medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (21. October) is the feast day of:
1) Hilarion of Gaza (d. 371). We know about the Egyptian desert monk H. (also H. the Great) chiefly from his Vita by St. Jerome (BHL 3880). He was born a pagan and converted to Christianity while a student at Alexandria. At the age of fifteen he lived with for some months with St. Anthony Abbot. When his parents died he went home, sold off his property and distributed the proceeds to the poor, and became a solitary near Maiuma (the port of Gaza). H. became famous both as an ascetic and as a thaumaturge with healing powers. Fleeing his numerous visitors and supplicants, he undertook a voyage that brought him through Libya and Sicily to Dalmatia and finally to Cyprus, where he died. His faithful disciple Hesychius brought his body back to Gaza.
2) Virgins martyred at Köln (d. 450 or 451, supposedly). This is the feast that used to be known as that of St. Ursula and her companions or as that of St. Ursula and her 11,000 companions or (earliest attestation) as that of the 11,000 Virgins. Underlying it is an inscription now mounted in Köln's Basilika St. Ursula (built over the remains of a small, fourth-century church) that is variously either dated to fourth or fifth century or to the ninth and that announces a rebuilding by a _Vir Clarissimus_ of Eastern origin named Clematius of a church dedicated to martyred virgins. In the ninth century these virgins received a Passio (BHL 8427) in which they are a king's daughter of Britannia (usually taken to be Brittany) named Ursula who in order to preserve her vow of virginity flees her homeland by ship with eleven thousand fellow virgins, is forced by a storm to enter the Waal, and then travels upstream to Köln.
Still according to this Passio, at Köln U. is prompted by an angel to undertake a pilgrimage to Rome, which she and her fellow virgins then do. On their return, they find that Köln conquered by Hums. The latter's chieftain proposes marriage to U.; when she declines, she is shot to death with an arrow and all her companions are martyred. Thanks to the virgins' sacrifice, Köln is liberated from the Huns. The people of Köln recover the martyrs' bodies and a man of Eastern origin named Clematius erects a new basilica in their honor. Thus far the Passio. Later versions add fresh details, e.g. the numbers of the companions and their social standing vary, Geoffrey of Monmouth retails a version in which they are from _his_ Britain, the martyrs return from Rome with a pope Cyriac and numerous ecclesiastical dignitaries who join the virgins in martyrdom. The names of a few companions were established early. Others were revealed to St. Elizabeth of Schönau.
The cult in question is first attested from the eighth century with an Office for the 11,000 Virgins. Absent from the ninth-century martyrologies, it nonetheless has left numerous traces from that century as well as from subsequent ones as it spread throughout the Latin church.
An illustrated, multi-page, German-language site on U., on the other virgins, and on their veneration at Köln begins here:
Today's Basilika St. Ursula in Köln was known into the seventeenth century as the Church of the Holy Virgins. Erected in the early twelfth century and partly rebuilt in the late thirteenth, this chief temple of the cult in question suffered extensive damage in World War II and was restored in the early 1960s to a quasi-facsimile of its former self (e.g., the formerly vaulted ceiling of the nave was replaced with a curved span of very different appearance; the dominant interior color scheme is now the off-white and gray also seen in the restored Dominican church of St. Andrew [resting place of Albertus Magnus]).
An illustrated, German-language page on this church is here:
Other exterior views of the church (which latter is mentioned in the "new" RM's elogium for the Virgins as a way of preserving Ursula's name in this context):
This page offers a 360-degree panorama of the main portion of the interior:
Two illustrated, English-language pages on Hans Memling's Saint Ursula Shrine (1489) in Bruges:
3) Bertold of Parma (d. during the years 1106-1114). According to his Vita (BHL 1284) by a younger contemporary, B.'s parents were an Englishman of little means named Abundius and a Breton named Berta; these fled England as a result of devastation caused by a great conflict between the French and the English (usually understood to be the Norman invasion) and settled first in Milan and later in Parma, where B. was born. In the latter town, B.'s parents lived near the monastery of Sant'Alessandro, (a convent of Benedictine nuns) which latter they frequented and whence they obtained alms. In recompense, the father dedicated B., who was being brought up in his own trade (cobbler), to the monastery's service.
At the age of twelve, B. decided that he wished to enter monastic life at Sant'Alessandro. Overcoming with his mother's aid his father's initial objections, he obtained parental permission and was presented to the abbess. For the remainder of his life -- apart from abbatially permitted pilgrimages to Rome and to Vienne (where he visited the hospital of St. Anthony abbot and made miraculous cures) --, B. resided chastely as a lay brother at Sant'Alessandro, running errands in town for the nuns, visiting the sick, and effecting other works of charity. He also served as sacristan of the monastery's church and became known to many by virtue of his having been its porter. He died young and in an odor of sanctity.
One of medieval Italy's earliest lay saints, B. enjoyed a cult at Parma practically from the moment of his sepulture. A (the?) patron saint of sacristans, he has yet to grace the pages of the RM. Though the church of Sant'Alessandro was rebuilt early in the sixteenth century, a door, said to be of the eleventh century, was preserved from the previous structure as a relic of B. Here's a view of what's left of that (kept in Parma's Galleria nazionale):
The hospitallers of Vienne were originally Benedictines entrusted with relics said to be those of St. Anthony Abbot that had been brought to France in the late eleventh century. They occupied a site near that town at what is now Saint-Antoine l'Abbaye (Isère) in Dauphiné. This developed in the thirteenth century into an abbey run by a separate order, the Hospitallers of St. Anthony (of Vienne). A few exterior views of the abbey church (now a _paroissiale_):
A brief, French-language history of the church:
And here's a reproduction of the dedication illumination of one of the order's books (an illuminated Life of St. Anthony Abbot, executed in 1426), now National Library of Malta, codex I:
A description of this ms. occurs about halfway down this page:
(Bertold of Parma lightly revised from last year's post)
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