medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (14. December) is the feast day of:
1) Heron, Ater, Isidore, and Dioscorus (d. 250). We know about these Egyptian saints from St. Dionysius of Alexandria's report on the martyrs of his city in the Decian persecution as quoted by Eusebius (_H. E._ 6. 41-42; these four at 6. 41. 19). They were arrested at -- and suffered at -- some place in Dionysius' diocese outside of Alexandria proper. The magistrate dealing with them attempted to get Dioscorus, who was but fifteen years old, to apostasize. But after D. had heroically resisted lengthy entreaties and then torture the magistrate, admiring his constancy, let him off. When the other three (all evidently adult) exhibited similar constancy under torture they were condemned to perish by fire.
This group of martyrs entered the historical martyrologies with Florus of Lyon, who gave all the Alexandrian martyrs of this persecution a single, lengthy entry under 20. February. St. Ado of Vienne broke that elogium up, entering individuals and small groups under different days. It is down to Ado that these four are commemorated today. Thanks to a textual error in Florus' source, Rufinus' Latin-language translation of Eusebius, A. was entered in these medieval Latin martyrologies as Arsenius (as he also was in the RM until its revision of 2001).
2) Nicasius of Reims, Eutropia of Reims, and companions (d. 407 or 451). In the tradition of Reims N. was its eleventh bishop. What little is known about him comes from the _Historia Remensis ecclesiae_ of Flodoard of Reims (d. 966; the passage in question is at 1. 6). According to Flodoard, N. built a new cathedral dedicated to the BVM, replacing one that had been dedicated to the Holy Apostles. The change in titulature is more recent than that and the usual assumption is that Flodoard, aware that there had been a change, projected it back in time to the traditional builder of the cathedral he knew as that the BVM. Still according to Flodoard, when during the Vandal invasion of Gaul (sometimes reinterpreted, not altogether persuasively, as the Hunnic invasion) Reims came under siege, N. persuaded its inhabitants to accept as martyrdom the fate were expecting at the hands of the enemy.
When the raging pagans entered the city they found N. and his sister Eutropia singing hymns before the cathedral and decapitated him forthwith. Frodoard next retails a pious story for which he does not himself vouch. As the fatal blow was about to descend upon N., the bishop uttered the beginning of Psalm 118, verse 25, _Adhaesit pavimento anima mea_ (some modern editions read _pulveri_ instead of _pavimento_). At it was falling, his severed head completed the verse: _vivifica me secundum verbum tuum_. Returning to his own version of events, Frodoard says that Eutropia's beauty had caused her to be spared and, as it were, reserved for the pagans to fight over (a nicely arch way of putting things). But she attacked N.'s killer, slapped his face so hard that by divine force his eyes fell out, and achieved martyrdom by having her throat cut.
Others of the clergy and the laity joined N. and E. in their fate; named as representatives of these bodies are Florentius the deacon and blessed Jocundus. When the barbarians' fury had passed they were seized with a great fear of divine retribution, threw away their booty, and fled the city. N. and E. were buried in a church in the cemetery of St. Agricola; miracles were reported at their graves. St. Remigius was in the habit of spending time in their company. Thus far Flodoard, whose strikingly well written and richly meaningful narrative this poor summary cannot begin to reproduce.
In 1060 the old basilica of St. Agricola in which N. and E. reposed was replaced by a monastic church dedicated to N. That in turn was replaced in the thirteenth century by a new church of the same dedication. That too is gone except for some underground portions preserved in Taittinger's Caves et crayères de Saint Nicaise, views of which are here:
Throughout most of the thirteenth century and into the fourteenth Reims rebuilt its cathedral of Notre-Dame. N. and E. each have ambulatory chapels there; both are represented in the building's sculptural programmes. Here's the scene of N.'s martyrdom, with a distraught E. looking on, in the lowest register of the tympanum of the north facade's central portal (Portal of Saints):
The central figure in the left-hand embrasure below is often identified as N., though he could instead be Saint Dionysius of Paris. The figure to his left is often identified as E.
