medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
NB: This note written on 13. February, while medieval-religion was
offline; apologies for any overlap in content with Phyllis' "saints of
the day" posting for today (not yet distributed to the list and thus
Today (13. February) is / is also the feast day of:
Fusca and Maura, martyrs (?).
According to their Passio (BHL 3222, 3222c, 3223), Fusca was the
fifteen-year-old daughter of a pagan family in Ravenna who together
with her nurse Maura was baptized in the Christian faith, could not be
persuaded by her father to apostasize, and was tortured on the orders
of the governor Quintianus after she refused to sacrifice to pagan
idols. Finally killed with a sword-thrust, M. as she was dying asked
that the same mercy be shown to Maura (who was being tortured with
her); her request was granted and Maura met her end in the same way.
There are no erotic undertones in this little Passio and neither Fusca
nor, for that matter, Maura is said to have been beautiful.
Identifying the Quintianus of this story with the official of the same
name who in her Latin acta is said to have ordered the execution of St.
Agatha, early modern martyrologists ascribed the events in question to
the Decian persecution. But no version of this Passio that has reached
print is so specific. Moreover, this seems to be a very late Passio,
in origin perhaps no earlier than the eleventh century. Its earliest
witnesses are said to be late eleventh- or early twelfth-century (an
unpublished text in a passionary at Bologna) and twelfth-century (a
fragmentary passionary from Rimini; BHL 3222c), respectively. It
documents a cult of Fusca localized in formerly Byzantine parts of
northern Italy whose oldest attestation is from the ninth-century
Veneto and on which our early sources from Ravenna itself are silent.
Most versions of the Passio end with a translation story in which the
bodies of F. and M. arrived, miraculously or by the action of pirates,
at Sabratha in Tripolitania (in today's Libya) and were there buried;
centuries later they were brought back to Christendom, either to
Ravenna (BHL 3233; thirteenth-century) or to Torcello in the northern
part of the Venetian lagoon (BHL 3222; sixteenth-century) and a church
was built to house their remains. As there is no evidence for the
dedication of any church to F. _and M._, it seems likely that both
Maura ("Moor") and the African locale from which their relics are said
to have been returned are hagiographic inventions inspired by the name
Fusca ("Darkish One"). The oldest surviving church dedicated to M. is
Santa Fosca at Torcello, a late eleventh-/early twelfth-century
structure connected by a colonnade to Torcello's much older ex-
cathedral of the Blessed Virgin (the former cathedral of the diocese
of Altino in exile and Venice's cathedral church from the central
Middle Ages to 1807).
Views of Torcello's Santa Fusca are here:
TinyURL for this: http://tinyurl.com/622gj
(ex-cathedral on left in these)
TinyURL for this: http://tinyurl.com/48qlz
TinyURL for this: http://tinyurl.com/6dn4v
(view across remains of the Byzantine-era baptistery behind the
cathedral, showing colonnade at left).
Excursus: apse mosaic of Santa Maria Assunta (as the ex-cathedral is
called now; its original dedication was to the Theotokos):
TinyURL for this: http://tinyurl.com/5pvjt
PS: Offering the following splendid example of humanist alteration of a
medieval text, where BHL 3233 has Quintianus swearing "Per magnos deos
Accaron & Iouem" (with the common medieval misunderstanding of 4 Reg.
[2 Kings] 1:16, _deum Accaron_ as "the god Accaron" rather than "the
god of Accaron"), BHL 3222 classicizes to "Per Deum Acheron & Iouem".
If ancient pagan gods could swear by the Styx, an ancient pagan
governor could surely swear by another of Hades' rivers (with the
biblical passage an understood pre-text, of course). --JD
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