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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  November 2009

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION November 2009

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Subject:

saints of the day 23. November

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 29 Nov 2009 17:53:44 -0600

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text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

23. November is also the feast day of:

1)  Felicity of Rome (?).  F. is a saint of the cemetery of Maximus on the Via Salaria nova, where she had a martyrial basilica erected by pope St. Boniface I (418-22).  Pope St. Gregory the Great delivered a sermon there on F.'s _dies natalis_, which latter is recorded in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology as 23. November.  Gregory's sermon (_Homiliae in Evangelia_, 4. 3) recounts matter from the legend of F.'s having been a wealthy widow with seven sons who were caught up with her in a persecution and were martyred before she was.

F.'s legend, which is at the core of her early Passio (BHL 2853), gives the sons names of seven saints entered in the _Depositio martyrum_ of the Chronographer of 354, without reference to F.,  under 10. July as martyrs of four different cemeteries.  Early pictorial representations of it are a fifth- or sixth-century altar niche painting of F. and her seven sons in a late antique oratory discovered in 1812 near the Baths of Trajan, where according to an inscription F. was venerated as patron of Roman women (_Felicitas cultrix Romanarum_), and a fragmentarily preserved, late seventh- or eighth-century catacomb painting in which the Redeemer gives a crown to F. and her sons (identified by name).  Herewith some later representations:

F.'s altar (said to be ninth-century, as is the ciborium in front of it) in Ravenna's Sant'Apollinare in Classe:
http://tinyurl.com/ykaaebq
http://tinyurl.com/yzcyzy9
The lower part of the altar contains a _fenestella_, implying that relics were once visible therein:
http://tinyurl.com/ygl7sxj

F. and her sons in an earlier fourteenth-century (1348) copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in the version of Jrean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 157v):
http://tinyurl.com/ybdavag

The martyrdom of F. and her sons as depicted in a later fifteenth-century (1463) copy of Vincent de Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in the version of Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 50, fol. 388v):
http://tinyurl.com/y9ntrq9

Neri di Bicci's altar painting of F. (1464; scenes from her Passio in the predella) in Florence's chiesa di Santa Felicita (now largely eighteenth-century but going back through a succession of churches dedicated to F. to at least the eleventh century):
http://tinyurl.com/y8twbud

F. and her seven sons as depicted in the Beloit College copy of Hartmann Schedel's _Nuremberg Chronicle_ (1493) at fol. CXIIIIr:
http://tinyurl.com/y8kenyp


Pope St. Leo III (795-816) translated remains believed to be F.'s to Rome's titular church of St. Susanna.  She is depicted at right in the early modern painting of Sts. Susanna, Gabinus, and F. above the altar containing the presumed relics of S. and G. in Santa Susanna's crypt :
http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelsax/147964549/sizes/o/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelsax/147964370/sizes/o/ 

Other remains believed to be those of F. and her sons have been in the Beneventan cultural area since at least the eleventh century, when a revised Passio of F. (BHL 2854-2855) was rounded off with an account of their having been translated in the tenth century from Rome to today's Alife (CE) in Campania, whence in turn they later went to Benevento.  Another Beneventan tradition has prince Sicard remove these relics by force from Alife in 839.  In 1943 workers removing rubble from Benevento's then very heavily bomb-damaged cathedral found what are believed to have been the very same relics; in 1988 these were placed in an ancient sarcophagus which latter was put on display in the cathedral's left aisle.  Elsewhere in the Beneventan area medieval dedications to F. are recorded from Montemarano (AV) and Montefalchione (AV), both in Campania.   


2)  Gregory of Agrigento (d. in or after 603?).  We know about an historical G., bishop of the Sicilian city of Agrigento, from half a dozen letters of pope St. Gregory the Great.  These tell us only that he had committed some offense for which he was tried in Rome.  G. is the subject of a highly legendary late eighth- or very early ninth-century Bios (BHG 707-707p) by the priest Leontius, "hegumen" (the title is probably an honorific) of the Greek monastery of St. Sabas on the Aventine at Rome; this dates him to the reign of Justinian II (685-695 and 705-711).  G. is also the subject of A) a kanon (a lengthy hymn form) by the ninth-century, Sicilian-born St. Joseph the Hymnographer that seems to rely on this Bios and B) a brief hymn by the eleventh-century Stephen of Grottaferrata.

Leontius' Bios has a metaphrastic paraphrase attested from the later tenth century but attributed with some probability to St. Nicetas the Paphlagonian (BHG 708), who prior to entering religion in 811 had been imperial governor of Sicily, and a drastic abbreviation by an unnamed author who wrote before the twelfth century (BHG 708f).  Recorded in Byzantine, Armenian, and Georgian synaxaries on 23. or 24. November, G. is said by Leontius to have written numerous works of popular exegesis.  A commentary on Ecclesiastes, first attested in a manuscript of the ninth century and said to be of Eastern origin, was ascribed to G. only from the fourteenth century onward and is very unlikely to be his.

One detail of Leontius' Bios that probably does represent local tradition is its report that G. restored a decayed pre-Christian temple at Agrigento and consecrated it as a Christian church.  Someone at Agrigento certainly did this, for one of that city's archaic Greek temples owes its considerable degree of preservation to the fact that it was so converted in late antiquity.  Last dedicated to Sts. Peter and
Paul, and popularly known (on the basis of a sixteenth-century conjecture of dubious merit) as the Temple of Concord, it was secularized in 1788 and restored to a semblance of what must have been its ancient appearance (minus the colored paint, roof, other woodwork, metal fittings, fictile revetments, furniture, cult statue, etc., etc.).
A nocturnal view:
http://www.arnoneeditore.com/images/ag_con.jpg
An English-language discussion with many views is here:
http://tinyurl.com/yfq7tew
And an Italian-language account of what had to be done to convert the building to Christian cult use (essentially the same steps as were taken with the cathedral of Syracuse) is here (scroll down to "Tempio della Concordia"):
http://www.aaa-agrigento.it/html/vallei.htm

G.'s damaged portrait in the earlier fourteenth-century (ca. 1312-1321) frescoes of the monastery church of the Theotokos at Graèanica in, depending on one's view of the matter, Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija or the Republic of Kosovo:
http://tinyurl.com/2aqjx2

Best,
John Dillon

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