medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (11. November) is the feast day of:
1) Menas of Egypt (d. c. 300). Despite his early veneration, nothing is known of the historical M. (also Mennas), a saint of Egypt. His Lives, which make him a soldier in the Roman army who was beheaded in the Great Persecution, are late and untrustworthy. From his association with camels in his iconography it has been inferred that he was a camel driver. M.'s shrine at his tomb at today's Mariut in lower Egypt was a major pilgrimage site in late antiquity and the nucleus of a city, Abu Mina, whose extensive remains were excavated in the last century.
An illustrated site on Abu Mina:
A sixth-century pyxis in the British Museum showing scenes of M.'s martyrdom:
A pilgrim flask that will have contained water from M.'s holy well at Abu Mina:
An illustrated piece from _Al-Ahram_ in 2002 on the history, archaeology, and imperiled present state of the complex at Abu Mina is here:
The site is also dealt with in Terry Wilfong's chapter, "Christian Monasticism and Pilgrimage in Northern Egypt," in Roger Bagnall and Dominic Rathbone, eds., _Egypt from Alexander to the Early Christians: An Archaeological and Historical Guide_ (Los Angeles/London: Getty Publications/British Museum Press, 2004).
Some hagiographic texts on M. are available in English translation here:
An illustrated touristic piece on M.'s church in Cairo:
M. (in the roundel at left) as depicted in the mid-fourteenth-century frescoes of the arch between the intermediate and the western bay in the church of the Holy Apostles in the Patriarchate of Peć at Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
M. in the fourteenth-century nave frescoes of the Visoki Decani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
M. in an early sixteenth-century fresco (1502) by Dionisy and sons in the Virgin Nativity cathedral of the St. Ferapont Belozero (Ferapontov Belozersky) Monastery at Ferapontovo in Russia's Vologda oblast:
2) Martin of Tours (d. ca. 397). According to his student and biographer Sulpicius Severus, M. was a Pannonian who entered the Roman army at the age of fifteen and who was discharged at the age of twenty, two years after his baptism. Still according to Sulpicius, whose Vita of M. (BHL 5610, 5610b) is greatly influenced by Athanasius' of St. Anthony, M. then visited Poitiers, whose St. Hilary ordained him exorcist and later founded a monastery headed by him. M. was elected bishop of Tours in 370/71. In that office he is said to have continued to practice an ascetic lifestyle, to have been a thaumaturge, and to have prescribed for his clergy a monastic education.
Early witnesses to M.'s cult include Sts. Paulinus of Nola, Gregory of Tours, and Venantius Fortunatus as well as the poet Paulinus of Petricordia, author of a metrical Vita of M. in six books (BHL 5617).
a) Various (Paradox Place):
b) Various (ms. illuminations in the BnF; click on the icons to see the images):
c) The cathedral of Mainz is dedicated to M. An illustrated, English-language account of the present structure, consecrated in 1036 (NB: can be slow to load):
An illustrated, German-language one:
The first of three illustrated, German-language pages on the the cathedral museum:
d) An illustrated, French-language page on the originally earlier eleventh-century église Saint-Martin at Chapaize (Saône-et-Loire) in Bourgogne:
e) Illustrated English-, French-, and Italian-language pages on, and other views of, the originally eleventh-/fourteenth-century cathedral of St Martin at Lucca:
Another view of M. on the facade (note the position of the sword relative to the pauper; for some reason this composition always reminds me of the dubbing scene in the move _The Wrong Box_):
f) An illustrated, English-language account of the territorial archabbey of St. Martin (Szent Márton) at today's Pannonhalma in Hungary, founded in 996 (prior to 1965 the town was called Győrszentmárton), whose basilica is originally of the thirteenth century but incorporates a substantial remnant of its twelfth-century predecessor:
g) Utrecht's thirteenth- to sixteenth-century cathedral is also dedicated to M. Herewith two illustrated, Dutch-language accounts:
and two illustrated, English-language ones:
Other views (incl. two of the cloister):
h) M. (at left) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (1335-1350) frescoes in the narthex of the church of the Holy Ascension at the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
i) An English-language account and some views of the restored remnant of the mostly fourteenth- and fifteenth-century church of St Martin le Grand in York (badly damaged in 1942 and partly restored in the 1960s), including views of its earlier fifteenth-century St Martin window (the last of these pages is courtesy of Gordon Plumb):
j) An illustrated, French-language account of the mostly fifteenth-century église Saint-Martin at Sillegny (Moselle) in Lorraine, noted for its early sixteenth-century mural paintings (watch out for line breaks in the URL):
k) Simon da Cusighe's late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century painting of M. in the cathedral dedicated to this saint at Belluno (BL) in the Veneto:
3) Mennas of Samnium (d. ca. 583). Our information about this less well known saint of the Regno comes entirely from the _Dialogues_ of St. Gregory the Great (3. 26).
