medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (11. September) is the feast day of:
1) Protus and Hyacinth (d. 257, supposedly). P. and H. are Roman martyrs of the cemetery of Bassilla on the Via Salaria vetus, recorded for today in the _Depositio martyrum_ of the Chronographer of 354. They are among the very few saints identified by name in pope St. Damasus I's inscription for the cemetery as a whole (_Epigrammata Damasiana_, ed. Ferrua, no. 47). Pope St. Symmachus (498-514) removed most of their relics to his newly built church of St. Andrew on the Vatican, where they were placed in the confessio. When H.'s early resting place, identified by a grave slab noting today as his day of laying to rest, was discovered in the cemetery in 1845, it contained ashes and fragments of charred bone wrapped in cloths of costly material. These are now thought to be relics deliberately left at the site by Symmachus. Nearby was found part of an inscription marking P.'s resting place, whose precise location remains unknown.
Depicted in the sixth-century mosaics of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo at Ravenna, P. and H. are fixtures in the seventh-century itineraries for pilgrims to Rome. Their relics are among the great many that pope St. Leo IV (847-55) is said to have translated into the city, though given what were already on the Vatican and, if these were authentic, the relics of both saints that are said to have been brought to Seligenstadt in the reign of Louis the Pious (814-34), they may not have been much of muchness. The church of Santi Quattro Coronati is reported to have had P.'s head (or a piece of it) during Leo's pontificate; its continued presence there was noted in an inventory conducted in 1111. In the later Middle Ages the now demolished church of San Salvatore de pede pontis claimed to have relics of both saints (these went to San Giovanni dei Fiorentini in 1592).
P. and H. have a relatively late, highly legendary Passio in a couple of versions (BHL 6975 and 6976-77; no witness earlier than the eleventh century) that brings together in a single episodic narration various saints of their cemetery and others, notably St. Eugenia of Rome (25. December). This confection makes P. and H. Eugenia's slaves or servitors who convert her to Christianity and who are martyred with her in the Valerianic persecution (in the version followed by Usuard, under Galerius). P. and H. are entered for today in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology, in the historical martyrologies from Bede onward, and in the Old English Martyrology. They also have a notice in the so-called Menologium of Basil II (late tenth- or early eleventh-century).
Some views of the originally late eleventh-century church of Sts Protus (Pratt) and Hyacinth in Blisland (Cornwall), expanded in the later Middle Ages and restored in 1894:
Some views of the originally thirteenth-century chiesa dei Santi Proto e Giacinto at Cavallari di Pizzoli (AQ) in Abruzzo:
Expandable views of two manuscript illuminations of P. and H. from the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, respectively:
An expandable view of a late fifteenth-century ms. illumination of P. and H. with St. Eugenia:
A fourteenth-century ms. illumination of the martyrdom of P., H., and E. is shown here:
A fifteenth-century ms. illumination of the same subject is shown here without specifying its exact source:
An expandable view of a fifteenth-century (1482) ms. illumination of the martyrdom of P. and H. is here:
2) Elias the Speleote (d. ca. 960 [traditional]; ca. 930 [recent scholarship]). Today's less well known saint of the Regno was a Greek-speaking itinerant monk, thaumaturge, and monastic founder. According to his late tenth-century Bios (BHG 581 plus a Latin translation from ca. 1082), E. was born into a wealthy family of today's Reggio di Calabria (RC) who provided him with a good religious education. At the age of eighteen he crossed over into Muslim Sicily, where he lived as a hermit for about a year before going on to Rome. There E. visited the tombs of the Apostles and performed his first miracle, rendering immobile a bunch of brigands who had unwisely elected to attack him.
Returning to Calabria, E. attached himself first to a saintly abbot Arsenios and later, after spending several years at Patras in Greece, to St. Elias of Enna, then residing at the Saline near today's Gioa Tauro (RC). When that worthy departed for Constantinople never to return, he left his abode in the joint charge of his companion Daniel and of our E. (who, however, is never mentioned in the Daniel-influenced Bios of this other Elias).
