medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (15. September) is the feast day of:
1) Nicomedes of Rome (?). N. is a poorly documented but much venerated martyr, absent from the _Depositio martyrum_ of the Chronographer of 354 and from the oldest witness of the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology. Our earliest testimony, a Passio (BHL 6062; later revision, BHL 6237) thought to be originally of the fifth or sixth century, is not a separate piece of writing but rather a segment of the much larger Passio of Nereus and Achilleus (BHL 6058). The latter provides suspect stories for a number of saints some of whom are known to have existed because their burial places are attested archaeologically. While there is always the possibility that N. himself is fictional, it does seem probable that when in this account (which makes him a priest martyred under Domitian) he is said to have been buried on the Via Nomentana outside the city that much at least is accurate and that at the time of its writing he had a _memoria_ of some sort in that vicinity.
Boniface V (619-25) erected at this reported burial site a basilica in N.'s honor that is a fixture in the seventh-century itineraries for pilgrims to Rome and that is reported to have been restored by Adrian I (772-95). A feast on 1. June for the dedication of this church occurs in the Gelasian and the Gregorian sacramentaries, in the historical martyrologies, and in later manuscripts of the (ps.-)HM. All of these also list N. for today. A later Passio (BHL 6238), thought to be no earlier than the seventh century, gives 1. June as N.'s _dies natalis_ and makes him a martyr under Maximian.
N.'s relics are said to repose in Rome's church of Santa Prassede. But all in Parma know that in 876 bishop Wibod brought them to today's Salsomaggiore Terme (PR) in Emilia, where they were used for the dedication of a new church in N.'s honor. This was replaced by one of the twelfth century, reworked in the fourteenth with later modifications (e.g. the nineteenth-century facade) but preserving remnants of the ninth-century original in the crypt and in lower portions of the walls. A brief, Italian-language account of it is here:
Some single views:
N. is second from left in Benedetto Bembo's Polyptych of Torchiara (1462) formerly in the Oratorio di San Nicomede in the Castle of Torrechiara at Langhirano-Torrechiara (PR) and now in Milan's Castello Sforzesco:
There's a much clearer, black-and-white view of N. alone from this composition in the _Bibliotheca Sanctorum_, vol. 9, col. 982.
2) Valerian of Tournus (d. ca. 178, supposedly). V. is the saint of a former monastery at Tournus (Saône-et-Loire) whose earliest church was already in existence in the sixth century when Gregory of Tours referred to it as a sanctuary. He has a very brief legendary Passio (BHL 8488) that seems to underly his _elogium_ in Usuard's Martyrology and whose earliest witness is dated to the late ninth century.
This account, which places V.'s suffering in the persecution under Marcus Aurelius, has Sts. Marcellus of Chalon and V. released from prison in Lyon by an angel and then go their separate ways. After he has reported Marcellus' execution at Chalons the provincial governor in Lyons hears from pagans that V. has been living at a secret little cell near Tournus and has been making many converts. V. is promptly arrested, declares his faith to the governor, refuses to sacrifice to the idols, and is first tortured and then executed by decapitation. V.'s association with Marcellus, which in Gregory of Tours is expressed only in terms of the proximity of their shrines, has as described here the effect of asserting his monastery's equal antiquity with the one dedicated to M. at relatively nearby Chalon-sur-Saône (and said by Fredegar to have been founded by the Burgundian king [St.] Guntram in 584).
V.'s monastery quickly fell into the shadow of Tournus' abbey of St. Philibert, established ca. 950. Its small church was replaced in the eleventh or early twelfth century by the present deconsecrated église St.-Valérien, which survived as one of the town's churches. Here's a view of it:
3) Aper of Toul (d. early 6th cent.). A. (also Aprus; in French, Epvre and Èvre) is the traditional seventh bishop of Toul and the second after the historically better attested Auspicius (fl. ca. 470). He is also the saint of Toul's now vanished abbey that was already named for him in 626/27 and in whose church he received an Elevatio in 978. A. has a Vita now often ascribed to Adso of Montier-en-Der, who in 935 was scholasticus at the abbey of St.-Èvre (BHL 616); its earliest witnesses, like that of the less frequently encountered BHL 617, are of the eleventh century. This makes him a native of the territory of Troyes and a paragon of charity and of interest in the life of the church from childhood who became a model bishop, who operated miracles, and who founded a basilica that from its location is clearly meant to be the church of the abbey. A. also has a separate postmortem Miracula (BHL 618) of the later tenth century.
