D. 304. Pancras came of a wealthy family in Phrygia, which had estates
in Italy, but when his parents died, his uncle Dionysius took him to
live with him in his house on the Caelian Hill at Rome. There they met
Cornelius, who was Bishop of Rome at that time, and through him they
heard the Gospel and were baptised. Diocletian, the Emperor, had a great
hatred of the Christian religion, which he was determined to stamp out.
When he heard of this young boy, who was fourteen years old, the Emperor
sought to bring him back to the worship of the old gods, but when
Pancras proved obdurate, he ordered him to be beheaded. He was buried in
the family catacombs on the Via Aurelia, where there is a church built
over the site of his grave, and the Aurelian gate is now the Porta
Years later, when Gregory the Great converted his ancestral home, which
adjoined that of Dionysius, to a monastery, he taught the monks to
revere the young saint who had suffered martyrdom near to their convent,
and when he became Pope, he had the head of St. Pancras enclosed in a
silver bust and venerated in his cathedral at the Lateran. The bust was
returned to the Church of St. Pancras in the twentieth century.
St. Augustine, who had been Prior of the monastery on the Caelian Hill,
found many heathen places of worship used by the Saxons when he arrived
in Britain. St. Gregory wrote to him instructing him not to destroy them,
but to consecrate them for the worship of the true God. On the site
which King Ethelburt gave to him, outside the city walls at Canterbury,
there was an ancient temple that had originally been used for the worship
of Mithras, and this Augustine cleansed and dedicated to the worship
of Almighty God and to the honour of His holy martyr Pancras. In this
way St. Augustine made their new home a bit of the old country. Later St.
Mellitus built another church in Canterbury, dedicating it to the Four
Crowned Martyrs, which was the dedication of the oldest of the churches
on the Caelian Hill.
St. Augustine went with Mellitus to London to restore the old church of
St. Paul as the cathedral for that diocese, and while he was there, he
built a church outside the city walls to the north west in approximately
the position of the Basilica of St. Pancras at Rome. This is now Old St.
Pancras, and boasts an altar stone that was probably consecrated by St.
Augustine. This church has given the name of the Saint to a great
railway terminus and a London Borough