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Saint Fermin
Saint Fermin, depicted in an eighteenth century oil painting
Bishop and Martyr
Born c. 272, Pamplona, Spain
Died c. 303, Amiens, France
Feast 25 September; 7 July in Pamplona, Spain
Patronage Amiens, France, Lesaka, Spain, Navarre, Spain.

Saint Fermin of Amiens (also Firmin, from Latin, Firminus; in Spanish, Fermín; in Basque, Fermin) is one of many locally venerated Catholic saints. Fermin is the co-patron of Navarra, where his feast, the 'San Fermín' in the capital Pamplona, is forever associated with the Encierro or 'Running of the Bulls' made famous by Ernest Hemingway. Fermin was long venerated also at Amiens, where he met martyrdom.



Fermin is said to have been the son of a Roman of senatorial rank in Pamplona in the 3rd century, who was converted to Christianity by Saint Honestus, a disciple of Saint Saturninus. According to tradition, he was baptised by Saturninus (in Navarra "San Cernin") at the spot now known as the Pocico de San Cernin, the "Small Well of San Cernin", across from the facade of the church dedicated to St Cernin, which is built on the foundations of a pagan temple.[1]

Saturninus (in France "Saint Saturnin") was the first bishop of Toulouse, where he was sent during the "consulate of Decius and Gratus" (AD 250). He was martyred (traditionally in 257 AD), significantly by being tied to a bull by his feet and dragged to his death, a martyrdom that is sometimes transferred to Fermin and relocated at Pamplona. In Toulouse, the earliest church dedicated to Notre-Dame du Taur ("Our Lady of the Bull") still exists, though rebuilt; though the 11th century Basilica of Saint Sernin, the largest surviving Romanesque structure in France, has superseded it, the church is said to be built where the bull stopped, but more credibly must in fact be on a site previously dedicated to a pre-Christian sacred bull, perhaps the bull of Mithras. The street, which runs straight from the Capitole, is named, not the Rue de Notre-Dame, but the Rue du Taur.

Fermin was ordained a priest in Toulouse, according to the local legend, and returned to Pamplona as its first bishop.[2] On a later voyage preaching the gospel, Fermin was beheaded in Amiens, France.[1] He died on September 25, AD 303.


Baroque-era depiction of Saint Fermin (left) and Saint Francis Xavier, principal co-patrons of the Kingdom of Navarre. The coat of arms of Navarre and Pamplona are also visible.

Besides Pamplona, San Fermín is venerated in other places in Navarre, such as Lesaka, in the fiesta called the Regata del Bidasoa. In the village of San Fermín de Aldapa, the martyrdom of Saint Fermin is still commemorated on September 25. On the preceding Thursday to Sunday there are numerous festivities there, in the Navarrería and near the Cathedral. Celebrations begin with a firework rocket set off by a youngster from the Navarrería, who has been given the title of the little mayor. As at Pamplona, the celebrations have a special closing ceremony called Pobre de Mí (Poor Me).

When certain relics of the saint were brought back to Pamplona in 1196, the city decided to mark the occasion with an annual event. Over the centuries, the saint's festival, the ancient annual fair and the running of the bulls and subsequent bullfights have all melded together.

The cult of St Firmin was of great religious and economic importance to Amiens during the Middle Ages and into modern times. Legends grew up to explain the discovery of the saint's relics, most of which were held at Amiens. He is represented in a number of major works of art in Amiens Cathedral.


Saint Firmin in Anglo-Saxon England

There is a mysterious well of an otherwise unknown "Saint Farmin" at Bowes, Yorkshire, England. The existence of a monastery named after a Saint Firmin in North Crawley was recorded in the Domesday Book (i.149a); there was a holy well in the churchyard,[3] and unauthorized pilgrimages there were suppressed in 1298.[4] The church at Thurlby, Lincs is dedicated to St Firmin. The only other St. Firmin in England rested at Thorney, Cambridgeshire. These occurrences point towards possible veneration of Firmin in Anglo-Saxon England.


The funeral monument of Adrien de Henencourt, head of the chapter of Amiens Cathedral in the early 16th century, depicts not only the life and martyrdom of the saint, but also the posthumous history of his body, in a series of polychrome reliefs and statuary.


  1. ^ a b "History of... The saint-Saint San Fermin festival- Sanfermines-tourist information on Navarre". Government of Navarre. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  2. ^ Today, the see of Pamplona is an archdiocese: see List of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Spain.
  3. ^ The parish church is still dedicated to Firmin today.
  4. ^ Alan Thacker and Richard Sharpe, Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West, "A Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Saints" p. 535.

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