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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  December 2008

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION December 2008

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Subject:

saints of the day 31. December

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 31 Dec 2008 13:13:32 -0600

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today (31. December) is the feast day of:

Sylvester I, pope (d. 335).  Bishop of Rome from 314, S. occupied the see of Peter for most of the reign of Constantine I.  He attended neither the Synod of Arles (314) nor the Council of Nicaea (325), sending instead representatives to these major assemblies.  Little else is known about him as pope, though one can suppose that he will have had some hand in the design of the major Roman churches endowed by Constantine.  S. was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Via Salaria.  In 762 his remains were removed to the later much rebuilt church that now is known as San Silvestro in Capite; in 1601, when the present structure was being consecrated, they (along with the remains of two other popes) were reinterred under the high altar.  Which, presumably, is where they are still.

S.'s being such a blank historically may have had a lot to do with the ease with which legends about his relationship with Constantine took hold from the fifth century onward.  In their standard form, S. had fled from persecution by the pagan emperor Constantine and was in hiding on Mount Soracte when C. sought his aid in curing the leprosy with which he was now afflicted.  S. descended from the mountain and healed the emperor, who in gratitude converted to Christianity, was baptized by S. in the Lateran Baptistery, and then richly endowed the Roman church.  In the early Middle Ages this supposed endowment came to include a grant of supreme temporal power in the western territories of the empire, the so-called Donation of Constantine.

In 747 the Frankish king Carloman retired to Mt. Soracte, where he either expanded an already existing monastery (one is attested from the late sixth century) or established a new one.  In either event, he was subsequently viewed as the imperial founder of the monastery of St. Stephen located on the upper reaches of this height overlooking the Tiber plain and Rome.  This house lasted until the nineteenth century: remaining now are its restored twelfth-century church and some fragments of other structures.  A brief, illustrated, Italian-language account of what's now called the eremo di San Silvestro and of its crypt is here:
http://www.avventurasoratte.com/storia%20cultura.htm

Single views:
aerial view:
http://www.peticone.com/images/ved-s.silvestro.jpg
front:
http://www.romecity.it/Montesoratte02.htm
http://www.romecity.it/Montesoratte03.htm
http://tinyurl.com/yhqgtb
rear:
http://tinyurl.com/kne5t
http://www.romecity.it/Montesoratte04.htm
http://tinyurl.com/yfjzmp
rear, plus a side seldom photographed:
http://www.smgaribaldi.it/carolingia/immagini/oreste05.jpg

Interior:
http://www.smgaribaldi.it/carolingia/oreste06.htm
http://www.smgaribaldi.it/carolingia/sor07.htm
http://www.smgaribaldi.it/carolingia/sor09.htm
http://www.smgaribaldi.it/carolingia/sor10.htm
http://www.smgaribaldi.it/carolingia/sor04.htm
San Silvestro: a ghostly presence or just poor lighting?:
http://www.smgaribaldi.it/carolingia/sor08.htm

One may compare the present austerity of that site with the richness of the papal chapel dedicated to S. at Rome's fortified church of Santi Quattro Coronati.  Here are some expandable views of the chapel's cosmatesque floor and of its frescoes of 1246 depicting scenes from the legend of S. and Constantine:
http://www.giovannirinaldi.it/page/rome/santiquattro/
Some details of the frescoes:
1)  C.'s messengers approaching S. on Mt. Soracte:
http://www.giovannirinaldi.it/page/rome/santiquattro/image17.htm
2)  C. transferring temporal power (symbolized by the tiara) to S.:
http://www.maryfalco.altervista.org/img/san_silvestro.jpg
3)  C. holding the bridle of S.'s horse; S. wearing the tiara:
http://www.giovannirinaldi.it/page/rome/santiquattro/image25.htm

Here's a view of the late twelfth-century belltower of Rome's San Silvestro in Capite:
http://tinyurl.com/2nrhpv

S. in fresco (1295) in the church of the Peribleptos (now Sv. Climent) at Ohrid, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
http://www.svetosavlje.org/riznice/freske/ohrid18.htm

S. in fresco (1313 or 1314) in the King's Church at the Studenica Monastery, Kraljevo (Ra¨ki District), Serbia:
http://www.svetosavlje.org/riznice/freske/studenica16.htm

S. in fresco overcoming a noxious dragon whose lair was beneath the Roman Forum and restoring to health two pagan priests who had been overcome by its vapors, as depicted in Maso di Bianco's scenes from S.'s life (1340) in the Cappella Bardi di Vernio in Florence's Santa Croce:
http://latin.bestmoodle.net/media/silvdragon.jpg
A Latin text of the corresponding passage in the _Legenda Aurea_ is here:
http://tinyurl.com/77jxt2
And an English-language version is here:
http://www.fisheaters.com/customschristmas6.html
The fragmentarily preserved thirteenth-century apse frescoes in the crypt of the chiesa di San Silvestro at Alatri (FR) in southern Lazio (no. 2 in the dedications to S. noted below) include this version of the scene at the left in the fresco in Florence's Santa Croce:
http://www.laziosud.net/ciociaria/alatri/Alatri,_S_Silvestro.jpg

S. (at right; pope St. Miltiades at left) in a fourteenth-century manuscript illumination (Paris, BnF, Ms. Français 241, fol. 58; Jacobus de Voragine, _Legenda aurea_ [traduction de Jean de Vignay]):
http://tinyurl.com/ymr8yp

