medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (28. March 2008) is the feast day of:
1) Castor of Tarsus (?). C. is a martyr entered in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology under today and again under 27. April. Whereas the latter entry is now thought to have been a slip, it is always possible that it was really today's entry that was erroneous. We are not informed as to the date or the particular circumstances of C.'s suffering.
2) Priscus, Malchus, and Alexander (d. 258 or 259). According to Eusebius, _Historia ecclesiastica_ 7. 12 (our source for these three saints), P., M., and A. were young men who resided together on a small farm in the vicinity of Caesarea in Palestine. During the Valerianic persecution they proclaimed their Christianity to the Roman governor and were executed by exposure to wild beasts. Entered for today in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology, they were accompanied in the ninth-century historical martyrologies by brief _elogia_ drawn from Rufinus' translation of Eusebius.
3) Cyril of Heliopolis and companions (d. 362). We know about these martyrs from a series of sensationalizing accounts at Theodoret, _Historia ecclesiastica_ 3. 3. C. was a deacon of the church of Heliopolis in Syria (now Baalbek in Lebanon); in the reign of Constantius II he had incurred the lasting enmity of the city's pagans by destroying several of their temples' cult statues. After the accession of the emperor Julian C. was seized by a pagan mob some of whom tortured him, cut open his belly, and removed and devoured his liver. Still according to Theodoret, the perpetrators were divinely punished by having their teeth fall out all at once, by having their tongues rot away, and by the loss of their eyesight.
C.'s companions, who are celebrated along with C. (and with tomorrow's St. Mark of Arethusa) in Orthodox churches but who have yet to grace the pages of the RM, suffered with him only by being fellow martyrs of the Julianic persecution. They are unnamed priests and holy virgins, said to have been slain at Gaza and at Ascalon by having barley poured into incisions in their stomach cavities and by being then set out as a meal for pigs, and the victorious athlete Aemilianus, said to have been burned alive at Durostorum on the order of the governor of Thrace.
Heliopolis was an important city and a legionary headquarters in the Roman empire. As Baalbek it boasts several ruined temples of note. Many views of the latter are here:
4) Gunthram (d. 592). One of the sons of Chlotar I, after the latter's death in 561 G. received Burgundy, Arles, and Marseille in the division of the Frankish kingdom. As king G. made his capital at today's Chalon-sur-Saône, generally supported the interests of Austrasia over those Neustria, and, lacking sons of his own, adopted the young king of Austrasia, his nephew Childebert II, making him his heir in Burgundy and his other territories. He founded the monastery of St. Marcellus at Chalon, gave generously to churches in his realm, and protected churchmen. St. Gregory of Tours thought highly of him. In his later years G. repented of various earlier misdeeds and increased the level and the extent of his pious donations. His cult seems to have been more or less immediate.
The dynastically significant meeting of G. and Childebert II, usually placed at at today's Andelot-Blancheville (Haute-Marne), seems to have been a frequent matter for illustration in late medieval histories of France. Herewith two specimens, the first unsourced and the second from a later fifteenth-century copy of _Les Grandes Chroniques de France_ illustrated by Jean Fouquet (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 6465):
5) Hilarion the Younger (d. later 8th cent.). H. (also Hilarion the New [another translation of the term that gives us "the Younger'], Hilarion of Bithynia, and Hilarion of Pelecete) was hegumen of the monastery of Pelecete on Mt. Olympus in Bithynia. Our chief source for him is a canon (long hymn) by a Joseph whose identity is uncertain. This calls him a martyr who suffered under iconoclast persecution. As the monastery's hegumen when in 764 it was raided and effectively closed by imperial troops under Constantine V (d. 775) was named Theosterict and as the monastery is unlikely to have been re-opened during that emperor's reign, H. will have been either hegumen in exile/prison after the raid or else an otherwise unrecorded victim of the brief persecution under Leo IV in 780.
6) Stephen Harding (d. 1134). The Anglo-Saxon Harding was a monk of Sherborne in Dorset who in the later eleventh century moved to the Continent, where he studied in France and took the name Stephen. After a pilgrimage to Rome he entered the abbey of Molesme in about 1085. Strict as life at Molesme was, it was not strict enough for S., who joined a secession that in 1098 founded the abbey of Cîteaux. In 1109 he was elected abbot there and through the arrangements he made with his house's first four daughters had a formative role in the creation of the Cistercian order. Those houses (La Ferté , Pontigny, Clairvaux, and Morimond) all were male, but in the early 1120s S. had a major role in the establishment of the first Cistercian house for women, the convent at Tart near Cîteaux. In 1133 he resigned his office for reasons of ill health. S. was canonized in 1623.
Here's S. (at left), presenting a church to the BVM:
And here's a page from S.'s Bible (Dijon, Bibliothèque municipale, Mss. 12–15), whose text of the Old Testament was emended after consultation with Hebrew scholars:
7) Conus of Naso (Bl.; d. 1236). C. (also Cono, which can be a form of Conon) was abbot of the Greek-rite monastery at today's Naso (ME) in northern Sicily. His Vita, published by the pioneering student of Sicilian hagiography Ottavio Gaetani S.J. (d. 1620) in vol. 2 of his _Vitae sanctorum siculorum_, is thought to be derived from a lost Greek original retained at Naso until the sixteenth century. This tells us that C. made his profession at the Greek monastery of St. Philip at Fragalà, where he had Sts. Sylvester of Troina and Lawrence of Frazzanò as spiritual guides, and notes his operation of various miracles.
Considered a saint at Naso and at San Cono (CT), a town founded in the early modern period for agricultural workers originally from Naso, C. is a Blessed in the eyes of the Roman church. His cult was confirmed for Naso in 1630 with Double feasts in June (principal feast) and in September (translation). Today is C.'s day of commemoration in the new RM (2001, rev. 2004).
(Castor of Tarsus, Gunthram, Stephen Harding, and Conus of Naso lightly revised from last year's post)
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