medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (10. September) is the feast day of:
1) Pulcheria (d. 453). Aelia Pulcheria was a daughter of the emperor Arcadius and an elder sister of the emperor Theodosius II, who in 408 succeeded to the purple when he was seven and she was thirteen. Six years later she was granted the title Augusta. Personally very pious, she took a vow of virginity and urged her two sisters to do the same (thus reducing the risk that an ambitious husband might do away with T. and attempt to succeed by virtue of his marriage). P. gets the credit for the aggressively pro-Christian tone of T.'s legislation, which throughout his reign sought to make things difficult for pagans and, especially, for Jews.
In the controversy between the patriarchs Nestorius (of Constantinople) and Cyril (of Alexandria) P. sided with the latter and pressured T. to exile Nestorius after he (N.) had been condemned by the Council of Ephesus. After T.'s death in 450 she was married to his militarily chosen successor Marcian, maintaining (so her supporters said) her virginity nonetheless. In 451 the two of them called the Council of Chalcedon. P.'s support of what became Chalcedonian orthodoxy probably had at least as much to do with her recognition as a saint by the churches of Rome and of Constantinople as did her extensive works of Christian charity. Nestorians and Monophysites did not think well of her.
P. was a great enthusiast for sacred relics, so much so that several very important ones were later associated with her. She was said to have been influential in the translation of an arm of St. Stephen from Jerusalem to Chalcedon where she founded an oratory to receive them (Theophanes Confessor and others after him relate that on the night that the relic arrived in Chalcedon Stephen appeared to P. in a dream to announce the fulfilment of her desire that this happen). In 438 she had the relics of St. John Chrysostom brought with great pomp to Constantinople. According to Sozomen, it was P., informed by dream visions, who in 446 discovered in Constantinople the buried relics of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste.
St. John Damascene preserves a tradition whereby Marcian and Pulcheria, having been informed at the Council of Chalcedon that Mary's bodily relics were not to be had, received in 452 the Virgin's winding sheet that had been kept at Gethsemane and placed it in a church they had founded in the Blachernae section of Constantinople (this is one of three Marian churches in the city said by Theodore the Lector to have been founded by P. alone).
Views of several portraits of P. on coins may be accessed here:
A view of a solidus of Marcian depicting his marriage with P. is here:
Brief accounts of P. and of T. (the latter including consideration of P.'s regency) by modern scholars contributing to the _De imperatoribus Romanis_ site are here:
P.'s entry in the _Suda_ incorporates a Nestorian assessment:
2) Aubert of Avranches (d. 725). A. (also Autbert; in Latin, Autbertus) is the bishop of Avranches to whom the Archangel Michael is said to have appeared on 16. October in or around the year 708 and to have instructed, both then and in subsequent appearances, to erect a church in his honor on a seaside elevation called Mons Tumba ('Mount Tomb') and now known the world over as Mont-Saint-Michel. A. is further said to have obtained relics of M. from his sanctuary on the Gargano peninsula of Apulia and within a year to have founded a monastic church on the site in question. The core of the story is found in the perhaps mid-ninth-century _Apparitio Michaelis in Monte Tumba_ (BHL 5951, etc.), was repeated in A.'s own Vita (BHL 858), and became very widely known thanks to its adoption by Jacopo da Varazze in the _Legenda Aurea_.
In 1012 A.'s putative remains were discovered at Mont-Saint-Michel and most were then placed in a shrine and given a formal Elevatio at the monastery church. The skull was later sent to Avranches. Here are some views of it in its present reliquary at Avranches' église Saint-Gervais:
This skull is a purported Michaelic relic. The oldest surviving inventory of the relics at Mont-Saint-Michel dates from 1396. According to the abbot who drew it up, A.'s head (thought to have been part of the remains discovered in the early eleventh century) had been placed in a separate reliquary in 1131 by an abbot Bernard who had had engraved thereon (the reliquary, obviously, not the head) a statement identifying it as the head of the founder, blessed Aubertus, and adding that a hole in the head was proof of the angelic revelation (_Foramen sis certus revelatione angelica rei bonae_). In the 1396 inventory itself _Foramen_ has become _vestigium_. The story (which I have not found in BHL 5951) is that M. placed his finger on A.'s head, creating the hole. It's now thought that the hole is the result of trepanning.
