medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (29. April) is the feast day of:
1) Torpes (d. ca. 65, supposedly). T. (In Italian: Torpè, Torpete) is Pisa's legendary martyr and one of that city's medieval patron saints. According to his brief Passio (BHL 8307), whose earliest witness is of the later ninth century, he was a pagan and a Roman military officer in Nero's household who when that emperor was at Pisa for the inauguration of a temple of Diana was moved to tell him that Christianity was the true religion. Foreseeing a rapid and unpleasant end, T. then managed to have himself baptized by the priest Antonius who was living as a hermit on a nearby mountain (in the early fourteenth century, Augustinian hermits would claim A. as one of their antecedents). Accompanied by an angel, T. returned to Pisa, where he was arrested, tortured, and decapitated. His body was thrown into the Arno, whence it was later recovered and given honorable burial. Miracles occurred at the gravesite; after Nero's death T. received a public cult. Thus far the Passio.
Pisans brought their saint to other places. Genoa's San Torpete is an eighteenth-century rebuilding of a church originally erected in the eleventh century to serve that city's Pisan community. It was still the city's Pisan church in 1290 when victorious Genoese suspended from its facade rings taken by force from Pisa's harbor chain. Probably it was Pisans as well who introduced T.'s cult to Fraxinetum on the coast of Provence, where a church dedicated to him is first recorded from 1056. The place, now named for T., is today's Saint-Tropez (Var). T. is of course its patron saint. In the local version of events, his body arrived there miraculously by sea. The town of Torpè (NU) in the former Sardinian judicate of Gallura (Pisan-influenced from the eleventh century into the fourteenth) is also thought to take its name from T.
At Pisa, T.'s cult is especially connected with the churches of San Piero a Grado (the city's old cathedral, located at the spot where T. is said to have been executed) and San Torpè (originally a monastic church, now Carmelite, founded in the later thirteenth century). It is from his work in the latter that the painter called the Master of San Torpè (active ca. 1295 - ca. 1320 or 1335) derives his appellation. Many views of San Piero a Grado are here:
Here are a couple of views of T. (at right, with Pisa's later patron saint, the twelfth-century San Ranieri, at left) in Turino Vanini's Madonna con San Ranieri e San Torpè (1397), kept in Pisa's church of San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno in Pisa:
An Italian-language page on this church is here:
Many views of the church (inside and out):
The polygonal brick structure shown on those two pages is the originally eleventh-century cappella di Sant'Agata, formerly attached to San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno.
There is a scholarly edition of later medieval texts on T. in the Pisan vernacular: _Leggenda di san Torpè_, a cura di Mahmoud Salem Elsheikh (Firenze: Presso l’Accademia della Crusca, 1977).
2) Severus of Naples (d. 409). Bishop of the Parthenopean city from 363 to 409, today's less well known saint of the Regno enjoyed the friendship of St. Ambrose of Milan and the esteem of Q. Aurelius Symmachus. The early catalogue of Naples' bishops credits him with the erection of four basilicas, one of which is today's rebuilt San Giorgio Maggiore. S. is now also usually credited with the construction of western Christianity's oldest surviving baptistry, Naples' San Giovanni in Fonte (for fairly obvious reasons, this is by no means the only baptistery so named), though in the later Middle Ages the credit went instead to Constantine the Great. This monument adjoins the early Christian basilica of Santa Restituta (part of the late medieval and modern cathedral of Naples) and is well worth a visit. The cathedral's website has a section on the baptistery here:
(click on "Battistero" in the menu on the top).
Subsequent clicking on the arrows in the right-hand frame will take you through a slide show including views of the baptistery's restored mosaics.
