medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (1. July) I begin a new year of writing this column----my
fourth, in fact. As some of you recall, each year I work my way
through one or two modern compilations about saints, since each
collection includes different figures (and to some extent different
Thus year #1 my main source was Schauber and Schindler's Bildlexikon
der Heiligen---still my favorite one-volume book on saints.
Reasonably detailed entries, with lots of extremely thoughtful and
Year #2 I used Farmer's Oxford Dictionary of Saints---the only
standard compilation to include bibliography, but limited by being
exceedingly comprehensive about obscure English saints but leaving
out some quite major figures from the rest of the world. So, after
getting discouraged with the extreme pietism of Bargellini's *Mille
Santi del giorno*, I supplemented it with the Oekumenisches
Heiligenlexikon and St. Patrick's "For all the Saints" page, both
This past year, I've been using the Benedictine Book of Saints, 7th
ed., edited by Basil Watkins. This collection has the most
saints---6,790 about whom something more is said than "nothing is
known about this saint."
This coming year, my #1 resource is going to be John J. Delaney,
*Dictionary of Saints*, 2d ed. (1980). I had hoped to supplement it
with more detailed listings on Orthodox saints, especially the ones
after 1054 who aren't included in RC publications. But my searches
have so far been unsatisfying. The most complete resource for
Orthodox saints I've found so far is the web page of the Orthodox
Church of America, but the vitae of saints are so horribly "sweet"
that I can't stand reading them. If anyone has any suggestions on
where I could find a collection of Orthodox saints, I'd appreciate it.
One new feature this year: I'm going to include the most important
modern saint (post 1550) of the day, at popular request. It'll be at
the bottom of the page so medieval purists need not scroll down that
And so, 1. July is the feast day of:
Shenute (d. c. 450) The Egyptian Shenute became a monk in the
Thebaid and in 385 became abbot at Dair-al-Abiad, a double monastery.
His rule was extremely rigorous, but is said to have attracted some
2000 monks and 1800 nuns. S. was a leader in developing the
cenobitic life; he wrote extensively in Coptic. S. is believed to
have been 118 when he died.
Theodoric (d. 533) Theodoric was born near Rheims. He was married,
but he and his wife agreed to separate, after which T. became a
priest and ended up founding a monastery at Mont d'Or near Rheims.
Gall of Clermont (d. 551) Gall was a native of Clermont who became a
monk at Cournon and bishop of Clermont in 526.
Eparchius (d. 581) Eparchius was a nobleman of Perigord who became a
monk at Bordogne (later renamed Saint-Cybard---Cybard is an
alternative name for Eparchius), then ran away to be a hermit near
Angouleme. His bishop forced E. to become a priest and he ended up
attracting many disciples.
Simeon Salus (d. c. 589) Simeon was an Egyptian who spent about
thirty years as a hermit in the Sinai Desert. His nickname "the mad"
came from his extreme ascetic practice and efforts to be thought an
idiot out of humility.
Serf (6th cent.) The odd legend of the day. One legend makes Serf
(Servanus) an Irishman who was consecrated bishop by St. Palladius
and founded the monastery of Culross (Scotland). An even better
story tells that S. was son of the king of Canaan: he renounced his
throne, became patriarch of Jerusalem and then pope (!), and resigned
the papacy to preach to the Scots. S. is patron of the Orkney
And the modern saint of the day is Oliver Plunkett (d. 1681) The
last of the Irish Catholic martyrs, Oliver Plunket studied and worked
in Rome until being named archbishop of Armagh in 1669. He then
returned to Ireland, where he reorganized his diocese, reformed
abuses, etc. By 1673 persecution of Catholics was on an upswing and
OP went into hiding. He did not, however, leave the country when all
Catholic priests and bishops were expelled in the wake of the Titus
Oates plot, so was imprisoned on a treason charge. He was hanged,
drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. OP was canonized in 1975---the first
officially canonized Irish saint since 1226.
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