comedian who converted to Christianity while performing an anti-Christian satire and was beheaded for his faith. This version had begun by at least the 6th century. A similar tale was told about Gelasius of Heliopolis.

Genesius is considered the patron saint of actors, lawyers, barristers, clowns, comedians, converts, stage magicians, dancers, epileptics, musicians, printers, typists, illusionists and victims of torture. He is one of the patrons of the Catholic Magicians' Guild.

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