medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (31. August) is the feast day of:
1) Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (d. 1st cent.). These two Gospel figures were remembered in medieval Christianity primarily for their roles in the recovery of Jesus' body after the Crucifixion and its subsequent entombment. Starting at least with the Gospel of Nicodemus their acta were enlarged and embroidered upon. By the tenth century there was an Eastern tradition, preserved in a text in Georgian said to have been translated from Syriac, that J. was the founder of the church of Lydda. In the later Middle Ages he was reputed to have arrived in Provence with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary and to have gone on to evangelize in, depending on what text one is reading, parts of today's France, Spain, Portugal, and England. N., who was said to to have removed the crucifixion nails from Jesus' body, was credited legendarily with the creation of that famous crucifix, the Volto Santo of Lucca.
In the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Stone of Anointing on which J. is said to have prepared Jesus' body for burial:
So-called Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (rock-cut grave shafts) in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem:
The Volto Santo of Lucca (late eleventh-century, with subsequent adornments):
J. (holding Christ) and N. (at lower right) in the fresco of the Entombment (twelfth-century), refectory of the former abbey of San Silvestro at Nonantola (MO) in Emilia:
J. (holding Christ) and N. (on ladder) in Benedetto Antelami's Deposition from the Cross (ca. 1178) in the cathedral of Parma:
Four wooden Depositions (thirteenth-century), with J. at center left or center under the Cross and N. at center right:
a) Deposizione lignea di Bulzi (N. missing), now in the church of San Sebastiano at Bulzi (SS), Sardinia (formerly in that town's church of San Pietro in Simbranos or San Pietro delle Immagini):
Two expandable views of the ensemble in its entirety are on this page (set your browser to find, or scroll down to, BULZI):
b) Deposizione lignea di Tivoli (ca. 1220-1330), cathedral of Tivoli (RM) in Lazio:
c) Deposizione lignea di Volterra (1228), cathedral of Volterra (PI) in Tuscany:
d) Deposition scene (ca. 1265) above a retable in the nave of the church of the monastery of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, Burgos:
J. (center left) and N. (right, with forceps) in Pietro Lorenzetti's Deposition (ca. 1320) in the lower church of the basilica di San Francesco, Assisi:
J. (at left) and N. (center right) in Pietro Lorenzetti's Entombment (ca. 1320) in the lower church of the basilica di San Francesco, Assisi:
J. (at left) and N. hold Jesus' body in Rogier van der Weyden's Deposition Altar (ca. 1435) in the Museo del Prado, Madrid:
J. and N. (N. at Jesus' left) in a panel painting (ca. 1470) by Hugo van der Goes in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna:
J. and N. in a panel painting (early 1470s) by Simon Marmion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:
J. (top center) and N. (center right) in a late fifteenth-century icon now in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow:
2) Aristides of Athens (d. earlier 2d cent.). We know about the philosopher A. from brief mentions and notices in Eusebius and in Jerome, as well as from his Christian _Apology_ dedicated to the emperor Hadrian and preserved in different forms in Syriac, Greek, and Armenian. The fame of the work (not known to have been available in the medieval Latin West) was enough for Usuard to enter A. into his martyrology under today.
3) Caesidius (d. later 3d cent., supposedly). Today's less well known saint of the Regno, C. (in Italian, Cesidio) is the chief saint of today's Trasacco (AQ) in Abruzzo. He has a Vita that has been published only in separate pieces (BHL 7360, BHL 7363); this makes him the son of a Rufinus bishop of the Marsi and locates him in a place called Messinum, where he has a tiny abode next to an oratory. Rufinus, on the other hand, lives in the _civitas Marsorum_ (ancient Marruvium; today's San Benedetto dei Marsi), the medieval seat of what until 1986 was the diocese of the Marsi and is now the diocese of Avezzano. Caught up in a persecution under Maximinus, they arrive separately at Rome, are reunited there, and so impress the emperor with the strength of their faith that he orders all Christian prisoners to be released. R. and C. return to their homes and live out full lives resplendent in the glory of their merits. R. dies on 11. February, C. on 8. April.
