medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (4. December) is the feast day of:
1) Barbara (?). B. is an originally Eastern saint absent from the late antique martyrologies and calendars, East and West. Her Passio, which exists in many versions in several languages, is obviously legendary. B. has no readily identifiable late antique cult site. She was localized in several places, most notably Nicomedia in Bithynia, Antioch on the Orontes, and a Heliopolis said to have been in Paphlagonia but possibly the one in Egypt, as it was from Egypt that the emperor Justin was said to have removed her relics to Constantinople.
B.'s first appearance in a Western martyrology comes in the ninth century. Ado, followed by Usuard, lists her under 16. December and purveys a version of her Passio that makes her a martyr of Tuscany. She is listed for today in the early ninth-century Marble Calendar of Naples. In the ninth century chapels were dedicated to her in Rome. In the later Middle Ages she became one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. In the 1960s she was removed from the general Roman Calendar. She still has an entry in the RM, albeit a grudging one: "It seems she was a virgin martyred at Nicomedia."
In widely known versions of her Passio, B. is a virgin shut up in a tower by an aggressively pagan father who discovers that she has turned Christian (in some texts, the three windows representing the Trinity that B. had inserted in the tower were a dead giveaway) and who either turns her over to officialdom for torment or kills her himself. In some of these accounts he is then said to be killed by a lightning bolt. B. is the patron saint of miners, artillerymen, and of people struck by lightning (or who must go out in lightning-rich weather conditions). Herewith some visuals:
B.'s since rebuilt eleventh-century church in Cairo (a rebuilding of a late antique predecessor dedicated to someone else):
B.'s eleventh-century rupestrian church (Barbara Kilise) at Goreme in Cappadocia:
Eleventh-century fresco of B. as a bejewelled princess in the chiesa di Santa Maria della Croce at Casaranello, a _frazione_ of Casarano (LE) in Apulia:
Discussion of the mosaics and frescoes:
B.'s twelfth-century church at Erimos in Mani (southern Peloponnese), no. 5 here with expandable exterior view:
Church of Our Lady of Ljeviska, Prizren (Kosovo province), Serbia (1310), fresco of B. (lower down on pillar):
The originally early fourteenth-century palatine chapel dedicated to B. in the Castel Nuovo at Naples (upper portions rebuilt after the earthquake of 1456):
Illustrated, Italian-language account:
Fourteenth-century paintings of scenes from B.'s Life in arcades of the apse of the église Notre-Dame at Savigny (Manche) in Normandy, once a dependency of the abbey of Sainte-Barbe-en-Auge, a little more than halfway down the page here:
Expandab;le views of some of these are here:
The late fourteenth- or early fifteenth century church of Agia Barbara near Agia Napa (Famagusta) in Cyprus:
The mostly late fourteenth-/early fifteenth-century chapelle Sainte-Barbe at Le Faouët (Morbihan) in Brittany:
B.'s mostly late fourteenth-/early fifteenth-century cathedral church (Sv. Barbory; restored, nineteenth century) at the Czech mining town of Kutná Hora:
Jan van Eyck's celebrated portrait of B. (1437?):
Late fifteenth-century statue of B. on the église Saint Saint Pantaléon at Troyes:
2) Felix of Bologna (d. 430/31). Paulinus of Milan says in his _Vita Ambrosii_ that F. was a deacon of that city who now (ca. 422) is bishop of Bologna. He is characterized as a saint both in the twelfth-century _Vita sancti Petronii_ and in the so-called Elenco renano, the oldest list of the bishops of Bologna. Bologna celebrates F. liturgically on 3. October. Today is his day of commemoration in the RM.
The only visuals associated with F. that I could find on the Web are views of the Porta San Felice, one of ten survivors of the original twelve city gates in Bologna's final, thirteenth-/fourteenth-century city wall and located at the point where the Via Emilia entered the city (the continuation into the city centre is now called the Via San Felice). The cardinal who returned papal overlordship to Bologna in 1327 made his ceremonial entry through this gate. Views:
3) John of Damascus (d. ca. 750). J. was the Arabic-speaking son of a financial officer of the Ummayad caliphate whom he followed in the family business in Damascus until hostility to Christians on the part of a new caliph caused him to move by the year 700 to the monastery of Mar Saba near Jerusalem. There he deepened his understanding of Christian theology and wrote his _Pege gnoseos_ ('Fount of [spiritual] knowledge') and other dogmatic and apologetic works. J. was ordained priest by Jerusalem's patriarch John V (706-735); numerous sermons and panegyrics survive under his name, not all of which are his.
J.'s iconophile positions caused him to be condemned at the council of Hieria in 754; the Second Council of Nicaea (787) affirmed his orthodoxy. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1890. Two excerpts from an English-language translation of J.'s anti-iconoclast writings are here:
4) Sualo (d. 794). We know about the Englishman S. (also known as Solus and as Sola) from his Vita (BHL 7926) by Ermanric of Ellwangen, written between 839 and 842. According to Ermanric, who later became bishop of Passau, S. followed Boniface to Germany, was ordained priest by him, and became a solitary (no pun intended) in the diocese of Eichstätt in a place that became known as Cella Solonis ('Solo's Cell') and to which title was given him by none other than Charlemagne himself. Ermanric adds that Sts. Willibald and Winnebald gave property to S. after Boniface's death and that after S.'s death all of his property was given by Charlemagne to the abbey of Fulda. The latter's necrology records S.'s passing on 3. December.
Notable among the miracles attributed to S. by Ermanric is a plainly allegorical one in which at his bidding an ass on which he had been riding attacks and kills a wolf that was threatening sheep grazing in a pasture with no shepherds present.
Cella Solonis is now Solnhofen (Kr. Weißenburg-Gunzenhausen) in Bavaria. Perhaps better known as the town that Archaeopteryx made famous, it preserves the remains of a ninth-century church (the so-called Solabasilika) built over four predecessors going back to middle of the seventh century (the third church is thought to have been S.'s oratory). A multi-page, German-language introduction to the site is here:
And the Wikipedia.de page on Solnhofen has more to say on it:
along with this view:
and this plan:
The Solabasilika contains a fifteenth-century tomb (opened in 1828 and found to be empty):
Remains of four earlier tombs have been found at the site; one of these may have been the one into which S.'s allegedly intact remains were deposited by Fulda's prior at Cella Solonis shortly before the writing of S.'s Vita.
In view of the time of year of S.'s feast, it may be well to recall that, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, one Sualo doth not a summer make.
5) Osmund (d. 1099). After service as a royal chaplain and as William I's chancellor (in the latter role presiding over the switch from English to Latin as the majority language of royal writs issued in England), O. was advanced in 1078 to the recently created see of Salisbury. He completed the barely begun cathedral within the outer precinct of the royal castle at Old Sarum, introduced a community of learned canons, and established a very active scriptorium. O. was remembered as a person of wisdom and holiness. Miracles at his tomb in Salisbury Cathedral are first reported from the later twelfth century; early in the next century come both the first surviving reference to him as 'saint' and the first canonization petition on his behalf. During the later Middle Ages O.'s reputation grew: he was credited both with establishing the Use of Sarum and with having been a nephew of William I. O. was canonized in 1457.
A view of O.'s tomb in Salisbury Cathedral:
(Barbara, Felix of Bologna, John of Damascus, and Sualo lightly revised from last year's post)
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