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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  February 2006

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION February 2006

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Subject:

saints of the day 5. February

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 5 Feb 2006 18:51:44 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today (5. February) is also the feast day of:

Luke of Demenna (or of Armento; d. late 10th century).  Today's less 
well known saint from the Regno was a Greek monk originally from the 
Val Demone, the northeastern administrative district of central and 
later medieval Sicily roughly corresponding to today's Messina province 
and to the more northerly parts of today's Enna and Catania provinces.  
Whether the 'Demena' of his Vita refers to the Val Demone as a whole or 
to a now vanished town near today's San Marco d'Alunzio (ME) is not 
clear.  L., who will have been born shortly after the Muslim conquest 
of this part of the island, grew up at a time when its Greek Christian 
religious institutions were under increasing threat from the area's new 
masters.  To escape these, after training at the monastery of St. 
Philip of Agira at today's Agira (EN) he crossed over to Calabria and 
there placed himself under the saintly discipline of Elias the 
Speleote, at this time still living at or near Reggio.  As Muslim raids 
on coastal Calabria became more common, L. withdrew further and founded 
small monastic community at today's Noepoli (PZ) near the Calabrian 
border in what is now Basilicata.  This is in a mountainous region cut 
by several rivers: a distance view of Noepoli may give some idea of the 
terrain (now inside the Parco Nazionale del Pollino):
http://www.zonaparco.it/z-noepoli.htm

Desiring further solitude, L. moved on to today's Agromonte (PZ) in the 
upper valley of the Sinni, where he restored a small monastery, and 
then moved further east to the upper Agri valley, where he settled at 
today's Armento (PZ) and founded a monastic community that well after 
his death became known as that of Sts. Anastasius and Elias at Carbone 
and that during the kingdom's Norman-Swabian period was one of its 
great royal abbeys with many properties and dependencies elsewhere.  
But that was all in the future.  In 982, hearing of the advent of Otto 
II, L. fortified Armento against an attack that never came from the 
Germans and Lombards who were soon to be decisively defeated by 
Sicilian Muslims near Stilo in Calabria.  Within a few years, though, 
Armento was threatened by Muslim raiders.  Gathering and blessing those 
of his people (probably both monks and townspeople) who were both male 
and fit to fight, the aged L., wrapped in a cloud of fire that 
enveloped both himself and the pure white horse on which he rode, led 
his little host in an attack upon the infidel camp.  Many of the enemy 
were killed or captured, while others fled in disgrace, casting away 
their arms.  Gandalf could not have done it better, though the author 
of the lost Greek original of BHL 4978 (L.'s Vita) of course did not 
have Tolkien for a model.

L. died not too long afterwards.  His Vita as edited in the AA.SS. 
places his death in 993, but current scholarly opinion offers a range 
of dates from 984 to 995.  Whereas he was buried at Armento, in time 
his remains were removed for reasons of safety (and, perhaps, of 
diocesan pride) to the cathedral of Tricarico (MT), where they are said 
to remain today in a chapel dedicated to him.  His monastery at Armento 
suffered two disastrous fires and changed location several times; its 
physical remains consist chiefly of rubble on a hillside in Basilicata 
and an incomplete archive that was removed to Rome in the early 
seventeenth century. 

A distance view of Armento is here:
http://tinyurl.com/8ybro
and here's a close-up of one part of it:
http://www.grumentum.it/ingrandimenti/Armento_paesaggio.jpg
Tricarico's originally eleventh-century cathedral has been rebuilt so 
often that it preserves virtually nothing of its medieval aspect.  
Here's a page of views of it:
http://www.basilicata.cc/paesi_taddeo/t_728/p_monum/728_01.htm

The arms of Armento show L. mounted upon a horse that is anything but 
gleaming white:
http://www.araldicacivica.it/comuni/indexc.php?extrac=s&id_comune=2758

Best,
John Dillon

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