Saint Marcellus the Centurion, also known as Saint Marcellus of Tangier, was born on an unknown date during the mid-3rd century. The details of his early life are completely unknown and is it also not known if he was baptized as an infant or if he later converted to Christianity. All that is known is that he was a centurion in the Roman army during the reign of Maximian (c. 250-c. 310). It is thought that he kept his Christian faith hidden from his fellow soldiers.
During August of the year 298, Marcellus was stationed in Tangier, Morocco when the birthday celebration of the Emperor Maximian was announced. The highlight of this celebration was to be the large sacrifice offered to the Roman gods by all the Emperor’s officers. Marcellus, refusing to deny Christ, threw down his sword and the insignia of his rank. He was then put in prison where he remained until the end of the festivities.
Marcellus was then brought before the Praetorian prefect who decided that his case was serious enough to be placed before the Emperor himself. Although Marcellus never appeared before Maximian, he was sentenced to death by a higher-ranking prefect.
Saint Marcellus the Centurion was martyred on October 30, 298. His relics were later taken to Leon, Spain. The main church and the Plaza de San Marcelo in Leon are named after him.
At Saint Marcellus’ final trial, there was a court writer named Cassian of Tangier. Although he was, most likely, pagan, he was so disgusted by the court’s sentence that he violently threw away his tablet and refused to continue the record he was making. When asked what he was doing, Cassian boldly stated “The sentence which you have dictated is unjust”.
Cassian of Tangier was beheaded on December 3, 298. He, also, is venerated as a saint.
According to legend, the three early 4th century martyrs, Claudius, Lupercus, and Victorius, were the sons of Saint Marcellus the Centurion. They also were soldiers and, after their martyrdom, their relics were placed in a church in Leon. After a fire during the 19th century, their relics were placed in the church of Saint Marcellus. In Spain, Saints Claudius, Lupercus, and Victorius are venerated on the same day as their father.
Saint Marcellus the Centurion is considered the patron saint of Leon, Spain and of conscientious objectors. His feast day is October 30.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints