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Saving Eustachio: Parents in Italian city offered cash to name babies after patron saint

Eustachio baby bonus sparks debate in Matera.

A citizens association in the southern Italian city of Matera is offering a financial reward to parents who name their babies after the city's patron saint Eustachio.

The Maria Santissima della Bruna association says it will donate a "symbolic financial contribution" to parents in Matera who call their newborn boys Eustachio in 2024.

Famous for its ancient cave dwellings, Matera is located in the Basilicata region and was European Culture Capital in 2019.

The association says the payment of the undisclosed sum is a "small gesture to thank parents for their desire to perpetuate the name of our patron saint, also among future generations."

The offer is motivated by "devotion, continuity and tradition", says the assocation, which organises celebrations to venerate Matera's two patron saints: the Madonna della Bruna and Eustachio.

The association's efforts to keep the name Eustachio alive however have sparked a backlash on social media, with some describing the initiative as "like something from the last century".

Other commentators drew parallels to Italy's Fascist era when naming children after dictator Benito Mussolini or other so-called patriotic names was rewarded with financial compensation.

"Let's hope that [the name] will be given out of devotion...and not for the financial aspect", wrote one user, while another suggested that for "gender equality" reasons the same financial reward should be extended to Matera parents who name their newborn daughters Bruna or Brunetta.

Basilica di S. Eustachio in Rome. Photo Turismo Roma.

Who was Sant'Eustachio?

Patron saint of firefighters, hunters and torture victims, S. Eustachio or Saint Eustace was a pagan Roman general, who converted to Christianity after he had a vision of the cross while hunting.

According to legend, he was martyred in AD 118, at the command of Emperor Hadrian, for refusing to sacrifice to pagan Roman gods.

The Cathedral in Matera is jointly dedicated to the Virgin Mary, under the designation of the Madonna della Bruna, and to S. Eustachio.

There is a church in the historic centre of Rome named in his honour too, crowned by a white stag's head and cross, a reference to the apparition and the saint's conversion to Christianity.

The name Eustachio will also be familiar to coffee lovers in the Italian capital. Located near the church of the same name, Caffè S. Eustachio has been serving signature coffee in Rome since 1938.

General Info

Address 75100 Matera, Province of Matera, Italy

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Saving Eustachio: Parents in Italian city offered cash to name babies after patron saint

75100 Matera, Province of Matera, Italy

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