medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (22. April) is the feast day of:
1) Soter, pope (d. 174?). According to the _Liber Pontificalis_, today's less well known saint of the Regno was born into a family of Greek origin at today's Fondi (LT) in southern Lazio. As bishop of Rome he succeeded yesterday's St. Anicetus. He is credited with instituting Easter as an annual feast in the Eternal City. St. Dionysius of Corinth in his letter of thanks to the church of Rome expressly recalls the holy bishop S.'s expansion of traditional Roman organized charity to the poor and needy of other churches. The _Liber Pontificalis_ gives his place of sepulture as the cemetery of Callistus. Later tradition regarded S. as a martyr. S. and pope St. Caius (no. 3, below) were celebrated jointly from the early Middle Ages until the reform of the general Roman Calendar promulgated in 1969.
2) Leonides of Alexandria (d. 201 or 202). L., a wealthy and pious family man of considerable standing in his community, was one of the many Egyptian Christians martyred under Septimius Severus. We know about him because Eusebius opens the sixth book of his _Historia ecclesiastica_ with a detailed discussion of L.'s eldest son (of seven), the theologian Origen, whom E. says L. carefully educated in Holy Writ. Baronio's choice of today for L.'s commemoration in the RM reflects Greek celebration of the martyr Leonidas of Corinth on this day.
3) Caius, pope (d. 296). C. (also Gaius) became pope in 283. He was buried in the cemetery of Callistus in the large crypt (near the Crypt of the Popes) now named for him. The _Depositio episcoporum_ of the Chronographer of 354 records his laying to rest today. Legendarily, C. is said to have been a martyr, to have hailed from Salona in Dalmatia, to have been related to the emperor Diocletian, and to have established on the site of his own house at Rome the church of his very legendary niece, the also supposedly martyred St. Susanna. This church, which in reality was founded in the fourth century, seems to have begun as a _titulus_ named after some C. and to have received its dedication to S. only in the year 590. It experienced two eighth-century restorations.
Under the presbytery of today's much rebuilt Santa Susanna one may see remains of the paleochristian church. A sarcophagus discovered there has been found to contain fragments of painted plaster, one of which is shown here:
The female saints on either side of the BVM are variously identified.
An English-language description of C.'s crypt in the cemetery of Callistus is here:
In 1631 C.'s relics were translated to Santa Susanna.
Two views of Lorenzo Monaco's depiction of C.'s [supposed] martyrdom (ca. 1394-95; from a now dismembered altarpiece; this panel in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu):
C. as depicted in a later fifteenth-century (ca. 1470) French-language version of the _Legenda Aurea_ (Mâcon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 3, fol. 182r):
4) Agapitus I, pope (d. 536). The son of a Roman priest, A. was archdeacon of Rome before being elected pope in early June of 535. He and the _magister officiorum_ Cassiodorus (St. Boethius' successor in that office) unsuccessfully attempted to establish at Rome an orthodox Christian institute of higher education comparable to the Nestorian one at Nisibis. In February of 536 king Theodahad sent A. on a diplomatic mission to the emperor Justinian in Constantinople. The aged A. spent the rest of his brief pontificate in the Roman capital. Though he failed to dissuade Justinian from his plan of overthrowing the Gothic kingdom, he did convince him that his patriarch of Constantinople, Anthimus, was really a monophysite. J. removed Anthimus and replaced him with a successor (St. Menas of Constantinople) whom A. then consecrated. J. also tendered to A., who approved it, a written statement of his own faith.
A. died on this day, still in Constantinople. Later in the same year his body was brought back to Rome and interred in St. Peter's. Though pope St. Gregory I's devotion to A.'s memory established this pope as a saint of the Roman church, the earlier reference to A. as _beatissimus_ in the second sentence of Cassiodorus' widely read _Institutiones_ (finished ca. 555) both testifies to the esteem in which this pontiff was held posthumously and will have reinforced later readers' opinions of his sanctity. With a little squinting you might be able to discern the words _beatissimo Agapito papa_ in the eighth and ninth lines from the top of this opening page of a twelfth-century Austrian text of the _Institutiones_:
5) Theodore the Sykeote (d. 613). We know about T. from his impressive Bios by his disciple George Eleusius (BHG 1748). He was born out of wedlock to a prostitute in the town of Sykeon near Anastasiopolis in Galatia (the latter is now Beypazarý in Turkey's Ankara Province), was given good schooling, and at the age of ten began to eat sparingly in imitation of an ascetic cook in his mother's household (which latter in the interim had become a legitimate hostel). At about the age of twelve he survived an epidemic of bubonic plague and at the age of fourteen he became a hermit, living increasingly close to starvation in a cave he had dug for himself under the altar of a local oratory dedicated to St. John the Baptist. By the age of eighteen T. was a priest, ordained uncanonically by the bishop of Anastasiopolis in response to his evident holiness and out of a desire that he not further endanger his health through excessive privation.
