St. Julian causes a man pretending to be dead to actually die

Pocket Bard’s notes: While I really like the idea behind this story, I embellish it a bit when I perform it. I make a lot bigger deal about the man pretending to be dead in the back of the wagon, repeating several times that he “Rolled back his eyes, stuck out his tongue, and leaned his head to the side, just like he were dead.” By the end of the story, when his friends find him really dead, his face is still in the same expression. I end this piece with a triple moral: “First, you should never attempt to lie to a man of God. Second, that a few hours of work can be worth more than eternal rest. And third, sometimes if you make that face, it really will stick that way.” Which, while not at all historically accurate, tends to get me a pretty good laugh from the audience.

St. Julian causes a man pretending to be dead to actually die
The Golden Legend, Volume I, trans. William Granger Ryan, p.127

There was still another Julian, the brother of Saint Julius. These two brothers went to the most Christian emperor Theodosius, asking his permission to tear down the temples of the idols wherever they found them, and to build churches of Christ. The emperor was pleased to grant their request and wrote a command that everyone should obey them and give them help, under pain of death. So the saintly brothers Julian and Julius were building a church at a place called Gaudianum, and, in obedience to the emperor’s command, all who passed that way helped in the work.

In happened that some men were going by with a wagon, and they said to each other: “What excuse can we give these people so as to be able to go on freely and not have to give some work here?” And they concluded: “Let’s put one of us into the wagon flat on his back and cover him up with sheets. We’ll tell them we have a dead man in the cart, and they’ll let us be on our way.” So they picked one of their number and put him in the wagon, telling him: “Keep quiet and close your eyes and lie there like a dead man until we are in the clear!” So they covered him over and came to Julian and Julius, servants of God, who said to them: “Good fellows, stop a bit and give us a hand here!” The men answered: “We can’t stop here because we have a dead man in the wagon.” Blessed Julian said to them: “What good does it do to tell us such lies?” “We are not lying, sir,” they said, “and it’s just as we told you!” Saint Julian replied: “So be it! Let things be as you have said!”

The men goaded their oxen and moved on, and when they had gone far enough, they stood by the wagon and began to call their companion by name, saying: “Up with you now and drive the oxen, and we’ll move along faster!” Getting no answer they nudged him and said: “Stop playing games! Come out and do your job!” When there still was no answer, they pulled off the covers and found him dead. Thereupon such fear penetrated one and all that no one dared to lie to the servant of God from then on.


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