S. in a Missal for the Use of Salzburg (1476; Universitätsbibliothek Salzburg, MS. M III 12, fol. 160v):
http://www.ubs.sbg.ac.at/sosa/handschriften/MIII12(160vb).jpg

Some further dedications to S.:

1)  S.'s partly ninth-century church of San Silvestro in Trieste (Waldensian since 1927):
http://www.itccarli.it/immagini/cmsilv.jpg
http://tinyurl.com/ytvlbx
http://www.carbonaio.it/immagini%20trieste%20-%20citt%E0%2021.htm

2)  The originally late tenth-century church of San Silvestro at Alatri (FR) in southern Lazio, enlarged in 1331 and frescoed then and later:
Illustrated, Italian-language account:
http://tinyurl.com/yq5ox5
Facade view:
http://tinyurl.com/yv8gzj

3) The originally eleventh-century abbey church of San Silvestro at Collepino di Spello (PG) in Umbria:
http://tinyurl.com/2628kn
An English-language account occurs about halfway down the page here:
http://www.aaanetserv.com/turismo/umbria/it_benedettino_4.html

4)  A major monument to S. is the church of what until its suppression in 1769 was his abbey at Nonantola (MO) in Emilia just north of the kingdom of Italy's border with the papal state.  One of medieval Italy's great monasteries, the abbey was founded in the mid-eighth century by a brother-in-law of the Lombard king Aistulf and housed remains of two sainted popes, S. (relics are said to have been presented by pope Stephen II) and Adrian III (died here in 885).  In 1117, the church was severely damaged by an earthquake; what one sees today is an imaginative modern restoration (1913-21) of the structure as rebuilt in the twelfth century plus its better preserved eleventh-century crypt.  A few views in color follow:
http://www.emmeti.it/Welcome/Emilia/ProvModena/Nonantola/
http://tinyurl.com/er2eg
http://www.mondimedievali.net/Edifici/Emilia/images/nonantol01.jpg
http://www.tibethouse.net/celebrazioni/immagini/nonantola_big.jpg
A view of the rear prior to restoration:
http://tinyurl.com/2pk8hl

Two pages of black-and-white views from the Courtauld, mostly details of the famous sculptures on the portal, are here:
http://tinyurl.com/7snpg

5)  San Silvestro at Vicenza (VI) in the Veneto.  The abbey church of a dependency of Nonantola, this building was consecrated in 1128 and was expanded in about 1200.  It was reworked in the sixteenth century, lost its apses in the seventeenth, and was secularized in the early nineteenth, when the property became a military barracks.  The already dilapidated church was badly damaged by bombing in World War II.  An initial phase of reconstruction took place in the 1950s and another campaign ended in 2003.  It is now used as an exhibition gallery by the diocese of Vicenza's Associazione artisti per l'arte sacra.  Two views:
http://tinyurl.com/uxjmt
http://tinyurl.com/yyh7bv

6)  The twelfth-century fortified église Saint-Sylvestre de Montcalmès (Saint-Sylvestre-des-Brousses) in Puéchabon (Hérault), expandable views here:
http://route-romane.net/default.php?gzev=st_bk_269
and here (at foot):
http://tinyurl.com/yv8yh3

7)  The originally late twelfth-century church of San Silvestro at Bevagna (PG) in Umbria (portal dated 1195), subsequently modified.  It was restored to its present appearance in in 1953/54.  Some exterior views:
http://tinyurl.com/yzuf7t
http://www.jappita.com/images/upload/bevagna_480.jpg
http://tinyurl.com/ddx9w
Exterior and interior views:
http://www.greengrape.net/mori/bevagna/index_02.html
There are older black-and-white views, including some of the interior, here:
http://tinyurl.com/tmvvj
Another interior view:
http://www.surfingitaly.com/images/bevagna2.jpg

8)  The originally late thirteenth-century St. Sylvesterkirche in Quakenbrück (Kr. Osnabrück) in Niedersachsen with a later fifteenth-century choir (completed by 1470):
Illustrated, German-language account:
http://tinyurl.com/2zchjp
Exterior:
http://tinyurl.com/2ed7l4
http://tinyurl.com/yr24de
Interior (first view shows a rood screen with a cross said to be from the early fourteenth century):
http://www.kg-sylvester.de/images/geschichte/1.jpg
http://www.kg-sylvester.de/images/geschichte/2.jpg

9)  The originally fourteenth-century church of San Silvestro at L'Aquila (AQ) in Abruzzo (facade is from 1539):
http://it.geocities.com/l.aquila99/silvestro.JPG
http://tinyurl.com/9wlllo

10)  The originally fourteenth- and fifteenth-century church of St Sylvester at Chivelstone (Devon):
http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/519295
http://tinyurl.com/a5dqrf
http://tinyurl.com/7y9twz
http://tinyurl.com/a79qvd
http://tinyurl.com/8m5gdw
A brief description:
http://genuki.cs.ncl.ac.uk/DEV/Chivelstone/Stabb-Chivelstone.html
That pulpit hewn from an oak trunk:
http://tinyurl.com/6scamz

Best and happy Sylvester to all,
John Dillon
(last year's posts consolidated and lightly revised)

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