medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (15. March) is the feast day of:
1) Menignus (d. 250, supposedly). The megalomartyr M. is said in the Synaxary of Constantinople and in the "Imperial" Menologium of Michael the Paphlagonian to have been a fuller by trade at the ancient Hellespontine port of Parion in Mysia (near Kemer in today's Çanakkale province in northwestern Turkey). According to these sources, he removed and tore up a publicly posted notice of Decius' edict for the suppression of Christianity. For this he was tried and sentenced first to have all his digits cut off and then to be beheaded. The sentence was carried out in the presence of his wife and others, who saw M.'s soul emerge from his mouth in the form of a dove.
In the early 1950s the Byzantinist Henri Grégoire attempted unsuccessfully to show that the Passio of St. Benignus of Dijon had been adapted from a lost Passio of M. whose content was very similar to that of the relatively late accounts cited above. In the course of his argument Grégoire proposed that M. too had actually been named Benignus and that his name was altered to its present form through a confusion the Greek letters beta and mu, whose forms in ninth- and tenth-century minuscule are so similar that substitutions of this sort do occur. It is possible that on this one point Grégoire was right. Since Latin-speaking veterans had been settled in Parion in both the first and second centuries CE, the name Benignus could have been part of the local onomastic repertoire in M.'s time. We have no published testimonia to M. whose present forms antedate the eleventh century.
2) Zachary, pope (d. 752). Today's less well known saint of the Regno was the last Greek pope, John XVI having been an antipope (though allowed to retain his ordinal number as a pope of this name). A Calabrian, he is said to have been born in Siberena, today's Santa Severina (KR). A distance view of this town is here:
The oldest medieval structure in Santa Severina (and the oldest to survive from Byzantine Calabria) is the present baptistery of the cathedral. Thought to have been built as a separate oratory, it dates either from the eighth century or from the late ninth, when Santa Severina, from 840 to 886 a Muslim emirate, had been reconquered for the empire and its church was raised to archdiocesan status. Herewith two views (the exterior one showing a later medieval addition):
When Z. was elected to succeed Gregory III it was not thought necessary to seek permission from the exarch in Ravenna. Like his two immediate predecessors, Z. had repeated dealings with the Lombard kings, who at this point were vigorously expanding their realm at the empire's expense. When after some temporary successes with kings Liutprand and Ratchis his policy of remonstration and partial recovery failed utterly with king Aistulf, Z. cooperated with Pepin the Short in his accession to the kingship in Francia in return for Frankish protection of the papal territories. Though a perhaps more likely possibility is Stephen II (III), Z. may have been the pope who presented the so-called Sandals of Jesus (multiple pieces of a single boot?) to Pepin the Short who in turn in 762 donated them to the abbey of Prüm in the Eifel. Here's a view of these relics:
And here's a discussion of them, including a notice of their scientific examination for pollen samples, etc. last September:
Much the same, in German (probably the original language of this text):
John I Tzimiskes claimed to have discovered the Sandals of Christ at Gabala/Jabala in what is now Lebanon in 975, only a few years after the marriage of the princess Theophanu to the future Otto II. Was he making certain that the empire of the Romans could match that of the Franks in this particular regard?
In another action concerning an important relic, Z. brought from Cappadocia a head venerated as that of St. George and installed it in the basilica now known as San Giorgio al Velabro:
Z. was pope when the Chapel of Theodotus (a.k.a. that of Sts. Quiricus and Julitta) in Rome's chiesa di Santa Maria Antiqua was endowed and frescoed. Here's a black-and-white view of his apparently lifetime portrait from that chapel, now (with the other paintings in this group) detached and displayed on canvas in the Museo Forense:
Z. encouraged the work of St. Boniface and other Insular missionaries on the continent. His translation into Greek of St. Gregory the Great's _Dialogues_ contributed enormously to G.'s stature as a figure of the universal church. In Rome Z. built the first church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, later replaced by the late thirteenth-/fourteenth-century structure whose interior is shown here:
3) Leocritia (d. 859). We know about L. from Paul Albar's Vita of St. Eulogius of Córdoba (BHL 2704). The daughter of Muslim parents, L. secretly converted to Christianity with the aid of friends. When her parents began to suspect that her frequent visits elsewhere were not entirely social, she fled their home and sought safety among the Christian community, where she was moved from house to house in order to conceal her whereabouts. Ultimately she was caught (along with Eulogius, who had been instructing her in the faith). Condemned to death for her apostasy, L. was executed by decapitation. Today is her _dies natalis_. L.'s name is sometimes given as Lucretia. Here's an expandable view of Dosso Dossi's portrait of her (ca. 1520) in which she has been so identified:
4) Sisebutus (d. 1086). The historical S. is known from early modern annalistic entries based on now lost records of the then Benedictine monastery of St. Peter at Cardeña near Burgos in today's Castilla y León, where he was abbot for about thirty years. In 1081 or 1082, when S. was already elderly, he either resigned in favor of or appointed as coadjutor the abbot Sebastian II, whose advancement to a bishopric caused S. to resume direct rule a few years later. He will have been abbot at the dramatic date of his house's mention in the _Canter de mio Cid_, where the Cid (the historically attested Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar) commends his wife and daughters to an abbot of Cardeña named Sancho. The episode attests to the monastery's stature when the poem was written in the twelfth century. That it contributes to our knowledge of S. is debatable.
S.'s cult is first attested from a breviary of his house dated 1327, in which he appeared (or, if the manuscript is still with us, appears) both in the litany of the saints and, on his day of commemoration, in an antiphon to him and in a prayer including him by name. Pius VI (1775-1799) is said to have accorded his cult papal confirmation. When the monastery was suppressed in 1835/36 (it has since been re-opened) S.'s relics, which had been translated into its church in the fifteenth century, were removed to the cathedral of Burgos.
A couple of illustrated Spanish-language pages on San Pedro de Cardeña, with views (most are expandable) of its mostly later fifteenth-century church and of its partly twelfth-century cloister:
Other views (also expandable):
(Menignus, pope Zachary, and Leocritia lightly revised from last year's post)
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