When the cruel edicts of Diocletian and Maximin Hercules were published against the Christians in the year 303, it required more than ordinary force in the bishops and clergy, to encourage the people to undergo martyrdom rather than apostatize. All were forbidden even to draw water or grind wheat, if they would not first incense idols placed for that purpose in the markets and on street corners.
According to the legend, Sabinus, claimed as a bishop by several Italian cities, and several of his clergy were arrested; Venustian, the governor of Etruria, had them before him and offered for the veneration of Sabinus a small statue of Jupiter. The bishop threw it contemptuously to the ground and broke it, whereupon Venustian ordered the hands of Sabinus cut off. His two deacons, Marcellus and Exsuperantius, also made a confession of faith, and were scourged and racked, under which torments they both died. Sabinus was taken back to prison and the bodies of his two deacons were buried at Assisi.
Saint Sabinus was aided there by a Christian widow of rank, who brought her blind nephew to him there to be cured. Fifteen prisoners who witnessed this splendid miracle were converted to the Faith.
The prefect left the bishop in peace for a month, because he himself was suffering from a painful eye ailment. He heard of the miracle and came to the bishop in prison with his wife and two sons, to ask him for help in his affliction. Saint Sabinus answered that if Venustianus would believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized with his wife and children, he would obtain that grace for him. The officer consented, they were baptized, and he threw into the river the pieces of his broken statue. Soon all the new converts gave their lives for having confessed the Gospel, sentenced by Lucius, whom Maximus Hercules sent to Spoleto after hearing of their decision, to judge and condemn them.
St. Sabinus was beaten to death, and buried. St. Gregory the Great speaks of a chapel built in his honour near Fermo, for which he asks relics of the martyr from Chrysanthus, bishop of Spoleto. These martyrs are remembered today in the Roman Martyrology. He was a man of so great learning and holiness that St. Ambrose used to submit his writing to him for criticism and approval before publication.