medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (9. November) is the feast day of:
1) Ursinus of Bourges (?). U. (in French, Ursin) is the legendary protobishop of Bourges. We first hear of him in the sixth century from St. Gregory of Tours, who in the _Historia Francorum_ includes U. among the seven early bishops sent from Rome in the middle of the third century to organize the Gallic church and who in the _In gloria confessorum_ (cap. 79) has him made bishop by disciples of the apostles. Still according to Gregory, U.'s sarcophagus was through divine revelation discovered at some point during the years 558-573 (this according to the dates of several worthies said to have been present, including St. Germanus of Paris); his incorrupt body was then buried next to the altar of a monastic basilica of St. Symphorian, where his cult was inaugurated and where thereafter many miracles occurred. Thus far Gregory of Tours.
U. has two legendary Vitae (BHL 8412 and 8413), of which the earlier is thought to have been written in the late tenth or early eleventh century. Here U. is said to have been one of the Seventy-Two Disciples, to have been present as lector at the Last Supper, to have been at the Passion and later with the apostles at Pentecost (when he too received the Holy Spirit), to have journeyed with St. Peter to Rome and to have been present at his crucifixion, to have been sent by pope St. Clement to Gaul along with a companion, St. Justus, who predeceased him, to have evangelized in Berry, to have built the first church at Bourges, to have consecrated it with a blood relic of St. Stephen, to have ruled his flock for twenty-seven years, and to have died on a twenty-ninth of December.
In 1055 some of U.'s putative relics were translated to Lisieux, where they underwent several recognitions from 1399 onward. In the Middle Ages U. was celebrated at Bourges and in other dioceses both on this day (originally a translation feast?) and on 29. December.
In time the monastery at Bourges that possessed remains believed to be those of U. came to be (or was replaced by) a canonry named for him. When its collégiale Saint-Ursin was demolished in the eighteenth century an eleventh- or twelfth-century portal from it was mounted in the wall of a convent. Herewith a couple of illustrated, French-language pages on the portal and its carvings:
One of the later thirteenth-century portals of the badly damaged and since restored west front of Bourges' cathédrale Saint-Étienne is named for U. and presents on its tympanum scenes from his life (how much of this is restoration work?):
The iconography explained (en français):
2) Agrippinus of Naples (d. later 3d cent.?). According to the late eighth- or early ninth-century first part of the _Chronicon episcoporum sanctae Neapolitanae ecclesiae_, this less well known saint of the Regno was the sixth bishop of Naples. His elogium in that source highlights his already traditional status as one of the city's major patrons. His feast is entered for today in the early ninth-century Marble Calendar of Naples. Only slightly later, bishop St. Athanasius I (849-72) established in the vicinity of Naples' Catacombe di San Gennaro a monastery dedicated to Sts. Januarius and Agrippinus. In the late ninth-century portion of the aforementioned episcopal chronicle, we learn that A. was buried next to St. Januarius in today's catacombs, that bishop St. John IV (842-49) translated him to the then cathedral of Naples, the "Stephania," and that he was famous for his miracles.
A collection of the latter, the _Miracula sancti Agrippini_, survives and was edited by Hippolyte Delehaye in the _Acta Sanctorum_, Novembris tomus IV (1925), pp. 118-28 (text on pp. 122-28). Written in the form of a sermon and clearly intended for reading on A.'s feast day, this has been analyzed as the work of three succeeding authors over the course of the ninth and tenth centuries. The third and longest part (sections 10-12; BHL 176, 175, 177) is a prosimetrum (i.e. a mixture of prose and verse) attributed to the talented Neapolitan hagiographer, Peter the Subdeacon (ca. 919-ca. 970); recounting three miracles, two personal and one civic, it repays reading.
Despite A.'s frequent pairing with Januarius in their patronal role, medieval visuals of him are hard to come by on the Web. His chief monuments today are the part of the lower portion of the Catacombe di San Gennaro where he was laid to rest and the originally thirteenth-century church of Sant'Agrippino a Forcella, whose early modern rebuilding has left visible medieval remains in its nave and especially in its polygonal apse as well as a later fifteenth-century portal attribited to a student of Donatello. Herewith some views:
3) The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (after 28. October 312). This Roman feast, absent from the early medieval sacramentaries, is first recorded in the second version (1153 or 1154) of the twelfth-century _Descriptio ecclesiae Lateranensis_. It entered the RM under Cardinal Baronio, who called the feast that of the _dedicatio basilicae Salavatoris_. The earliest references to the church in question use the name of its donor (_basilica Constantiniana_), a recognition to which the RM reverted in 2001 when it began to call this feast that of Lateran Basilica constructed by Constantine in honor of Christ Savior. The addition of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist as formal titulars is said to be first attested from the the twelfth century.
When Constantine handed the original basilica over to the church is unknown. The absence from the list of its endowments of any properties outside of Italy suggests a date prior to Constantine's capture of Licinius late in 324, his endowments after that year typically having included "eastern" properties. Since 9. November 312 comes too quickly after 28. October 312 (the date of the battle of the Milvian Bridge) for both the razing of pre-existing structures on the site (the headquarters building and barracks ranges in the camp of Maxentius' horse guards) _and_ significant construction work on the new church, a date in the years 313 to 324 seems likely. Various considerations argue for an early date within that time span.
The basilica has of course been much rebuilt. But its cosmatesque floor, other cosmatesque work, and the late fourteenth-century ciborium by Giovanni di Stefano are certainly medieval.
Some views of the cloister:
4) Vitonus (d. ca. 530, supposedly). V. (in French, Vanne and Vaune) is traditionally the eighth bishop of Verdun. We really know nothing about him. The early tenth-century _Gesta episcoporum Virdunensium_ makes him a popularly chosen bishop accepted by king Clovis in the aftermath of an unsuccessful revolt by Verdun. An abbey at Verdun claimed to have his body and there in 1004 its abbot, Richard of Saint-Vanne, expanded upon that account to produce V.'s Vita (BHL 8708, 8709). The latter gives today as V.'s _dies natalis_.
The abbey was was secularized during the French revolution; most of its buildings were dismantled in the nineteenth century. Here's a view of what's left of its originally twelfth-century church:
5) Giovanna of Signa (Bl.; d. early 14th cent.). We know about the hermit and thaumaturge G. from her late fourteenth-century Vita et Miracula (BHL 4288r). According to this account, she came from a family of Tuscan shepherds and already as a child she was known for her miraculous ability to protect livestock from hailstorms. When she reached adolescence G. settled down as a recluse at a location south of today's Signa (FI) near to where the road to Pistoia crosses the Arno. There G. lived quietly, operated miracles, and attracted a small community of followers. She was buried near a local church dedicated to St. John the Baptist; in 1348, following her postmortem cure of a Black Death victim named Nuta of Signa, a chapel was erected at her grave. The chapel was later incorporated in the church, which latter keeps her remains.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries G.'s veneration spread more widely in the general vicinity of Florence. Her cult was confirmed in 1798 at the level of _beata_.
Here's an illustrated, Italian-language page on the chiesa di San Giovanni Battista at Signa:
Another view, showing participants in the _corteo storico_ held annually on G.'s feast day:
A poorly illustrated, Italian-language account of the chapel's frescoes by Bicci di Lorenzo (finished, 1441) and his son Neri di Bicci (finished, 1462) illustrating J.'s life and miracles.
(Agrippinus of Naples and the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica lightly revised from last year's post)
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