After establishing a new residence at an oratory dedicated to his lifelong patron, the megalomartyr George, T. soon said goodbye to his family and began a period of itinerant preaching that led him to Palestine. After making his monastic profession there in the lavra of Chuziba he returned to his oratory at Sykeon, this time living as a hermit monk and attracting disciples. T. developed a reputation as a thaumaturge and in time was chosen to be bishop of Anastasiopolis, where he operated further miracles, mostly of the healing variety, as he also did at Constantinople during two trips there. An encomium of T. by Nicephorus the Scevophylax (BHG 1749) relates how shortly after his death his relics were removed to Constantinople on the order of the emperor Heraclius.
An eleventh-century judge (krites of the velon) of one of the Anatolian themes (Armeniakon) named Theodore Spanopoulos had this T. and not the military homonym as his patron. See this transcription and translation of his seal:
6) Opportuna (d. ca. 770). O. (in French, Opportune) was a sister of bishop St. Chrodegang (Godegrand) of Séez and abbess of the nearby monastery of Almenèches in Lower Normandy. Her late ninth-century Vita et Miracula by bishop Adalhelm of Séez (BHL 6339) notes her severely ascetic lifestyle, her mildness in reproving others, her deep sorrow at her brother's murder, and some of her many miracles (for which O. has obtained the sobriquet "wonder-worker of Normandy"). The same author's _Liber miraculorum_ of O. (BHL 6340) informs us that her cult had spread to Paris, where at the time of his writing a church was already dedicated to her. This extract from an edition of 1864 of Butler's _Lives of the Saints_ will give an idea of the later spread of O.'s cult and of the distribution of her relics:
Here's a thirteenth-century relief of O. at the abbey of Lessay (Manche), previously in the abbey's former parish church dedicated to her:
Smallish views and French-language descriptions of the originally twelfth-century church dedicated to O. at Sainte-Opportune-du-Bosc (Eure) and of the originally thirteenth-century church dedicated to her at Le Plessis-Sainte-Opportune (Eure) will be found on this page:
A set of five views of the église Sainte-Opportune at Sainte-Opportune-du-Bosc, including a good one of its later medieval chevet, is here:
The abbey at Almenèches (Orne) was destroyed by raiders in the tenth century and was refounded in 1066. There were further destructions in the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The present église (abbatiale) Sainte-Opportune has an earlier sixteenth-century "gothic" transept and nave and a seventeenth-century choir. There's a view here:
A better view of the facade:
At Paris, O.'s cult was centered on the later Carolingian church and eleventh(?)-/twelfth-century monastery named for her along the Rive Droite at what is now place Sainte-Opportune.
Elsewhere in Île-de-France, a view of the remains of the fifteenth-century prieuré de Sainte-Opportune at Moussy-le-Neuf (Seine-et-Marne):
In Pays-de-la-Loire, a sketch of the now vanished Sainte-Opportune at Saint-Père-en-Retz (Loire-Atlantique), destroyed in the late eighteenth century:
7) Meingoz of Weingarten (Bl.; d. ca. 1200). M. (Megingoz, Megingosus) was abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Weingarten in southern Swabia from ca. 1188 until his death. He expanded the abbey church and other buildings and enriched his house with many new possessions. Some of the wealth so obtained was put to use in the abbey's scriptorium. Roughly contemporary products of the latter include the illustrated _Welfenchronik_ (late twelfth-century; Fulda, Landesbibliothek, Ms. D. 11) and the sumptuous Berthold Sacramentary (ca. 1215; New York, Morgan Library, Ms. M. 710). M. has yet to grace the pages of the RM. Nor could I find him in the _Bibliotheca Sanctorum_. He is commemorated today in the martyrology of Heiligenkreuz Abbey and probably fairly widely in the Benedictine family.
A view of the _Welfenchronik_'s portrait of Frederick Barbarossa between his sons Henry VI and Frederick of Swabia:
A nicely expandable view of the binding of the Berthold Sacramentary:
A couple of not awfully clear views (deliberately so) of pages from a recent facsimile of the Berthold Sacramentary:
Reproduced here is a sketch of the abbey as it appeared in the early sixteenth century:
(last year's post revised)
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