medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (5. March) is the feast day of:
1) Conon the Gardener (d. 250 or 251, supposedly). According to the legendary, pre-metaphrastic Bios of St. Conon the Isaurian (BHG 2079) and to Byzantine synaxary accounts, today's C. (also C. of Palestine) was a gardener (vegetable farmer) on the imperial estate at Magydos in Pamphylia who suffered martyrdom during the Decian persecution. When brought before the examining magistrate, he is said to have identified himself as being of Nazareth in Galilee and of the family of Christ. Some interpret that statement as intended literally rather than metaphorically and identify today's C. with the Palestinian martyr of this name commemorated in the early (pre-Byzantine) liturgical calendar from Palestine preserved in a Georgian-language version in the tenth-century _Codex sinaiticus_ 34. In these sources C. is further said to have had nails driven into his feet and to have been forced to run ahead of a chariot until the torture killed him.
2) Lucius I, pope (d. 254). Perhaps a native of Rome (the _Liber Pontificalis_ says he was), L. succeeded St. Cornelius in June of 253. The ongoing persecution of the emperor Trebonianus Gallus forced him into an exile that was sufficiently severe for St. Cyprian of Carthage, in one of his letters to L., to call him a martyr. L. returned to the Eternal City upon the accession of the emperor Valerian in August of the same year. He seems to have followed his predecessor's policy of readmitting, after a penance, Christians who had apostasized during the recent persecution. Despite the assertion of the _Liber Pontificalis_ that L. suffered martyrdom by beheading, both the nature of his entry in the _Depositio episcoporum_ of the Chronographer of 354 (where he heads the list) and the fact that the edicts underlying the Valerianic persecution postdate L.'s passing by several years conduce to the belief that this pope died a confessor.
L. was buried in the crypt of the popes in the Cemetery of Callistus. The portion of the brief identifying inscription at his resting place bearing his name (Loukis, in Greek as were all the burial inscriptions at this site) was found during de Rossi's excavation of this chamber in the later nineteenth century. An illustrated, English-language page on the site is here:
In 821 Paschal I translated L. to his newly renovated Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. His relics are still there except for his head, which is said to have been translated to Denmark in about 1100 and to have been placed in Roskilde's then wooden cathedral. L., who was believed to have died a martyr, became the diocese of Roskilde's patron saint; when the present (ex-)cathedral, the Roskilde Domkirke, was built starting in the late twelfth century it was dedicated to him. Here's L. as depicted on what is said to be the cathedral's oldest surviving seal:
An illustrated, English-language page on the Roskilde Domkirke:
An illustrated, Danish-language page on the same church:
What is believed to be L.'s head now reposes in this early twentieth-century (1910) reliquary bust in Roskilde's Roman Catholic cathedral of St. Ansgar:
Until the rearrangement of the Roman Calendar promulgated in 1969 L.'s feast day fell on 4. March, the day on which he occurs in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology. The present date of his commemoration is that of his laying to rest as given in the aforementioned early fourth-century _Depositio episcoporum_.
1) Phocas the gardener (?). P. is a famous early martyr of whom, like so many early martyrs, very little is actually known. Our first account of him, the fourth-century Asterius of Amasea's _Homily 9_, tells us that P. was born at Sinope in Pontus (today's Sinop, about halfway along Turkey's Black Sea coast), that he lived as a rustic gardener outside a gate of that city, and that, though poor, he was generous in his hospitality. During an unspecified persecution, agents of the Roman state arrived at P.'s house looking for P., whom they intended to slay as he was a known Christian. But they didn't know what he looked like. P. offered them hospitality and promised that on the following day he would point out to them the man they sought. The agents accepted this offer. While they slept P. dug his own grave.
On the next day P. revealed his identity to his guests and asked them to slay him quickly. Overcoming their initial amazement, the agents rapidly complied by decapitating him. Thus far Asterius, who adds that other places venerate P. and have sought some relics of him; further, that he is a patron of sailors, often seen by them at night when a storm has been expected.
The poor gardener or other small-farmer outside the city is familiar character in Hellenistic literature. And the association with sailors depends on the similarity of P.'s name with the Greek word for seal (the mammal), 'phokos'. All one can say about P. from Asterius' homily is that he was a martyr venerated at Sinope and elsewhere. According to Asterius, one of the elsewheres was Rome; according to John Chrysostom, another was Constantinople. Epigraphic and other evidence shows P.'s cult to have been widespread in the East from at least the fifth century onward. To judge from toponyms and other indicia from the Salentine Peninsula and from Calabria, it was also firmly rooted in Greek-speaking southern Italy. Symeon the Metaphrast adopted Asterius' account wholesale, thus reinforcing the megalomartyr P.'s popularity in the central and later medieval Greek and other Orthodox world.
An undated Greek Passio (BHG 1536, 1536c), later than Asterius, makes P. a bishop of Sinope martyred under Trajan. This highly legendary account spawned both a Latin Passio (BHL 6838) as well as matter in the historical martyrologies of Bede, Florus, and Ado, all entered under 14. July, the date provided by one of the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology's less informative entries, _alibi s. Focae episcopi_ ('elsewhere, St. Phocas the bishop'). P. was commemorated on that date in the RM until its revision of 2001, when his elogium was moved to today to replace another, also deriving from the (ps.-)HM, of a P. said to have suffered at Antioch. P. is the patron saint of today's Francavilla Angitola (VV) in Calabria, one of whose medievally attested forerunners was a San Foca. He is figured in mosaic (thirteenth-century) in the atrium of Venice's basilica di San Marco. A poor reproduction is here:
and a better one (in black and white) is in the _Bibliotheca Sanctorum_, vol. 5, col. 947.
In the 1990s the appearance of mosaic fragments near Sinop led to the discovery of what are thought to be the remains of P.'s fourth-century major cult site. An announcement, with a view showing mosaic floors, is here:
and a follow-up from January 2003 will be found on this page:
4) Adrian of Caesarea (d. 309). A. is a martyr of Caesarea in Palestine. According to Eusebius (_History of the Martyrs of Palestine_, 11. 29-31), he and St. Eubulus (7. March) had come from Manganea to aid their fellow Christians. Caesarea's last victims of the Great Persecution, they were sentenced to suffer _ad bestias_. A., whose _dies natalis_ is today, was thrown to a lion and later put to death with a sword (whether untouched by the lion or horribly mutilated, Eusebius fails to say). Still according to Eusebius, E. was martyred two days later.
Both A. and E. are listed for today in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology. The RM now commemorates E. on his _dies natalis_.
5) Ciaran the elder (d. ca. 530?). C. (also Kieran). In legend (which is really all we have), C. either was already active as a missionary in Ireland before the arrival of St. Patrick or else was one of the twelve bishops whom P. consecrated in Ireland to assist him in his work. He is said to have been born in Ossory and to have retired to a hermitage, where he lived in the company of a boar, a fox, a badger, a wolf, a hind, and a fawn. This Peaceable Kingdom furnished the _dramatis personae_ for various instructive stories transmitted in C.'s Vitae. In time, C. attracted human followers to his retreat, which then developed into the monastery of Saighir (Seir Kieran).
Some views of the remains of the round tower at Seir Keiran (Offaly) are here:
6) Piran (d. 6th cent., supposedly). P. (also Peran, Perran) is the patron saint of Cornwall. His cult is first attested from 960. The Domesday Book records a large minster dedicated to him at Perranzabuloe in Penhallow, staffed by canons. This came into the possession of Exeter Cathedral, for whom P.'s surviving Vita seems to have been written in the thirteenth century. His relics at Perranzabuloe were the object of pilgrimage as late as 1558. Since the Vita was calqued on that of Ciaran the elder (no. 3, above), we really know very little about the historical P.
Some views of P.'s originally ca. 1100 church at Perranzabuloe will be found on this page:
In the late eighteenth century an earlier oratory dedicated to P. was uncovered in the immediate vicinity. It has since disappeared. This Celtic cross remains to testify to or, should it have been moved from some other place in recent centuries, to suggest the site's antiquity:
Another Cornish dedication to P. is the modern church of St(s. Michael and) Piran at Perranuthnoe, with various carved stones from a twelfth-century predecessor:
(Lucius I, Phocas the Gardener, Adrian of Caesarea, Ciaran the elder, and Piran lightly revised from older posts)
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