According to Gregory, M. (also Menas) was a poor hermit in the province of Samnium (the mountainous area around Benevento) who raised bees for the sustenance their honey would provide. With but a slight wand, he was able to drive off bears who would come from a nearby wood to steal the honey. A Lombard of similarly larcenous intent was less fortunate: reprehended by M., he fell victim straight away to diabolic possession. The report of this incident caused others to supply M. with charitable gifts, for which M. repaid them with rebukes when they had been seriously sinful. One such sinner, who had carried off a nun and compelled her to marry him against her will, feared to visit M. in person. Instead, he sent a gift that was put before M. together with those from others.
M. rejected this one gift, rebuking the absent donor in a way that led others to believe that M. had perceived the donor's sin and thus to fear the power of this holy man. In a comment that follows, Gregory includes M. in a category of martyrs who though not having been killed for their faith nonetheless suffered secretly. That certification of M.'s sanctity, together with the cult that developed in the eleventh century, may be what underlies his designation as a saint in the latest version (2001) of the RM. Previously, the RM had called him Blessed, though at today's Caiazzo (CE) and Sant'Agata dei Goti (BN), both in Campania, M. has been a saint from the late eleventh century onward.
In the 1090s the count of Caiazzo (a town in the Beneventan area) wished to have the body of an important saint for a church he was erecting there. The abbot of Santa Sofia in Benevento and the abbot of the monastery at San Lupo, who were in town to negotiate the count's protection of their properties, were made aware of his need for such a relic. Lo and behold, a body said to be that of M. was discovered on Monte Taburno in a ruined chapel near today's Vitulano (BN) and in a series of translations was brought first to Caiazzo and then, some years later, to Sant'Agata dei Goti. Whereas M.'s presumed remains now repose in a chapel in the cathedral of Sant'Agata dei Goti, his chief monument is the little church dedicated to him in the same town.
This church, San Menna, began in the late eleventh century as a chapel serving the town's castle. It was consecrated by Paschal II in 1110. Badly damaged in the Conza earthquake of 1980, it was restored in stages, served for a while as an exhibition hall, and was returned to Christian worship two years ago. It boasts an impressive mosaic floor variously said to be of the late eleventh century or of the twelfth. A view of the upper part of its portal is here:
And various views of its interior are here (some from its recent period of secular use):
Leo Marsicanus' (Leo of Ostia's) Translations and Miracles of M. (BHL 5927, 5929) are edited by Hartmut Hoffmann, "Die _Translationes et Miracula s. Mennatis_ des Leo Marsicanus", _Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters_ 60 (2004), 441-81.
4) Theodore the Stoudite (d. 826). A nephew of St. Plato of Sakkoudion, T. entered religion along with his uncle and other members of his prominent and well-to-do family. In the closing years of the eighth century the empress Irene made him abbot of Constantinople's Stoudios monastery, which latter he then renewed and also made into the center of a network of monastic houses. A prolific and influential writer, he was exiled along with other members of his family under Nicephorus I. Recalled after the latter's death in 811, he led monastic resistance to the iconoclast policies of Leo V (813-21). For this he was flogged and sent into a second exile. After Leo's death T. accepted a compromise allowing veneration of icons outside of Constantinople and spent the brief remainder of his life as an itinerant leader of his party. Today is his _dies natalis_.
T. in an eleventh-century mosaic in Chios' Nea Moni:
T. (at right) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (1335-1350) frescoes in the narthex of the church of the Holy Ascension at the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
5) Bartholomew of Grottaferrata (d. 1055). This less well known saint of the Regno (also B. of Rossano; B. the Younger) was a member of St. Nilus of Rossano's community both at Sèrapo near Gaeta and at the new foundation near Rome that became the famous Greek abbey of Grottaferrata. He was the abbey's fourth abbot and the first of its series of important eleventh- and early twelfth-century hymnographers. He has also been credited -- not very convincingly -- with the Bios of Nilus of Rossano (BHG 1370), a truly great saint's life written in a period of major Lives. His own Bios is BHG 233. One of B.'s hymns is for the dedication in 1024 of the abbey church (which he had erected).
An Italian-language history of the abbey of Grottaferrata is here:
together with pages on the abbey's museum:
and on its architecture:
and on its decor:
The abbey's church has recently been restored on the outside to an approximation of its original appearance; so too its late twelfth-century belltower. A recent publication dealing with this work is Luigi Devoti, _L'Abbazia di Santa Maria di Grottaferrata nel millenario della fondazione_ (Frascati: Il Minotauro, 2004). Three exterior views of the church:
The wooden panels of this portal are said to be of the eleventh century:
Grottaferrata was built in and over what had originally been the cryptoporticus of a Roman villa. Two views showing this adaptation are here:
(last year's post lightly revised)
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