Today is the feast day of several saints who all have cognate names, and many scholars believe that they are all the same person (or the same fictional person). They do have somewhat different legends associated with them. The most prominent of the three is Saint Genesius of Arles (French: Saint Genès), a notary martyred under Maximianus in 303 or 308. Then there is Saint Genesius of Rome who was a comic actor, martyred under Diocletian (late 3rd century). Finally, there is Saint Ginés de la Jara (also known as Ginés de la Xara, Ginés el Franco, Genesius Sciarensis), an obscure Spanish saint associated with the region surrounding Cartagena. Let’s take them in turn.
The Acta Santorum, attributed to St. Paulinus of Nola, states: “Genesius, native of Arles, at first a soldier became known for his proficiency in writing, and was made secretary to the magistrate of Arles. While performing the duties of his office the decree of persecution against the Christians was read in his presence. Outraged in his ideas of justice, the young catechumen cast his tablets at the feet of the magistrate and fled. He was captured and executed, and thus received baptism in his own blood.” His veneration must be very old, as his name is found in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (4th century). A church and altar dedicated to him at Arles were also known in the 4th century. A 5th-century vita in the form of a sermon, Sermo de vita Genesii, is sometimes attributed to Hilary of Arles.
According to Serafino Prete, the spread and popularity of Genesius’ cult in other cities of Gaul and beyond gave rise to the multiplication and “localization” of his cult, so that the saints Genesius of Alvernia, Genesius of Béziers, Genesius of Rome, Genesius of Cordoba and Genesius Sciarensis (Ginés de la Jara) are actually variations on the same saint and saint’s cult.
Genesius of Rome was said to be the leader of a theatrical troupe in Rome. One day he was performing before the Roman emperor Diocletian, intending to expose Christian religious rites to ridicule and pretending to receive the sacrament of Baptism. As the play continued, however, Genesius suddenly lay on the stage as if very ill. Two performers asked what was wrong. Genesius said he felt as if a weight were on his chest and he wanted it 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. Enraged, Diocletian had him arrested and sent to Plautia, prefect of the praetorium, to be tortured. Despite his agonies, Genesius persisted in his faith, and he was finally ordered to be beheaded.
Genesius is said to have been buried in the Cemetery of St. Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina. His relics are claimed to be kept in San Giovanni della Pigna, Santa Susanna di Termini, and the chapel of St. Lawrence.
No definite dates regarding the birth and death of Ginés de la Jara exist. However, a set of legends surrounding him arose. He is believed to have sailed from France around 800 and to have been shipwrecked on the Murcian coast, where he established a monastery. Another legend made him a kinsman of the Frankish military leader Roland. After his death, the coffin bearing his remains were brought to France. However, they were miraculously empty when they arrived there; the relics remained near the Mar Menor. Additional stories state that he went on a pilgrimage to Compostela, having various adventures on the way. He then remained on the hill known as Cabezo del Miral, he remained until his death. His fame grew and his sepulcher became a place of pilgrimage.
A legend that appears in a manuscript dating from 1243, Liber Sancti Iacobi, states that Genesius of Arles was buried at Arles but that his head was transported miraculously “in the hands of angels” to Cartagena. This may represent an attempt to explain the existence of the cult of the same saint in two separate locations. An additional variation on the legend states that after Ginés was decapitated in southern France, he picked up his head and threw it into the Rhône. The head was carried by sea to the coast of Murcia, where it was venerated as a relic.
I think it is safe to assume that Genesius of Arles is the progenitor of the other saintly legends, so let us focus on Arles for our recipe today. Saucissons d’Arles are as legendary as Genesius. They are made from lean pork and beef, pork fat, and various spices. They are left to cure in controlled temperature and humidity for several months before eating. Here is a video on the process. It’s in French, I’m afraid, but you’ll get the gist even if you are French challenged: