medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (11. March) is the feast day of:
1) Pionius (d. ca. 250). P. was a priest of Smyrna martyred during the Decian persecution. According to Eusebius (_Historia Ecclesiastica_ 4. 15. 47), he was vigorous in defending his faith and his community. S. had nails driven through him and then was burned alive, a death to which the second-century St. Polycarp of Smyrna had also been sentenced. The surviving Acta (BHG 1546) on which Eusebius probably based his account note this and other parallels between the two martyrs. E. blunders in making P. one of Polycarp's own companions in martyrdom.
In the fourth century a fictional Bios of St. Polycarp (BHG 1561) appeared with P. as its pretended author. This became very popular and added to P.'s posthumous renown. P. appears in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology under several dates, one being today. On the basis of a misreading of another entry in the (ps.-)HM, Florus of Lyon placed P. on 1. February. That is where he remained until the latest version (2001) of the RM, whose choice of today for P.'s commemoration reflects the early ninth-century use of Naples as indicated by its Marble Calendar.
2) Sophronius of Jerusalem (d. 637 or 638). S. (also S. of Damascus, S. the Sophist) seems to have been of Damascene origin. After a brief time as as a teacher of rhetoric he became a monk in Palestine, first at the New Lavra and then at the Theodosius Monastery at Bethlehem. It was as a monk of the latter establishment that S. accompanied his friend John Moschus (the author of the _Spiritual Meadow_) on his travels among the monks of Egypt and later at Rome and at Constantinople. S., who became patriarch of Jerusalem in 634, wrote sermons, hagiographical texts, and religious verse as well as theological attacks on monothelitism. Not all of the writings that have come down under his name are genuinely his.
In 637 S. led a spirited but hopeless defence of Jerusalem against a major Muslim siege. After several months of this he arranged a surrender that is said to have given some protection to the Christian churches and to have guaranteed the city's Christians (at this point Jews were forbidden to reside in Jerusalem) what seems to have been essentially the same dhimmitude that Muslims were allowing to monotheists elsewhere during this conquest. Opinions vary as to whether S. survived to die a refugee in Alexandria in the following year or instead were martyred in Palestine not long after the surrender.
3) Benedict of Milan (d. early 8th cent.). B. is traditionally the forty-first bishop of Milan. The eighth-century city praise poem _Versum de Mediolano civitate_ numbers him among Milan's great saints and gives the basilica of St. Ambrose as his resting place. Later in the same century Paul the Deacon records how at some point during the years 707-709 B. unsuccessfully defended in Rome his see's claim to consecrate the bishops of Pavia and adds (_Historia Langobardorum_ 6. 29) that B. was exceptionally holy and well regarded throughout all Italy. The earliest Milanese bishops' lists put his feast today, a practice followed by the RM. In the Ambrosian Rite to keep his feast from occurring during Lent he has since 1623 been celebrated on 6. September.
Early modern conjecture identified B. with a deacon Crispus, the alleged author (the name is probably fictitious) of a Latin medical poem of uncertain but seemingly much later date. "Benedict Crispus" the ecclesiastical poet became by further conjecture the author of the anonymous epitaph for St. Cędwalla (d. 689; 20. April) at St. Peter's in Rome, transmitted in Bede's _Historia Ecclesiastica_ and in various medieval collections of epitaphs. Neither attribution has much to recommend it, though the second one was accepted incautiously both by F. J. E. Raby (_Secular Latin Poetry_, I, 159) and by Michael Lapidge ("Some Remnants of Bede's Lost 'Liber Epigrammatum'", _EHR_ 90 , 798-820, p. 801).
4) Oengus the Culdee (d. early 9th cent.). O. was a monk of Clonenagh (Laois) who later became a disciple of St. Maelruain at the abbey at Tallaght (Dublin). He is the author of the Irish martyrology that bears his name.
Some views of early Christian grave markers (cross slabs) at Clonenagh are here:
5) Eulogius of Córdoba (also E. of Toledo; d. 859) and other martyrs of Cordoba (ca. 822-864). A priest in Muslim-ruled Córdoba, E. along with other Christians publicly proclaimed the superiority of Christianity and thus brought upon themselves capital punishment for denigrating the Prophet. E. was also the chief chronicler of this movement, writing several accounts of the martyrs. His own life was sketched in a Vita by his friend, the layman Paul Albar (BHL 2704). Some of the martyrs' remains were translated to Paris in the early 860s.
Kenneth Wolf's study of these deaths, _Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain_ (Cambridge University Press, 1988), is available on-line here:
In 848 E. visited the abbey of San Salvador at Leyre in Navarra. Here's a Spanish-language virtual tour, with expandable views, of the eleventh- to fourteenth-century monastery buildings at Leyre:
6) John Baptist of Fabriano (Bl.; d. 1539). J. (Giovanni Battista da Fabriano; Giovanni da Fabriano; Giovanni Righi) was born into a noble family of today's Fabriano (AN) in the Marche. He entered the Order of Friars Minor fairly early in life and from about 1511 onward he resided at the Franciscan convent of San Giacomo outside of Massaccio (today's Cupramontana [AN]). Because that house had at one time been Camaldolese it was known locally as "the Hermitage" ("la Romita"), a fact that has led some to call J. B. a hermit. He wasn't that, but he was greatly ascetic, given to long bouts of fasting and to extended periods of prayer. Exceptionally humble, he also developed a reputation for patience and for charity. J. B. died at the age of seventy. His cult, reinforced by reports of lifetime and postmortem miracles, was immediate. Beatification came in 1903. J. B.'s remains lie beneath an altar in his former convent's church of San Giacomo della Romita.
A touristy, English-language page dealing with J. B. is here:
(last year's post lightly revised)
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