E. moved on quickly to other places in Calabria, finally settling in a set of caves at today's Melicuccą (RC) near Seminara, where he founded what became a large and regionally famous Greek-rite monastic community. He died on 11. September in what the Bios unreliably says was the ninety-sixth year of his life and was buried in a tomb that he himself had dug in one of the monastery's caves. Many miracles were attributed to him in his lifetime; his grave, visited by numerous pilgrims some of whom sought relief while they slept by the tomb, was the site of many more. In some cases the incubation was repeated for more than one night.
In the eighteenth century, when the monastery had long since been closed and most of the caves had been filled in by the action of earthquakes and by more regular geologic processes, E.'s tomb was rediscovered and his cult was renewed. Today it is still a place of pilgrimage, though (I believe) incubation is no longer practiced there.
Four views of the restored main cave are here:
An illustrated, Italian-language account of the site, informed by archaeological findings, is here:
A recently published archaeological study of the monastery at Melicuccą and of other Italo-Greek monastic sites in Calabria is Francesca Zagari, _L'eparchia delle Saline_ (Roma: Palombi, 2006).
The later eleventh-century Latin translation of E.'s Bios includes matter absent from the Greek text as we have it now. It has been edited by Maria Vittoria Strazzeri as "Una traduzione dal greco ad uso dei Normanni: la Vita latina di Sant'Elia lo Speleota", _Archivio storico per la Calabria e la Lucania_ 59 (1992), 1-108. An important recent article on the Bios (which latter is being re-edited by Enrico Morini of the Universitą di Bologna) is Stefano Caruso, "Sulla cronologia della Vita di S. Elia Speleota da Reggio", _Byzantion_ 70 (2000), 25-56.
3) Sperandia (d. 1276). The penitent and visionary Sperandia was born at Gubbio in Umbria in around the year 1216. According to her _Vita antiqua_ (BHL 7825), she was divinely inspired at the age of nine to adopt a penitential lifestyle. This decision did not go over well with her father and with other members of her family. After enduring many tribulations at their hands (for how long we are not told) S. exchanged her penitent's rags for a pig's hide and a belt of iron and, again acting on divine guidance, left home for good.
S. spent the bulk of her life as a wandering ascetic in towns of Umbria and the Marche, tormented by demons and gaining a reputation as a holy woman and thaumaturge. She seems to have made a journey to Rome. Still according to the _Vita antiqua_, her lifetime fame extended as far north as Venice. In about 1265 S. settled down at a mountain grotto outside of Cingoli (MC), founding there a community attested to by a donation of 1276 and by subsequent documents witnessing miracle accounts or bearing on relations between Cingoli and what had become her convent.
Though the _Vita antiqua_ suggests rather strongly a life of Franciscan spirituality, tradition makes S. a Benedictine abbess. Local veneration seems to have been both strong and immediate. In 1633 her cult was confirmed for the dioceses of Gubbio, Osimo, and Sanseverino (Marche). Also commemorated by the Benedictines and in other orders, S. has never graced the pages the _MR.
The Bollandists who edited the _Acta Sanctorum_ chose to call S. "Sperandea". In languages other than Italian she is often still so called, though this form seems contrary to the evidence of her _Vita antica_ (which calls her "Spera in Deo"), of its late fifteenth-century revision ("Sperandia"), of the latter's Italian-language revision ("Sperandina"), and of late medieval usage in both Gubbio and Cingoli ("Sperandia", "Spera in Deo", "Sperandeus", etc.). Together with its dubiously attested early bishop Exuperantius (24. January), S. is a patron saint of Cingoli, "Balcony of the Marche".
A recent interior photo of Sperandia's grotto is here:
And a rather romantic exterior view of it from the nineteenth century is here:
(Elias the Speleote and Sperandia revised from older posts)
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