Ruins of the Basilica of St. Salsa

The Legend of St. Salsa

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Ruins of the Basilica of St. SalsaOn the summit of the eastern hill, Koudiat Zarour, and about 300 metres beyond the ramparts, may be seen the remains of a large church, the most interesting monument in the place, the basilica in which was interred St. Salsa. Her parents were pagans, but Salsa had been baptized, and though only fourteen years of age, she was animated with the most enthusiastic faith. One day her parents took her, in spite of her reluctance, to a feast in honour of the brazen serpent. She protested fearlessly against the sacrifices and impure rejoicings which took place, and when the spectators had finished their rites and were sunk in a drunken sleep, she took the head of the serpent and cast it into the sea. She returned with the intention of throwing the body in also, but it made so much noise in falling that it awakened the sleeping populace, who rushed upon the girl, stoned her, pierced her with swords and arrows, and cast her body into the sea that it might be deprived of burial rites. The waves, however, carried it into the harbour, close to the vessel of a certain Saturninus, who had just arrived from Gaul; a tempest suddenly arose, and Saturninus, then asleep, had a vision that if he did not give burial to a body in the sea near his vessel, he would certainly perish. At first he paid no attention to this warning, but the gale increased, and as all hope of safety appeared gone, he leapt into the water, and his hand was miraculously guided to the girdle of the saint. He took the body in his arms, rose to the surface, and immediately the storm was succeeded by a perfect calm.

From: Sir Robert Lambert Playfair, Handbook for Travellers in Algeria and Tunis. London: J. Murray, 1895.

Editor’s Note: This story took place in Tipasa, Algeria around 400 A.D. Today, in Tipasa, nothing remains of the basilica except ruins. In this case, “salsa” has nothing to do with chile peppers. In Latin, “salsa” is plural and means salted foods.

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