St Pancras was a Roman citizen who converted to Christianity and was martyred for his faith around the year 304.
It is thought that Pancras was born around 289, at a place designated as near Synnada, a city of Phrygia Salutaris, to parents of Roman citizenship. Pancras’s mother died during childbirth. His father died when he was eight years old and so he lived with his uncle Dionysius. They moved to Rome to live in a villa on the Caelian Hill and converted to Christianity.
During the persecution of Christians by Diocletian, around 303 AD, Pancras was brought before the authorities and asked to perform a sacrifice to the Roman gods but he refused.
Diocletian was impressed by Pancras’s determination and promised the boy money and power, but he still refused. Diocletian ordered that Pancras be decapitated on the Via Aurelia.
A Roman matron named Ottavilla recovered Pancras’s body, covered it with balsam, wrapped it in precious linens and buried it in a recently built sepulchre made in the Catacombs of Rome.
His head was placed in a reliquary that still stands today in the Basilica of San Pancrazio. Devotion to Pancras is believed to have existed from the fifth century onwards. The basilica of San Pancrazio was built by Pope Symmachus on the place where the young martyr was buried known as the Catacombe di Ottavilla. In the 17th century it was given to the Carmelites.
In Spain St Pancras is venerated as the patron saint of jobs and health. Some of the saint’s relics remain in England, which is why many of the nation’s churches are dedicated to him.
St Pancras Old Church is believed to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in England. The famous railway station in London was named after St Pancras Old Church which dates back to 400 AD.
St Pancras is also invoked against cramps, false witness, headaches and perjury, and he is the patron saint of children.
St Pancras is venerated together with St Nereus and Achilleus in a shared feast day on May 12. In 1595, 25 years after Pope Pius V promulgated the Tridentine Missal, St Domitilla was added also.