California Place Names: San Quentin — Sans “San” and Avec “San”

Initially Point Quentin, where San Quentin state prison is located, was named for a Miwok Indian warrior named Quentin who was captured there. Quentin fought for Chief Marin.

As it is with San Ramon – first named for Ramon, a local sheepherder – Quentin’s “San” came late.

Saint Quentin is Quintinus, supposedly the son of a Roman senator named Zeno. Of Quintinus, the church records only his actions after his conversion to Christianity.

He and a number of other future saints – brothers Crispin and Crispian, Victoricus, Fuscian, Gentian and Lucian – left Rome for Gaul to preach the good word to the present day French in the late 3rd century.

Preachers by day, Crispin and Crispian supported themselves working as shoemakers at night. They are, not surprisingly, the patron saints of shoemakers, cobblers and leather workers.

Quintinus, Crispin and Crispian stayed in present day Amiens to preach. Lucian went on to Beauvais.

Also eager to spread the word, Fuscian and Victoricus headed to Amiens but were told by Gentian that Christians there were being killed by Rictiovarus, the Roman prefect.

Quintinus, Crispin and Crispian were taken into custody by Rictiovarus and tortured.

Quintinus was pierced with iron wires from his neck to his thighs, according to one account. Another version says there was boiled pitch and the rack involved as well.

All three ultimately were beheaded. A dove supposedly exited Quintinus’ neck and sailed heavenward.  His body was dumped in the River Somme.

The year was 287 AD.

Also tortured and beheaded were Victoricus, Fuscian and Gentian who refused to tell Rictiovarus of the other two’s whereabouts. They supposedly picked up their severed heads and walked two miles from the scene of their killings.

Fifty-five years later, a blind woman named Eusebia came from Rome and found Quintinus’ body – reunited with his head. She buried the body on a hilltop and built a small chapel.

Some 100 years later, a Bishop Eligius – later a saint as well – found the tomb created by Eusebia. He took some of the relics – hair, teeth, the nails that pierced Quintinus – and built a shrine to hold them. He also rebuilt the chapel. It’s now the San Quentin basilica.

Quintinus’ feat day is October 31.

He’s the patron saint of bombardiers, locksmiths, porters, tailors and surgeons.

His name is invoked against coughs, sneezes and dropsy.




Filed under: California History

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