This Vita, which survives in an eleventh-century passionary at Pistoia, is thought to be our earliest account of C. Probably dating from the tenth century, it provides an aitiology for the Marsican cults of C. (whose church at Trasacco is first documented in a comital donation of 1096) and of R. (otherwise attested in the greater area from at least the twelfth century onward). C.'s name is local and anciently attested, but who he really was remains a mystery.
C. and R., still son and father, are also the protagonists of an episodic Passio that exists in two forms, one for the church at Assisi and elsewhere in Umbria (BHL 7364 and BHL 7362) and the other for the church at Trasacco (BHL 7361). This makes R. a bishop and C. a priest and gives them an early career in a place called Amasea that has usually been thought to be the city of this name in Pontus (today's Amasya in Turkey) but that I suspect is really meant to be Amasenus, i.e. today's Amaseno (FR) in Lazio (in Latin, 'Amasenus' is also the standard adjectival form for Amasea). C. and R. flee from persecution here and settle at Trasacco. R. later goes on to Assisi and is martyred there (11. August is the usual date), whereas C. stays at Trasacco and together with numerous companions is martyred while saying mass in its church. He is secretly buried in the church on 31. August.
Although the Trasacco version in its present form is relatively late, the Passio itself is documented from the end of the eleventh century onward. For a much fuller discussion of all these matters, see Francesco Scorza Barcellona, "Rufino e Cesidio, santi della Marsica," in Gennaro Luongo, ed., _La Terra dei Marsi: cristianesimo, cultura, istituzioni. Atti del Convegno di Avezzano 24-26 settembre 1998_ (Roma: Viella, 2002), pp. 265-85.
C.'s cult is centered at Trasacco's Basilica di Santi Cesidio e Rufino (twelfth- to early thirteenth-century; later additions). The building is notable for its sculptural elements. Some Italian-language accounts of it:
Main (Men's) portal (fifteenth-century ?):
Ambo (late twelfth-century), sculptural details:
Baptismal font (w/"Corinthian" capital):
Statue of the BVM:
The Italia nell'Arte Medievale page on this church (but the site has been offline recently):
Five pages with many views of sculptural details begin here (left-click only):
C. was entered, under today's date, in the RM until its revision of 2001. Today remains his feast day at Trascacco. In the eighteenth century burials were discovered under the nave of the church. Some of the bones have been declared to be C.'s relics. These presumably came from the tenth- or early eleventh-century sarcophagus that at this time was incorporated into the church's rebuilt altar. Today's festivities at Trasacco include the display at Mass of a reliquary containing a bone said to be from one of C.'s arms, shown at center here:
4) Paulinus of Trier (d. 358). A disciple of St. Maximinus of Trier and bishop of that city, P. was an opponent of Arianism when the Empire was attempting to impose the latter as its preferred form of Christianity. After the Synod of Arles in 353 he was banished to Phrygia, where he died. His relics were returned to Trier in 396, where they remain today (P.'s fourth-century wooden coffin and some of his cloth wrappings survive). Manuscript witnesses of his not very informative Vita (BHL 6562-6564) begin in the early eleventh century.
Here's a view of P.'s present resting place in the crypt of the Paulinuskirche in Trier:
5) Aidan (d. 651). What little we know about the Irishman A. comes from Bede's _Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum_. He was a missionary bishop sent from Iona in response to a request from king St. Oswald. His seat was at Lindisfarne and he was buried there after his death of an illness at nearby Bamburgh. Some of his relics were translated to Iona in 664.
6) Raymond Nonnatus (d. 1240). The Catalan R. (in Catalan, Ramon Nonat; in Spanish, Ramón Nonato), called _non natus_ or _nonnatus_ because he had been delivered by Caesarian section, entered the recently founded Mercedarian order and worked in Muslim Spain and in North Africa to redeem enslaved prisoners. He gained a reputation both as a thaumaturge and as someone who in the course of his missions had endured exceptionally painful torture. Pope Gregory IX named R. to the cardinalate in 1239. Summoned to Rome, R. got no further than the vicinity of Barcelona, where he died of a fever at Cardona. His cult was immediate and was confirmed by numerous miracles. R. was canonized in 1657.
(last year's post lightly revised)
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