medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (25. February) is the feast day of:
1) Caesarius of Nazianzus (d. 369). A member of a very saintly family, C. studied at Alexandria and then returned home to practice medicine. He was so successful that he was called into government service and served at Constantinople as imperial physician under Constantius II and Julian. Members of C.'s family persuaded him to resign his post under Julian but he returned to service under Jovian and Valens. In 368, while serving as quaestor for Bithynia, he narrowly escaped death in an earthquake. Thus reminded that his life could be brief, C. left the imperial service and became a penitent. He had given his fortune to the poor when in the following year he died prematurely.
We know about C. from his funeral oration by his brother, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, presented here in an English-language translation:
2) Walburg (d. 779). The sister of Sts. Willibald and Wunibald, W. (also Walburga, Walpurga, Walpurgis) left England for Germany to assist St. Boniface in his missions. She settled in at Tauberbischofsheim in the northeast of today's Baden-Württemberg and moved on to Heidenheim in Bavaria, where she was put in charge of the sisters at a double convent founded by Willibald. Later she ruled the entire establishment (both sexes).
W. is the patron saint of the abbey of Sankt Walburg in Eichstätt, founded by count St. Liutger of Lechsgmünd in 1035 adjacent to a church that had housed her relics since the late ninth century. A handy, English-language introduction to the continued veneration of W.'s remains within the diocese of Eichstätt is here:
A painting on parchment from 1360 depicting the abbey's founding:
W.'s resting place in the crypt of the present abbey church:
Two depictions of W. in the Walburgiskirche in St.Michael in Obersteiermark (Steiermark):
a) Glass window (ca. 1295):
b) Wall painting (ca. 1300):
Some other dedications to W.:
a) W.'s twelfth- to fifteenth-century church in Oudenaarde (Oost-Vlaanderen):
b) the originally early twelfth-century Pfarrkirche St. Walburga in Overath (Rheinisch-Bergischer Kreis), Nordrhein-Westfalen, expanded in the 1950s:
An illustrated, German-language page on this church:
c) the Burgkapelle St. Walpurgis in Nürnberg, first recorded from 1267/68 and subsequently modified:
d) a well illustrated, English-language account of the mostly thirteenth- and fifteenth-century St. Walburgiskerk in Zutphen (Gelderland):
e) a similar account of the originally fourteenth-century St. Walburgiskerk in Arnhem ("restored", 1851-55; burned out in 1944; restored, 1947-51):
f) the mostly fourteenth- and fifteenth-century St. Walburgiskirche in Großhabersdorf (Kr. Fürth) in Bavaria:
g) the fifteenth-/early sixteenth-century Kirche St. Walburga at Ramsdorf, an _Ortsteil_ of Veklen (Kr. Borken) in Nordrhein-Wesfalen, expanded in 1912/13:
Illustrated, English-language page:
3) Gerland of Agrigento (d. 1100). G. (in Italian, Gerlando; in Sicilian, Giullannu) was the first Latin bishop of Agrigento (prior to 1927, Girgenti) after the Norman-led reconquest of Sicily. Our only good source for him, Geoffrey Malaterra, Roger I's late eleventh-century biographer writing in Catania, calls G. "Gerlandum quendam, natione Allobrogum" ("a certain Gerland, of the Savoyard [or perh. "French"] nation"). Potted lives of the saints uncritically repeat a late medieval claim that he was a relative of the Hautevilles and often perpetuate an unproven early modern conjecture identifying him with his contemporary Gerland of Besançon, the author of a treatise on the computus. G. is today's saint of the day in the ecclesiastical region of Sicily. This year, today being Ash Wednesday, G.'s festivities in Agrigento have been postponed until tomorrow.
Agrigento's cathedral is said to have been dedicated to G. since the fourteenth century. Built and rebuilt from the late eleventh century to the later fourteenth (with rededications in 1315 and 1354) and again in the later seventeenth century and heavily redecorated within during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, its exterior has little medieval to show apart from a couple of windows surviving from the original structure and its unfinished fifteenth-century belltower. Front views:
A side view of the belltower:
Inside, the front part of the nave with its massive polygonal columns dates from the fourteenth century:
And here's G. at rest within his church:
A view of the portal of the fourteenth(?)-century ex-chiesa di San Gerlando at Sciacca (AG), deconsecrated in 1955:
Back at Agrigento (a place "saints of the day" doesn't get to all that often), some other medieval ecclesiastical buildings of note:
a) Santa Maria dei Greci (eleventh-century; said to have been G.'s first cathedral; built over a fifth-century BCE temple; thirteenth-century portal):
b) San Biagio (twelfth-century; built over part of the base of a fifth-century BCE temple of Demeter):
c) San Nicola (thirteenth-century, Cistercian; sixteenth-century buttresses; home of Agrigento's Museo Archeologico Nazionale):
d) Santo Spirito (Cistercian convent first attested from 1295, now a museum; exterior portions of church and remains of cloister):
4) Robert of Arbrissel (Bl.; d. 1116). We know about the monastic founder R. chiefly from two closely posthumous Vitae (BHL 7259, 7260), the first by Baldricus, archbishop of Dol (better known to some as Baudri of Bourgeuil; BHL 7259) and the second by Andreas, a monk of Fontevrault; this survives in an abbreviated Latin version (BHL 7260) and, in fuller form, in a sixteenth-century French translation. R. was born at today's Arbrissel (Ille-et-Vilaine) in Brittany, where he succeeded his father as the village priest. After study in Paris R. was for four years archpriest at Rennes, where he is said both to have settled quarrels and to have pursued the sort of reform agenda that is likely to have provoked ill feelings (e.g. opposing lay ownership of churches, simony, and married priests).
The appointment of a new bishop led to a change of venue. R. taught for a few years at Angers, after which became a hermit in the forest of Craon, where in short order he founded a community of canons and developed a reputation as an exceptionally effective preacher. In 1095 Urban II heard R. preach at Angers and, it is said, commanded him to devote himself to preaching. R. pursued this course for the remainder of his life, traveling from place to place and attracting a following of both sexes, with some of whom he is said to have slept (chastely in the view of his defenders, sinfully in the view of his detractors). In 1101 he founded a double monastery -- with the women clearly outnumbering the men -- at today's Fontevraud-l'Abbaye (Maine-et-Loire) in Pays de la Loire.
When in 1115 R. ceased to direct the community he placed it under the rule of an abbess. R. wrote a Rule that was adopted by other houses that became priories of this motherhouse in what quickly became the Order of Fontevraud with many new foundations. The Rule was approved by Calixtus II in 1119. Andreas' Vita was probably submitted with it in the hope of a canonization that never came. R. entered the RM in 2001 at the level of _Beatus_.
Here's a view of the originally eleventh-century église Notre-Dame de l'Assomption at Arbrissel, where R. began his sacerdotal career:
Here are some views of the originally twelfth-century abbey church of Fontevraud, restored in the later twentieth century after having served, along with other monastic buildings, as a prison from the late eighteenth century onward. R. had been buried next to the main altar; now the place is famous for its _gisants_ of some later notables.
(Caesarius of Nazianzus, Walburg, and Gerland of Agrigento lightly revised from last year's post)
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