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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  October 2007

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION October 2007

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Subject:

saints of the day 7. October

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sun, 7 Oct 2007 19:20:02 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (145 lines)

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today (7. October) is the feast day of:

Sergius and Bacchus (d. ca. 305, supposedly).  According to their
highly problematic older Greek Passion (BHG 1624), S. and B. were
imperial bodyguards who refused to accompany their emperor when he
entered a temple of Zeus (probably somewhere in western Syria, most
likely at Antioch on the Orontes) in order to make sacrifice.  As
punishment, they were stripped of their military garb and insignia,
paraded through the streets in women's clothing, and then taken
elsewhere and tortured.  B. died first; after lasting for several more
days, S. was taken to Resafa (Resaphe, Rusafa, Rasafa, etc.) in the
Euphrates valley and executed.  Witnesses buried him at his place of
execution, where later a martyrium was erected in his honor.

Opinions on the underlying historicity of this account vary from
outright acceptance (John Boswell, _Same-Sex Unions in Premodern
Europe_ [New York: Villard Books, 1994], pp. 146-53) to cautious,
modified acceptance (Elizabeth Key Fowden, _The Barbarian Plain: Saint
Sergius Between Rome and Iran_ [Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1999], ch. 1) to outright rejection as fiction (Hippolyte
Delehaye, Agostino Amore, David Woods); this last position is fairly
well summed up by Woods in the section devoted to these saints in his
_Military Martyrs_ website:
http://www.ucc.ie/milmart/Sergius.html

But there is no doubt that from at least the fifth century onward S.
and B. enjoyed a major cult based initially in eastern Syria but by the
middle of the sixth century widespread in eastern Christendom and by
then also beginning its diffusion in the West.  In this regard, S. (who
in the aforementioned Passio not only outlasts B. but also outranks
him) often had primacy of place and sometimes the sole dedication. 
Resafa's early Byzantine renaming as Sergioupolis is a case in point; a
western example would be the abbey of Saint-Serge et Saint-Bach at
Angers, already in existence in the early eighth century and originally
dedicated to saints Sergius and Medard.

Some visuals pertaining to various noteworthy cult sites of S. and B.:

The originally fourth-century monastery of Mar Sarkis (St. Sergius) at
Ma'lula (Maalula), Syria.  According to the illustrated text here, the
altar of its church is dated to the years 313-325 (if so, the original
dedication is not likely to have been to S.):
http://www.marsarkis.com/convent.html
A view of the interior:
http://www.cammino.it/maggio2001/foto29c.html
A close-up of the top of the main altar, showing its raised border:
http://tinyurl.com/253dgq
A similarly formed altar in the same church:
http://tinyurl.com/yscerf
Modern exterior:
http://www.alovelyworld.com/websyrie/htmgb/syr011.htm

Sergius, Bacchus, and Leontius cathedral at Bosra, Syria.  Built in
512, said (but how accurately?) to be the first known domed building
built on a square ground plan.  A brief, English-language description will
be found near the bottom of this page, along with an expandable color
view higher up ("Roman Cathedral"):
http://www.homsonline.com/Citeis/Bosra.htm
Another view:
http://tinyurl.com/35omay
A three-page, Italian language site with black-and-white views is here:
http://www3.unibo.it/archeologia/ricerca/scavi/bosra/bosra3.htm

The sixth-century martyrium (518) and later structures at Resafa, Syria:
Illustrated, English-language account (at bottom of the page):
http://www.alepporthodox.org/02-en/07-heritage/rasafa.htm
More views:
http://tinyurl.com/9b7kf
http://tinyurl.com/cyjeg
http://tinyurl.com/d6t77
Another view of the earlier church:
http://www.photo-easy.com/prid_6-43-920.html
More views:
http://www.ucc.ie/milmart/resafa.html

The sixth-century church to S. and B. in Constantinople (527?), now
Istanbul's Küçük Ayasofya Mosque:
http://tinyurl.com/ywu3r4
http://www.sttaykon.com/page.php?ID=27
http://tinyurl.com/2gub6w
Forty-two expandable black-and-white views may be reached
by clicking on the thumbnail here:
http://archnet.org/library/sites/one-site.jsp?site_id=7343
Several black-and-white views of this church are here (Thais):
http://www.thais.it/architettura/Bizantina/indici/INDICE2.htm
Various black-and-white views (Courtauld; 2 pages):
http://snipurl.com/ia69
An exterior view, two interior views, and a ground plan are about
halfway down the page here:
http://tinyurl.com/8k23t
Another ground plan:
http://www.pylgeralmanak.nl/afbeeldingen/image_phpwwHWy7.jpg
Computer model of this church as it might have looked when the now
lost basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul was attached to it:
http://www.byzantium1200.com/sergio.html
Eighth-century church of S. (Abu Serga) and B. in Cairo:
http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/serga.htm

Parish church of St.-Serge at Angers (formerly the abbey church of St.-
Serge et St.-Bach):
Exterior:
http://mythofrancaise.asso.fr/mythes/lieux/ANGpres.htm
Three interior views are here:
http://www.thais.it/architettura/Gotica/IndiceCronologico/INDICE1.html
A detail of the vaulting occurs here:
http://savda.free.fr/im_patrim_1.htm
Views of various windows are here:
http://tinyurl.com/9k8n2

Penultimately. a view of the damaged fourteenth-century mosaic portrait
of B. in Constantinople's Chora Church, now a secular museum in Istanbul:
http://tinyurl.com/25up6t 
The corresponding portrait of S. has been very largely defaced, a fate that
has not befallen many of the buildings other mosaic portraits.

Finally, some mention should be made of the Lance of St. Sergius, an
emblem of the city of Trieste since at least the thirteenth century.
According to local legend, it dropped from the sky into Trieste (or
Tergeste, as it was then) on the night that S. was martyred.  The "sacra
alabarda", as it is often called, is one of the treasures of Trieste's
cathedral; it is shown as figure 48 (p. 183) in Volume One of Attilio
Tamaro's _Storia di Trieste_ (Roma: Stock, 1924; 2 vv.).  Various
representations of it on the city's arms are shown here:
http://www.misterkappa.it/sto-ala01.html
So (for Python fans), if we can't have the Holy Hand Grenade of
Antioch, there's still the Holy Halberd of Trieste.

Best,
John Dillon
(last year's post lightly revised)

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