The images on this page (all expandable) are of the full-page illumination of A.'s vision in the twelfth- and thirteenth-century cartulary of the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel (Avranches, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 210, fol. 4v):
This detail shows M. touching A.'s head with a finger:
A fourteenth-century illumination, in a copy of Jean de Vignay's translation of the _Legenda Aurea_, of Michael appearing to A. (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, ms. Français 241, fol. 260r):
3) Oglerius of Trino (or of Lucedio; Bl.; d. 1214). Born in today's Trino (VC) in Piedmont, O. (also Ogerius, Ogier) entered religion at the nearby Cistercian abbey of Locedio (today's Lucedio), founded from La Ferté in 1124. Together with his abbot, Peter II, he was employed as a papal emissary during the crusade preparations of popes Celestine III and Innocent III. When Peter (who later was archbishop of Thessaloniki and Latin patriarch of Antioch) became abbot of La Ferté in 1205, O. succeeded him as abbot at Locedio.
O. is best known for his two surviving sermon collections, the _Tractatus de laudibus Sanctae Dei Genetricis_ ('Treatise of Praises of the Holy Mother of God'; before 1205) and the _Expositio super Evangelium in Coena Domini_ or _Super Evangelium in Ultima Cena_('Exposition on the Lord's/Last Supper'; 1205-1214). The first, addressed to nuns, is an effective piece of spiritual writing in dialogue form, with the Virgin narrating events of her life in her own voice. One section of it, separately transmitted as Mary's _Planctus_ ('Lament'; there are varying fuller forms of this title), was soon attributed to St. Bernard, as was also the _Expositio_ (re-attributed to O. only in 1653). O.'s remains are in the parish church of San Bartolomeo at Trino. His cult was confirmed in 1875.
Two distance views of the former abbey of Locedio (now a farm that continues a tradition of rice farming introduced locally by the Cistercians):
After various early modern rebuildings there is little left that's medieval other than the former refectory:
the chapter room:
other rooms presently used to store grain (this is a view of what's called the _dispensario_):
more views of the _disepnsario_ are at the foot of this page:
and this thirteenth-century octagonal belltower (seen before and after the recent restoration):
4) Nicholas of Tolentino (d. 1305). The Augustinian preacher and miracle-worker Nicholas of Tolentino was born in 1244 or 1245 in the March of Ancona at today's Sant'Angelo in Pontano (MC). Prompted by an angelic dream-visitation, his parents had made a pilgrimage to the church of St. Nicholas at Bari to obtain that saint's intercession in overcoming the aging mother's apparent sterility; while they were there, St. Nicholas appeared to them in a dream, told them on the authority of Christ that they would have a son and that his name would be Nicholas in honor of the saint who had assisted them. Early Lives of our N. tell us this; that by Peter of Monterubbiano (BHL 6230) is clearly and elegantly written and repays reading.
At perhaps the age of fourteen N. became an oblate at the Augustinian convent in his native town; he studied both here and later at Cingoli (MC), where he was ordained priest. M. spent the remainder of his life as a spiritual counselor and confessor in nearby Augustinian houses, working principally with the poor and the infirm; for ca. thirty years until his death he was based at the Augustinian convent at Tolentino. During this time tales of his miracles began to spread; after his death these increased to such an extent that an official inquiry in 1325 took note of over 300 of them. By 1320 the Augustinians of Tolentino had built a large hall (the so-called Cappellone di San Nicola) over N.'s gravesite, attaching it to their thirteenth-century church and richly decorating it with frescoes executed over the next five years by artisans from Rimini. Shortly after his canonization in 1446 an altar and a wooden cult statue of N. were added to the Cappellone.
Years of wear, damage, and rebuilding at this major pilgrimage site have left relatively little that is medieval (other, of course, than the Cappellone itself). Medieval elements may be seen, however, in this view of today's basilica:
and in these views of the cloister:
Almost lost in this Baroque facade is a portal from 1435 by Nanni di Bartolo:
Two views of the Cappellone:
Bill Thayer's page on the Cappellone, with views and English-language discussion, is a work in progress:
A page with details of the wall frescoes (four expandable thumbnails plus three hotlinks ["l'ordine superiore", etc.] leading to further details):
An illustrated, Italian-language discussion of the frescoes:
N.'s body was rediscovered in the 1920s and now reposes in a modern crypt below the Cappellone:
Some images of N.:
a) Panel painting (Lorenzo di Bicci; late fourteenth-century):
b) Panel painting (Nicolo di Pietro Gerini; ?early fifteenth-century):
c) Statue (Francesco di Valdambrino; 1407):
d) Panel painting (Mantegna; betw. 1454 and 1469):
e) Fresco (Pietro da Saluzzo; betw. 1469 and 1480):
(matter from older posts, revised)
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