medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (27. April) is the feast day of:
1) Simeon of Jerusalem (d. ca. 107, reportedly). According to Hegesippus as quoted by Eusebius, S. was a son of Clopas (Cleophas) and a cousin of Jesus. In 62/63 he followed James "brother of the Lord" as the second head of the church in Jerusalem. Eusebius adds that S. was crucified under Trajan at the age of one hundred and twenty.
2) Theodore of Tabennisi (d. 368). A Copt from Upper Egypt, T. (also Theodore the Sanctified) was born into a Christian family. When he was in his teens he learned about St. Pachomius' cenobitic community at Tabennisi in the Egyptian Thebaid. A few years later he became one of Pachomius' followers there and soon, thanks to his exceptional virtue, was also P.'s favorite disciple. When P., who had gathered to himself a family of monasteries, went to reside at another one of these he chose to T. to succeed him at Tabennisi and later, when he was dying, selected T. to bury him secretly in the desert, T. was twice sent on missions to Alexandria, where he developed a friendship with St. Athanasius the Great. In 350 he succeeded in effect, though not in name, to the general leadership of the Pachomian houses, which latter he directed until his death. Today is his _dies natalis_. Two of his letters survive as well as fragments of other writings.
3) Liberal of Altino (d. ca. 400, supposedly). A saint both of Venice and of the adjacent _terraferma_, L. has some not awfully believable Acta (e.g., BHL 4905) that make him a disciple of Altino's late fourth- / early fifth-century bishop St. Heliodorus who when the latter retired to an island in the lagoon stayed behind to bring Christianity to pagans and Catholicism to Arians. In time L. too retired to an island in the lagoon, where he lived briefly as a hermit before dying on 27. April of an unrecorded year.
Although in the fourteenth century it was claimed that L.'s remains had been brought to Torcello, where he has an altar in the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, all in Treviso know that the remains of their patron San Liberale were brought to them along with those of other early saints by refugees from Altino fleeing either the Huns in 452 or Lombards in the later sixth or early seventh century. Treviso's cathedral of St. Peter (or of Sts. Peter and Paul) is mostly early modern. But it is built over an eleventh-century crypt, expandable views of which are provided on this page:
None of the frescoing here is earlier than the thirteenth century. L.'s remains are said to reside in a fifteenth-century tomb in the apse. Presumably, it's somewhere in this view, behind the later gaudiness:
L. is also the patron saint of Castelfranco Veneto (VE) in the Veneto, a Trevisan foundation. Its principal church, dedicated to L., houses an altarpiece by Giorgione from 1505 (ca.) depictng the BVM between L. and Francis of Assisi. The image shown here is expandable:
The depiction of L. as a young knight is traditional in Trevisan representations of him as patron of the commune.
4) John of Kathara (d. ca. 835). We know about J. chiefly from his brief notice (BHG 2184n) in the Synaxary of Constantinople. A native of Irenopolis in the Isaurian Decapolis, he was moved by divine zeal to enter a monastery at the age of nine. His hegumen thought so well of him that when J., who displayed all the monastic virtues, was still a youth he brought him with him to the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. J. was ordained priest at the Dalmatus monastery in Constantinople. In 805 the emperor Nicephorus I made him hegumen of the Kathara monastery in Bithynia. In 815 he was removed from that position during the iconoclast persecution of Leo V, was beaten, and was sent into exile, where he co-operated with the iconophile resistance led by St. Theodore the Studite.
In 817 the emperor and his patriarch brought J. to Constantinople and attempted to persuade him to drop his opposition to them. When he refused he was again sent into to exile, where he remained until he was set free after the accession of Michael II on Christmas Day of 820. When in 832 Michael's successor Theophilus instigated a new persecution of iconophiles J. was again exiled, this time to the prison island of Aphousia in the Sea of Marmara, where after three years he died.
Aphousia, now a popular holiday destination, is today's Avşa in Turkey's Balıkesir province. Its location is marked in red on this map:
And here's an aerial view:
Here's an edited text of J.'s notice in the Synaxary of Constantinople:
5) Zita (d. 1278). According to her contemporary Vita (BHL 9019), Z. (also Cita, Citha, Sita, Sitha) was born at today's Monsagrati (LU) in Tuscany. At the age of twelve she moved to Lucca, where she became a household servant to a noble family who treated her very harshly. Enduring a condition of economic servitude as well as the contempt and verbal abuse of her employers, Z. nonetheless regularly gave alms to the poor. She also managed to make one pilgrimage to Pisa and frequent brief trips to a monastery outside of town.
Z., who is credited with miracles in her lifetime as well as afterwards, quickly became the focus of a popular cult. In Dante's _Divina Commedia_ she's already santa Zita. She was buried in Lucca's church of San Frediano, now familiar from the thirteenth-century mosaic on its facade:
After a recognition in 1652 Z.'s remains were said to be incorrupt. They're now on display in San Frediano:
Here's a page with reproductions of two thirteenth-century and one fourteenth-century depictions of Z. from cities in Tuscany (Florence and Lucca):
In the early years of the fourteenth century a merchant of Lucchese origin established the first predecessor of today's artistically noteworthy chiesa di Santa Cita in Palermo and initiated her formal veneration there.
Z.'s cult is attested from London in the mid-fourteenth century. In the following century it was widely popular in England. Herewith a view of her fifteenth-century chancel window in St Peter's Church, Mapledurham, Oxfordshire:
Z.'s fifteenth-century window in the north aisle of the Church of St Edmund, Emneth, Norfolk (the rosary is one of Z.'s recurring attributes in these late medieval depictions):
Z.'s panel in the fifteenth-century rood screen of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Barton Turf, Norfolk:
A little context:
Z.'s panel in the early sixteenth-century rood screen from the Church of St James the Less in Norwich, since 1946 in that city's Church of St Mary Magdalen:
Views of the two known mural paintings of Z. in English churches (both churches in Oxfordshire, both paintings later fifteenth-century):
Z.'s cult was approved papally in 1696. Pius XII proclaimed her the patron saint of domestics.
6) James of Bitetto (Bl.; d. 1485 or 1490). Today's less well known holy person of the Regno became a Franciscan lay brother at his native Zadar in today's Croatia. At about the age of nineteen he moved on to Apulia's Terra di Bari, where he served as a cook, a gardener, and an alms-gatherer at Franciscan houses at Bari, at Bitetto, at Conversano, at Cassano delle Murge, and again at Bitetto. A humble contemplative, J. (also Giacomo Varingez, Veringuez, etc.) became famous for his works of charity, especially during the pestilence of 1483. About twenty years after his death his body was found to be incorrupt. Various miracles have been reported. J. was beatified in 1700.
J. has an active cult and a canonization campaign is ongoing. His body is preserved at his sanctuary in the Franciscan convent at Bitetto, founded in 1433. Though his torso is said to be still incorrupt, other parts have decayed. Here are some views:
While we're here, some views of Bitetto's originally late eleventh- / early twelfth-century ex-cathedral of San Michele Arcangelo, shown after a recent cleaning of exterior surfaces and restoration of the roof:
(last year's post lightly revised)
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