In the west facade, the central figure in the central door's left-hand embrasure is generally interpreted as N.:
The three facing figures on the right-hand embrasure have been hesitantly interpreted as E. and the companions Florentius and Jocundus:
A view of a thirteenth-century scene of N.'s martyrdom now in the Louvre and said to have come from a chapel window of the cathedral of Soissons:
A smaller view of the entire window:
Two later thirteenth-century miniatures, in a missal for the Use of his abbey at Reims, depicting N.'s decapitation (Reims, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 230, fols. 106v, 126v):
For a mere $895.00 (plus shipping) you can purchase a first-class relic of E.:
In its revision of 2001 the RM altered the commemoration from one of N., E., and companions to one of N. alone, naming E., F., and J. in the elogium but not including them in the formula of commemoration. E., F., and J. are still venerated in the archdiocese of Reims.
3) Agnellus of Naples (d. ca. 596). All our sources for the life and doings of today's less well known saint of the Regno are late. The earliest, Peter the Subdeacon's tenth-century _Libellus miraculorum sancti Agnelli_, tells us that St. Gaudiosus (the fifth-century G. of Abitina; 27. October) had founded on the city's acropolis (late medieval and modern Caponapoli) a monastery of which A. later became abbot. This monastery did not survive. At some point between 767 and 780 bishop Stephen II erected on the site the monastery dedicated to Gaudiosus that long was a feature of the city's ecclesiastical landscape. Gaudiosus appears in the early ninth-century Marble Calendar of Naples; Agnellus does not.
A.'s cult is attested from what would seem to be the late sixth century, that being the approximate date to which is ascribed on epigraphical grounds A.'s burial inscription discovered in 1517 during excavations preparatory to the building of the present church of Sant'Aniello a Caponapoli. In the later Middle Ages and into the early modern period A. was one of Naples' more important civic saints. His name survives in those of his church and of its adjoining little piazza:
A chapel dedicated to A. in the eastern environs of Naples gave its name to one of that city's later medieval outlying communities (_casali_): Sant'Agnello a Cambranum. Today's Sant'Agnello (NA), just east of Sorrento, is named after the monastery dedicated to A. whose medieval village it originally was. A. is widely venerated in coastal Campania; since the fifteenth century he has also been the patron saint of Guarcino (FR) in southern Lazio.
4) Venantius Fortunatus (d. ca. 605). We know about the poet Venantius Honorius Clementianus primarily from his own writings. He was born near today's Treviso in the Veneto, had a good rhetorical education in northern Italy. At some time not too long before the Lombard invasion of Italy (568) he travelled to Gaul (by way of the Alpine passes in Friuli and along the Danube and Rhine valleys) to give thanks to St. Martin at Tours for having restored his ocular health. On the way he repaid with encomiastic verse the hospitality of bishops, abbots, and lay nobles. For a while he was at the Frankish court at Metz but utimately he settled down at Poitiers, where he became first a friend and advisor to St. Radegund and her nuns and later, after ordination to the priesthood, as their chaplain and spiritual counselor.
Fortunatus outlived Radegund by some fifteen years. In about 600 he became bishop of Poitiers. Here's a sampler of his shorter religious verse (he is also the author of a lengthy verse Vita of St. Martin):
5) Folcuin (d. 855). This bishop of Thérouanne has a brief Vita (BHL 3079) by his great grandnephew Folcuin of Lobbes written a few year's after the latter's nomination as abbot of Lobbes in the later 960s. The younger Folcuin makes today's F. (in French, also Folquin) a grandson of Charles Martel and connects him, very doubtfully, with his own monastery of St.-Bertin. F. seems to have been named bishop of Thérouanne (now part of the diocese of Arras) early in 816. His presence is recorded at a couple of councils. In the younger F.'s presentation, he was assiduous and successful in the conduct of his pastoral duties and was remembered for his solicitous treatment of his charges during a period of harrassment and devastation by Northmen.
(Agnellus of Naples abbreviated from last year's post)
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