medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (5. April) is the feast day of:
1) Irene of Thessalonica (d. ca. 304). I. is one of three sisters from Thessalonica (now Thessaloniki) whose Greek Passio (BHG 34) is considered to contain a reworked transcript of a genuine judicial interrogatory. According to this account, I. and her sisters Agape and Chione abandoned their city, their family, and their possessions in order to live together eremitically on a mountain. Caught up in the Great Persecution, they were found, in violation of an imperial edict, to possess Christian books. When they were brought before a magistrate they denounced idolatry and refused to offer sacrifice.
Still according to this account, A. and C. were convicted on the spot and were executed by being burned alive. I., being still a minor, was given time to reconsider. A subsequent search of her belongings found her in possession of at least one other Christian writing. I. was re-arrested and was given a new hearing in which she again refused to abjure Christianity. She was sentenced to a brothel but when no man would touch her sexually she too was burned alive (in a later account, shot with arrows).
These sisters also have a Latin Passio (BHL 118) existing as an element in the greatly synthetic Passio of Anastasia of Sirmium/Rome. The latter brings together in a single fiction a number of cults from the upper Adriatic and, in the case of these sisters, excites suspicion both by making them residents of Aquileia sent by Diocletian himself all the way to Thessaloniki for trial and by having it be Anastasia who is responsible for their sepulture.
Aldhelm's recounting of these martyrs' Passio in his verse _De virginitate_ is BHL 119. The parallel account in Aldhelm's earlier prose _De virginitate_ doesn't seem to have a BHL number. BHL 120 is Hrotsvit of Gandersheim's play _Dulcitius_, whose formal title is _Passio sanctarum virginum Agapes Chioniae et Hirenae_ ("The Martyrdom of the Holy Virgins Agape, Chionia, and Irene").
Until the latest revision of the RM (2001), in the Latin Rite I. was celebrated with her sisters on 1. April; the latter is still the RM's day of commemoration for A. and C. Orthodox churches commemorate all three on 16. April.
2) Gerard of Sauve-Majeure (d. 1095). G. (also Gerald, etc.; also G. of Corbie) was a monk of Corbie who in time became his abbey's cellerarius. Despite being afflicted with chronic and severe head pains, which the medical art had been unable to cure, he joined his abbot on a trip to Rome in 1050 to defend at the papal court his abbey's interests. When they got to Rome they visited the tombs of the Apostles, where G. prayed in vain for healing. But the pope, St. Leo IX, was then in southern Italy for the first of what would become a series of disappointing ventures in that region.
G. and his abbot also went south, where they were robbed of all the money G. was carrying for the abbey. They made their way with difficulty to Montecassino, where G.'s prayers to St. Benedict had no noticeable effect upon his medical condition, and then proceeded to the sanctuary of St. Michael on the Gargano Peninsula. There they met up with Leo and conducted their business. The Archangel, alas, was ineffective at obtaining a cure for G. On their return to Corbie in 1051 they found that the abbey church had been damaged by a fire. Put in charge of its rebuilding, G. erected an altar to the abbey's own St. Adelard (canonized in 1024), asking for the relief he had elsewhere sought in vain. This time his wish was granted.
In 1073 G. undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He had not been back very long when he was elected abbot of Saint-Vincent at Laon in place of his recently deceased brother. After a few years, when his attempts at reforming that house had not been successful, he resigned and became a hermit. He attracted followers and in 1079, with noble assistance, they founded in Aquitaine the great Benedictine abbey of Sauve-Majeure between the Gironde and the Dordogne. In 1081 they were able to begin construction on the abbey church. As abbot, G. developed a very saintly reputation; a cult followed shortly after his death. He was canonized in 1197.
