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Pudens, Pudentiana, and Praxedes, Ss.


Early Christian saints and titular churches. The earliest source in which the name Pudentiana appears is an inscription of 384, Leopardus lector de Pudentiana (G. de Rossi, Inscript. Christ. 1:384). This refers to a titulus, i.e., a place of cult and not a saint, because in the fourth century it was not the custom to dedicate a church directly to a saint.

Pudentiana is an adjective, and in the present church the old inscription reads: Dominus conservator ecclesiae Pudentianae, meaning that the founder was a certain Pudens. Sometime in the sixth century the titulus Pudentis was reevaluated and Pudens was canonized. Misreading the adjective Pudentianae as a person created "St." Pudentiana.

In the seventh century there appeared a legendary Gesta Pudentianae et Praxedis that states that Praxedes, after the death of her sister Pudentiana, "who was buried on May 19 beside her father Pudens in the cemetery of Priscilla, with the consent of Pope pius i, dedicated the Baths of Novatus as a church, under the name of the Bl. Virgin Pudentiana, in the vicus patricius "the patrician suburb. Prior to this, the same Gesta narrates that Pudens had constructed a church over the same house. The author of the Gesta thus identified the titulus Pudentis with the titulus Pudentianae, and since there was only one church on the site, he concluded that it referred to a Sancta Pudentiana, who could only be a real person, a virgin, saint, and martyr.

During the next centuries the name fluctuates between Pudens and Pudentiana, but from the ninth century on it is the church of St. Pudentiana, and in time her feast was entered in the liber pontificalis.

The Roman martyrology lists SS. Pudentiana and Pudens, Senator, on May 19, with Praxedes on July 21. A son of Pudens is mentioned on June 20.

A Pudens is mentioned by St. Paul (2 Tm 4.21). Excavations beneath the church reveal the ruins of Roman houses, one of which near the Baths of Novatus could be that of Pudens. The tradition that St. Peter lived there need not be excluded. The house of Pudens was probably turned into a church by Pius I (140155), and when rebuilt

by Pope siricius (384399), extended over the baths. Pope paschal i (817824) transferred the body of a St. Potentiana from the cemetery of Priscilla to the church of St. Pudentiana, and the same pope transferred hundreds of bodies to the nearby church of St. Praxedis.

Praxedes, according to the Gesta, was the sister of Pudentiana; in fact, she was foundress of the titulus Praxedis, which certainly existed in 489 as we know from an inscription. The itineraria of the seventh century indicate her tomb in the Priscillan cemetery beside her sister Pudentiana. Her feast is first found in the Capitulary of Wissenburg (seventheighth century).

Feast: May 19.

Bibliography: Acta Sanctorum May 4:298300. j. p. kirsch, The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. c. g. herbermann et al. (New York 190714) 12:344345. h. delehaye, Les Origines du culte des martyrs (2d ed. Brussels 1933); Étude sur le légendier romain (Brussels 1936) 264266. r. u. montini, Santa Pudenziana (Rome 1959). a. amore, Antonianum 39 (1964) 3033, 3637.

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