Other views of the baptistery (mostly of the mosaics):
S. also constructed a burial church at Naples' catacombs and placed there the relics of Sts. Gervase and Protase sent to him by Ambrose; frescoed remains of their arcosolia (and those of other saints mentioned in early Neapolitan records) were discovered in 1865 under the early modern church of San Severo alla Sanità. Three expandable but not awfully revealing views of the Catacomba di San Severo will be found on this page:
S. too was buried there and there he remained until some unknown time before the ninth century, when his remains were transferred to San Giorgio Maggiore, which latter for a while was also known by S.'s name. In the ninth century he was re-interred in the basilica of San Salvatore (also known as the Stephania), along with Santa Restituta one of the predecessors of today's cathedral. In 1310 he experienced a further translation, this time to the high altar of the present cathedral; the latter was then still under construction and would not be dedicated until 1314. At this time S.'s cult was renewed and he became one of the few early saints of Naples proper to be accorded great prominence in the later Middle Ages.
S.'s later medieval feast day was 30. April. It was changed to today after the discovery in 1742 of the Marble Calendar of Naples with its ninth-century record of S.'s commemoration on 29. April.
3) Hugh of Cluny (d. 1109). H. (also Hugh of Semur) came from a comital family in Burgundy. After some brief military experience he entered Cluny under St. Odilo in 1039. H. was ordained priest in 1044 and was made prior in 1047. In 1049 he succeeded O. as the sixth abbot of Cluny. During his sixty-year rule he was a vigorous reformer, an advisor to the emperors Henry III and Henry IV, and the counsellor of many popes. Along with Matilda of Tuscany, H. interceded at Canossa with Gregory VII on behalf of Henry IV. Here are two views of the famous illumination in Vat. lat. 4922 (Donizo's _Vita Mathildis_) showing Henry appealing to H. and to Matilda for aid:
H.'s activities greatly increased Cluny's wealth and standing. The latter found commensurate architectural expression in the abbey's mammoth new basilica, now known as Cluny III, begun under H. For views, plans, and discussion of this structure, of which one transept and some other fragments survive, see (e.g.):
4) Catherine of Siena (d. 1380). The mystic and visionary C. was born in 1347, the umpteenth daughter of a Sienese wool-dyer and his wife. A professed virgin since childhood, she became a Dominican tertiary at the age of eighteen, living very ascetically and engaging in acts of charity to the sick and the poor. In 1370 she received a series of visions that impelled her to enter public life. C. then carried on a lengthy correspondence with pope Gregory XI, touching on many matters and urging church reform. In 1375 C. received the Holy Stigmata. In 1376 she was in Avignon and from 1378 until her death she lived at Rome. C. is buried in her order's church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. She has a very impressive Vita (BHL 1702) by her confessor, Bl. Raymond of Capua. Raymond also had a funerary monument made for her, a detail of which is shown here:
A view of C.'s tomb:
Views of Siena's basilica di San Domenico (a. k.a. La Basilica Cateriniana), built from 1226 to 1456:
More views here (along with a few of Santa Maria dei Servi):
Siena's San Domenico has C.'s head:
and a finger:
and a painting of C. in fresco from ca. 1390 by Andrea Vanni (d. ca. 1414), one of her disciples:
Most Web-based reproductions of that painting look rather similar to the one just linked to. This detail, from Fratelli Alinari, would seem to indicate that there's been a cleaning:
As that painting might indicate, C. was the subject of an immediately posthumous cult. She was canonized in 1461 by her fellow Sienese, Pius II.
Here are expandable views of three panel paintings of C. (ca. 1460-1465) by the Sienese artist Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:
Here's a view of a panel painting of her, now in Harvard's Fogg Art Museum, by the same artist:
A view of a later fifteenth-century fresco image of C. in the now deconsecrated church of San Pietro at Carpignano Sesia (NO) in Piedmont:
A statue of C. (1494) by Neroccio di Bartolommeo de' Landi, now in the oratorio di Santa Caterina at Siena:
A panel painting, from the very end of the fifteenth century and now in the National Galleries of Scotland, of an enthroned C. in a very Dominican context:
C. was named a Doctor of the Church in 1970. Along with Francis of Assisi, she is a primary patron of Italy. In 1999 she was proclaimed a patron saint of Europe.
(last year's post lightly revised)
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