1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Crispin and Crispinian

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CRISPIN and CRISPINIAN, the patron saints of shoemakers, whose festival is celebrated on the 25th of October. Their history is largely legendary, and there exists no trace of it earlier than the 8th century. It is said that they were brothers and members of a noble family in Rome. They gave up their property and travelled to Soissons (Noviodunum, Augusta Sucessionum), where they supported themselves by shoemaking and made many converts to Christianity. The emperor Maximianus (Herculius) condemned them to death. His prefect Rictiovarus endeavoured to carry out the sentence, but they emerged unharmed from all the ordeals to which he subjected them, and the weapons he used recoiled against the executioners. Rictiovarus in disgust cast himself into the fire, or the caldron of boiling tar, from which they had emerged refreshed. At last Maximian had their heads cut off (c. 287–300). Their remains were buried at Soissons, but were afterwards removed, partly by Charlemagne to Osnabrück (where a festival is observed annually on the 20th of June) and partly to the chapel of St Lawrence in Rome. The abbeys of St Crépin-en-Chaye (the remains of which still form part of a farmhouse on the river Aisne, N.N.W. of Soissons), of St Crépin-le-Petit, and St Crépin-le-Grand (the site of which is occupied by a house belonging to the Sisters of Mercy), in or near Soissons, commemorated the places sanctified by their imprisonment and burial. There are also relics at Fulda, and a Kentish tradition claims that the bodies of the martyrs were cast into the sea and cast on shore on Romney Marsh (see Acta SS. Bolland, xi. 495; A. Butler, Lives of the Saints. October 25th).

Especially in France, but also in England and in other parts of Europe, the festival of St Crispin was for centuries the occasion of solemn processions and merry-making, in which gilds of shoemakers took the chief part. At Troyes, where the gild of St Crispin was reconstituted as late as 1820, an annual festival is celebrated in the church of St Urban. In England and Scotland the day acquired additional importance as the anniversary of the battle of Agincourt (cf. Shakespeare, Henry V. iv. 3); the symbolical processions in honour of “King Crispin” at Stirling and Edinburgh were particularly famous.

For other examples see Notes and Queries, 1st series, v. 30, vi. 243; W. S. Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (London, 1898).