G.'s relics are at the parish church of Saint-Pierre at La Sauve (Gironde). Three thumbnail views of this church, said to have been begun by G. in 1083, are here:
The abbey G. founded is now a ruin. Five pages of views of the remains of its "romanesque" church are here:
A brief, illustrated, French-language account of the site:
The remains of the abbey and the church of St-Pierre are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3) Albert of Montecorvino (d. 1127). Today's less well known saint of the Regno was bishop of the now vanished castle town of Montecorvino in northern Apulia. His extremely ascetic lifestyle led to physical blindness. A. received visions and also performed miracles. He has a very brief Vita (BHL 231) by the humanist Alessandro Geraldini (d. 1524), who in 1496 became bishop of Montecorvino and Vulturara. Part of G.'s Office for A., it proclaims itself a rewriting of a twelfth-century Life and Miracles by A.'s immediate successor, Richard, bp. of Montecorvino. Here's a brief, English-language account of Geraldini:
Montecorvino was a strong point frequently battled over in the central Middle Ages. Severely damaged in 1137, it was not finally abandoned until 1456. A tiny remnant of it may be seen here:
Other views, and some sculptural remnants, are here:
An illustrated, Italian-language page on archeological work at the site is here:
Well before 1456 Montecorvino's bishops, when they were were in residence, had lived in another episcopal town, nearby Volturara (Vulturaria). The latter see absorbed that of Montecorvino in 1433. Volturara in turn was merged into the diocese of Lucera early in the nineteenth century; though there are bishops of Montecorvino and of Volturara today, in both cases these are titular. Montecorvino's modern successor is Pietramontecorvino (FG), whose partly restored medieval castle is the subject of this webpage:
An account of the town in Italian and then in English is here:
A. is Pietramontecorvino's patron saint and is celebrated there both liturgically and civically. Here's a view of his cult statue being carried in procession from the church of Santa Maria Assunta in the town's medieval quarter ("Terra Vecchia"):
A brief, English-language account of that church (first recorded from 1328):
A page of expandable views of the church is accessible from here (click on 'Chiesa Madre' at left):
Pietramontecorvino is also spelled as two words: Pietra Montecorvino. As far as I know, the singer Pietra Montecorvino does not use the one-word spelling to express her name.
4) Vincent Ferrer (d. 1419). This famous Dominican studied and taught at various places in the Crown of Aragon before being ordained at Barcelona in 1379 by the cardinal who would become the Avignonese antipope Benedict XIII. He then became prior of his order's convent in his native Valencia but resigned in order to teach theology at the local cathedral school, a position that allowed him to preach, to administer the sacraments, and to employ his pen on behalf of Clement VII, whose claim to the papacy V. supported over that of Urban VI. In 1394 he was called to Avignon by Benedict XIII, whom he served as apostolic penitentiary and as Master of the Sacred Palace.
In 1399, when it was clear to most that Benedict's cause was hopeless, V. was struck by a serious illness during which he experienced a vision bidding him to preach Christ to the world. In 1399 he left Avignon and spent the remainder of his life as a highly sought itinerant preacher urging repentance and atonement before the day of Judgment. Miracles are said to have accompanied his apostolate. He died at Vannes (Morbihan) in Brittany. Expandable views of the house in Vannes where V. died and of his reliquary bust in the cathedral are here:
Some illustrated pages on the cathedral of Vannes:
V. was canonized in 1455 by his countryman Calixtus III. The bull of canonization followed in 1458, in the pontificate of Pius II. V.'s canonization Vita (BHL 8658) is by the Dominican humanist Pietro Ranzano of Palermo, inquisitor general for insular Sicily (then a dominion of the Crown of Aragon) and afterward bishop of Lucera (in autonomous but strongly Aragonese-influenced mostly mainland Sicily, _vulgo_ Kingdom of Naples). Here's an expandable view of the later fifteenth-century Polyptych of Saint Vincent Ferrer in Venice's chiesa di Santi Giovanni e Paolo (San Zanipolo):
And here, from The National Gallery in London, is an expandable view of an also later fifteenth-century panel painting of V. from a now dismembered altarpiece formerly in Bologna's basilica di San Petronio:
(last year's post lightly revised)
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