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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  September 2008

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION September 2008

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Subject:

saints of the day 29. September

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Mon, 29 Sep 2008 06:26:14 -0500

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text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today (29. September) is the feast day of:

1)  Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels (still living).  Prior to 1969 this feast was one of M. alone.  Medievally it commemorated the consecration of a humble church dedicated to M.  This was originally a Roman feast and the church in question had been one on the Via Salaria at the sixth milestone from Rome.  In the ninth-century martyrologies (and perhaps the sacramentaries as well, I haven't looked) the church's location is no longer specified, allowing those unfamiliar with the feast's history to suppose that the reference was to the by then already internationally famous Michaelic shrine at today's Monte Sant'Angelo (FG) on the Gargano Peninsula in northern Apulia.  The latter commemorates an apparition that is variously dated; the official website of the shrine at Monte Sant'Angelo on the Gargano gives 492 as the traditional date but suggests 663 as more probable.  See:  http://www.gargano.it/sanmichele/english/appariz-en.htm
Both dates, though, are only guesses based on data of dubious historicity appearing in the Garganic shrine's principal foundation account, the late eighth- or ninth-century _Liber de apparitione sancti Michaelis in monte Gargano_ (BHL 5948).

For a virtual tour of the shrine, go to:
http://www.gargano.it/sanmichele/english/home-en.htm
and click on "Virtual Visit".
The site's home page, with language options in Italian, German, or English, is at:
http://www.gargano.it/sanmichele/index.html
 
Some views of medieval representations of M. from Monte Sant'Angelo and elsewhere will be found here:
http://tinyurl.com/3pnrah
and here (with a good view of M.'s cave church at the shrine):
http://tinyurl.com/4vtpuz
Does anyone have a good view to link to of M.'s supposed footprint in the rock of his cave church at Monte Sant'Angelo?

Success brings imitation.  Elsewhere on the same peninsula, at today's Cagnano Varano (FG), is another cave church, said to be attested from 1054, dedicated to M. (not unusually: M. was very popular among the region's Greeks and Lombards).  But local tradition (not attested medievally) has it that M. appeared there as well and that one can see footprints left by his horse on the cave's right wall and traces of the angel's wings on the left.  An illustrated, Italian-language account of this site is here:
http://tinyurl.com/4toz4q


2)  Fraternus of Auxerre (d. ca. 450).  F. (in French, Fraterne) is one of the bishops of Auxerre recorded in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology, whence he entered the ninth-century historical martyrologies.  The later ninth-century initial series of Lives in the episcopal _Gesta_ of Auxerre makes him the ninth bishop (and the second after St. Germanus, d. 448), has him elected after a period of ten years in which, because of barbarian devastations, there was no bishop, and accepts what must have been a local tradition to the effect that he was killed by barbarians on the very first day of his pontificate.  Though Louis Duchesne (_Fastes épiscopaux de l'ancienne Gaule_, 2e éd. rev., p. 435) found this (hi)story "bien invraisemblable", it lives on in Books of the Saints and has even found an occasional echo in "Saints of the Day" notices on this list.

In the later ninth century remains thought to be those of F. were entombed in the newly built crypt of the abbey church of St.-Germain, where they remain today. 


3)  Grimoald of Pontecorvo (12th cent.).  This less well known saint of the Regno was archpriest of Pontecorvo, a town on the central Liri in today's Frosinone province in southern Lazio.  According to a probably late twelfth- or early thirteenth-century account by an unidentified bishop of Aquino (BHL 4310), at Christ's bidding John the Baptist appeared to a peasant of Pontecorvo who was being tempted by Satan at the river's edge and with a single word -- but with enough noise of water that others heard this from a considerable distance -- sent the Evil One to the bottom of the stream.  John then turned to the stupefied peasant and commanded him to betake himself to Grimoald and to convey to him 1) the saint's promise of life among the elect should he continue his customary fasting, praying, and giving of alms and 2) the instruction that he should exhort his people to construct a church in the saint's honor.

Fearing to be taken for a looney, the peasant did not immediately fulfil this command.  So John appeared to someone in another town and imposed upon him the same mission to G.  Both the peasant and the second person did finally carry John's bidding to the archpriest, who in turn did as he was told.  The people of Pontecorvo built the church, whose cornerstone was laid in 1137 by Guarinus, the bishop of nearby Aquino.

G. will have been archpriest of Pontecorvo's church of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, first documented from the middle of the eleventh century.  It was erected over the ruins of the local castle, one of whose towers became the base of the cathedral's belfry.  A cathedral since 1725 and now a co-cathedral of the diocese of Sora - Aquino - Pontecorvo, it has been rebuilt several times, most recently after its almost complete destruction during the Allied bombardment of Pontecorvo on 1. November 1943.  Three views of the cathedral shortly after this event:
http://tinyurl.com/mf2rd
http://tinyurl.com/noxwx
and two views of it today, with its reconstructed "romanesque" facade:
http://www.menteantica.it/pontecorvo/im560002.jpg
http://www.prolocopontecorvo.it/images/f3.jpg

BHL 4310 is a well written and in places mildly entertaining document.  It and its accompanying hymn printed in the _Acta Sanctorum_ are derived from a now lost lectionary in Beneventan script (so certainly medieval) from Pontecorvo.  G., whose own cult these texts do not altogether establish, was accepted into the Roman Martyrology by cardinal Baronio on the basis of cathedral documents from Aquino that have since disappeared.  His remains are said to have been in San Bartolomeo Apostolo since 1162; they were accorded solemn recognition in 1760, in 1862, and in 1952.  In 1892 Pontecorvo was granted a new Office of St. Grimoald and of the Appearance of St. John.   G. was dropped from the RM in its revision of 2001 but is still celebrated today in Pontecorvo.

The only medieval church in Pontecorvo to survive World War II largely intact was that of San Giovannello.  This has been deconsecrated and awaits restoration.  Here's a view:
http://www.prolocopontecorvo.it/S.GIOVANNELLO.htm
It's uncertain whether this church is the one whose initial construction is documented by BHL 4310.  Longstanding local tradition in Pontecorvo identifies that church with one built in the riparian locality of Melfi to commemorate the Appearance and thus called San Giovanni Appare.  The present church of this name is a recent replacement for a predecessor, said to have been medieval in origin but since rebuilt and expanded, that was badly damaged in World War II and whose remains were later washed away by the Liri (whose violence when in flood renders unlikely the survival of any building remnants at the site).

Best,
John Dillon
(Grimoald of Pontecorvo lightly revised from last year's post)

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