medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
On Saturday, February 18, 2006, at 8:36 pm, Phyllis wrote:
> Today (19. February) is the feast day of:
> Conrad of Piacenza (d. 1351) When the young nobleman Conrad was
> hunting one day, he had a fire lit to help drive the game. The
> got out of control and destroyed several villages. C didn't admit
> his fault until a poor man was sentenced to death for the arson,
> whereupon C confessed and used most of his wealth (and his wife's
> dowry) to pay reparations. The two then devoted themselves to
> religious life, she as a Poor Clare and he as a hermit. C.
> fans with his extreme piety, so he escaped to Sicily, where he
> as a hermit for the remaining 30 years of his life---still pestered
> by people wanting his prayers and especially his miraculous cures.
> He was especially famous for his ability to cure hernias.
Until the seventeenth century, Conrad's hagiography is exclusively
Netinese (i.e. of Noto, the southeastern Sicilian city where his cult
has always been centered). It features accretions whose authenticity is
imperilled by their remoteness from C.'s own time but which nonetheless
continue to be repeated in standard accounts. One of these is that his
wife became a Poor Clare. Whereas it is reasonable to conclude from
section 2.6 of the immediately posthumous _Vita beati Corradi_ of 1351
that, after parting from his family, C. became a Franciscan tertiary,
this is first stated explicitly only in the seemingly later
fifteenth-century _Vita di lo beato Corrado_ of Andriotta Rapi, a poem
in 410 four-line stanzas. The latter is our first source in which his
wife makes an appearance as such (the 1351 Vita speaks only of his
'famiglia') and here first are we told that she too entered religion.
Given Rapi's relative latenesss, this could easily be a reasonable guess
rather than a datum deriving from C. himself.
It is also clear from the miracles related in the 1351 Vita (only two of
which are medical and only one of which has to do with a hernia) that,
however eremitical he may have been in private life, C. interacted
regularly and by his own choice with people in Noto and vicinity until
his last few years when he removed to a grotto outside the city.
Indeed, this early Vita authorizes the conclusion that C. lived
somewhere else in town before he joined the blessed William (Buccheri)
of Scicli in the cells between Noto's Chiesa del Crocefisso and its
castle. According to Rapi, when C. arrived in Noto he stopped first at
the hospital of San Martino; sixteenth-century Lives expanded on this
and had him working here for quite some while. Current "popular"
accounts of C. (a local folk hero) emphasize this supposed activity,
which in a more cautious formulation also lives on in the
Thurston-Attwater revision of _Butler's _Lives of the Saints_; in a
posting to this list in 2004 I incautiously accepted it.
A very useful, critically annotated bibliography of the Lives of C.
(also Corrado Confalonieri, Corrado di Noto) is here:
And recent bibliography on the saint himself is given here:
The 1351 Vita (once ascribed to a nonexistent Eugenio Guiti) was edited
by Carmelo Curti in 1990; I've been using the third edition (Catania:
Centro di studi sull'antico cristianesimo, Universita' di Catania,
2001). Despite its Latin title, it is in the Netinese dialect of
Sicilian. Rapi's Vita was republished by Corrado Avolio in his
_Introduzione allo studio del dialetto Siciliano_ (Noto, 1892; anastatic
reprint, Bologna: Forni, 1984), pp. 159-224. In the reprint by Edizioni
della Regione siciliana (Palermo, 1975; intr. by Tullio De Mauro),
Rapi's poem is at pp. 110-174.
PS: In 1990 the remains traditionally identified as C.'s were publicly
exhibited during the septicentenary celebration of his birth. An
illustrated account is here:
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