In the tenth century it was believed that a local saint of Troyes, Apronia, was A.'s sister. Toul's bishop St. Gerard I, who was also responsible for A.'s Elevatio, bought her relics from the bishop of Troyes and deposited them not in the abbey but in his newly founded church of St. Gengulph (whose relics G. had bought from the bishop of Langres). A.'s traditional year of death is 507. His cult seems always to have been restricted to Lotharingia, where it is attested by numerous dedications, and to adjacent Champagne.
The originally twelfth-century église St.-Èvre de Contrexéville (Vosges) retains its medieval belltower, three expandable views of which are here:
The same church houses this sixteenth-century cult statue of E., whose provenance is unknown (it is said not to have been in the church at the end of the nineteenth century):
4) Jordan of Pulsano (Bl.; d. 1145). In 1139 today's less well known holy person of the Regno succeeded St. John of Matera both as abbot of the latter's relatively recently founded abbey at Pulsano on northern Apulia's Gargano Peninsula and as general of the nascent Pulsanese Benedictine congregation. The sainted founder's later eleventh-century Vita (BHL 4412), thought to have been written by J.'s immediate successor, Bl. Joel (d. 1177), describes J. as as a good and just man, considerate both to God and to men, who governed _strenue, juste, pie, atque fideliter_. This Vita also calls J. _beatus_ and associates him with the founder in the miraculous extrication of a wayward brother who while riding ahead of their party had fallen with his horse into a crevasse corresponding physically to the spiritual pit into which he had already sunk (the words used are _terrae vorago_ and _fovea_).
J.'s entry (BHL [Suppl.] 4452b) in the dismembered thirteenth-century Pulsanese lectionary and martyrology preserved in the BAV (Vat. lat. 5419) and elsewhere (the martyrology in is the BN at Naples) says that he came from a prominent family of today's Monteverde (AV) in Campania, that he had been schooled at Benevento, where he lived with an uncle who mistreated him, and that, barely recovered from a serious illness, he had fled into a wood where John of Matera, then on his way from Capua to Apulia, discovered him and took him on as an acolyte. During his brief generalship J. expanded his congregation's holdings in Apulia and increased its north Italian presence through the founding, at the behest of the bishop of Piacenza, of the monastery of Santa Maria di Quartazzola in today's Gossolengo (PC) in Emilia. Today is his _dies natalis_.
J.'s cult was immediate, though his recognition as a saint seems to have been limited to the Pulsanese Benedictine congregation and (perhaps) to the former diocese of his native Monteverde, where he is also commemorated today.
The abbey church of Santa Maria di Pulsano (most of which is thought to have been built under abbot Joel) abuts, and uses as its apse, a cave said to have been revealed by the BVM to John of Matera in a vision as the site of his new monastery on the Gargano. Here's a view of its sanctuary:
Those doorways on either side of the altar lead to chapels containing altars with the relics, respectively, of J. and of Bl. Joel.
Two multi-page sets of views of the abbey are here:
The Pulsanese lectionary, etc. referred to above has been reproduced in facsimile as Alberto Cavallini, ed., _Laus Deo, anima Pulsani. Il Libro dell'Ufficio del Capitolo della Congregazione monastica degli eremiti di Pulsano_ (Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2005).
5) Catherine of Genoa (d. 1510). The mystic C., also a dedicated carer for the sick, was a scion of one of Genoa's leading noble families, the Fieschi, At the age of sixteen she was married to a scion of the equally prominent family of the Adorno, political and mercantile rivals of the Fieschi. Their union proved unsuccessful in many ways: it was childless, the husband was unfaithful and abusive, and C. was increasingly withdrawn. At about the age of twenty-five C. underwent the first of a henceforth lifelong series of mystical experiences, began to engage in frequent prayer, and started taking the Eucharist almost daily. She also served as a lay attendant at a local hospital that ultimately she she came to manage. In time she converted her husband, who became a Franciscan tertiary and also tended the sick. C.'s Life (with an account of her mystical experiences provided by by her last confessor) and edited writings were published posthumously in 1551.
C. was beatified in 1635 and canonized in 1737.
(Nicomedes of Rome and Jordan of Pulsano lightly revised from last year's post)
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