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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  November 2009

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION November 2009

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Subject:

saints of the day 25. November

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 25 Nov 2009 22:15:41 -0600

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text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today (25. November) is also the feast day of:

1)  Mercurius of Caesarea in Cappadocia (d. 250, supposedly).  M. (also Mercury) had a major late antique cult at the Caesarea that is today's Kayseri in Turkey.  His legendary Greek Passio (BHG 1274) makes him a general in the Roman army martyred under Decius.  By the early sixth century he was also believed to have been sent from Heaven to slay Julian the Apostate.  In this legend, St. Basil the Great (not coincidentally, a bishop of Caesarea) is said to have seen in a vision both M.'s being charged with this mission and his return to announce its successful completion.  The Vatopaidi monastery on Mt. Athos has what is believed to be M.'s skull:
http://tinyurl.com/6hdn4s

One of the great military saints of Eastern Christianity, M. became a saint of the Regno in the ninth century when in the principality of Benevento his cult superseded that of another Mercurius entered in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology under 26. August as having suffered at Aeclanum (in southern Campania).  The founder of the principality, duke (as he then was) Arichis was said to have translated from the ruins of Aeclanum in 768 the relics of the Eastern martyr (supposedly deposited there by Constans II in the seventh century) and to have interred them in his newly built church of Santa Sofia at Benevento.  In the principality M. was celebrated on 26. August, reinterpreted as the date of his translation by Arichis.

M. was a major star in the Beneventan sanctoral firmament.  The extent of his literary monuments can be guessed at by looking at nos. 5933-39 in BHL Suppl.; especially noteworthy is M.'s _Passio aucta_ in verse by the early twelfth-century archbishop of Benevento, Landulf II (BHL 5935; a modern edition is badly needed).  An only slightly later visual counterpart is the also twelfth-century representation of M. in military garb in the lunette above the main portal of Santa Sofia:
http://tinyurl.com/5zaocm
The kneeling figure next to M. is thought to be abbot John IV of Santa Sofia, to whose restoration of the church we owe this relief.  Within the Beneventan cultural area, M. is the patron saint of Toro (CB) in Molise and of Serracapriola (FG) in northern Apulia.  In both towns his cult appears to be medieval in origin.  Another visible token of M.'s cult in this part of the world is this fragmentarily preserved, later fourteenth-century fresco in the cattedrale di San Pardo in Larino (CB) in Molise that depicts M. seemingly having just slain Julian:
http://tinyurl.com/ybu54kl

In 1098 M. appeared along with Sts. George and Demetrius to lift the spirits of the Crusaders issuing from Antioch to destroy a Muslim army that had been besieging them.  For a recent discussion of M. in the East, see Christopher Walter, _The Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art and Tradition_ (Ashgate, 2003), pp. 101-08.

Herewith some medieval representations of M. in art works of Eastern origin:
a)  The bottom register in this full-page illumination in a later ninth-century manuscript of the _Orations_ of St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Paris, BnF, ms. Grec 510, fol. 409v) depicts M.'s slaying of Julian:
http://tinyurl.com/ykfbhn5  
b)  Upper left in the Harbaville Triptych (mid tenth-century):
http://tinyurl.com/ych3lz
c)  Fresco in the Protaton on Mt. Athos (ca. 1300, attributed to Manuel Panselinos; M. at left):
http://tinyurl.com/688tbt
Detail (M.):
http://www.eikastikon.gr/xristianika/panselinos/51.jpg
d)  Fresco in the katholikon of the Chelandari monastery, Mt. Athos (ca. 1319, atelier of Michael Astrapas and Eutychios):
http://www.sv-luka.org/Chilandar/images/StMercurius.jpg
e)  Fresco in the church of the Theotokos, GraŤanica monastery, GraŤanica, located, depending on one's view of recent events, either in Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija or in the Republic of Kosovo (ca. 1320):
http://tinyurl.com/ygpyhww
f)  Armenian miniature (fourteenth-/fifteenth-century):
http://www.armsite.com/miniatures/mnshow.phtml?slide=51

M. is co-patron of Seminara (RC) in southern Calabria, part of the Greek-speaking West in the Middle Ages and the home of the fourteenth-cenury theologian Barlaam of Calabria.  A fifteenth-century relief (with an identifying inscription in Latin) showing M. mounted and spearing Julian the Apostate in the neck has been preserved at the municipio of Seminara.  A thumbnail view of that is here:
http://www.seminaraonline.it/images/Bd.036-Bassorilievo%20Comune.jpg
A much better image in black and white:
http://tinyurl.com/ybu54kl

For more on M., including an English-language translation of BHG 1274, see:
http://www.ucc.ie/milmart/Mercurius.html


2)  Maurinus of Agen (d. 5th cent., supposedly).  The martyr M. is the local saint of today's Saint-Maurin (Lot-et-Garonne) in Aquitaine and was the saint of its once regionally important abbey named for him.  According to his very legendary Vita (BHL 5734; preserved in a single ms. of the eleventh century), he was born at Agen but was educated in Italy at Capua, whither his father, the count of Agen, had sent him to be schooled and where he stayed for seven years and was ordained deacon.  His master was that holy friend of St. Benedict, St. Germanus of Capua.

Returning to his native town, M. evangelized in the Agenais.  But the pagan governor of Lectoure (from at least the eleventh century an important comital seat), who had forbidden Christian preaching in the region, had M.'s father decapitated and M. arrested.  M. converted the soldiers who were guarding him and fled with them to a nearby village, where they were captured by other soldiers sent by the governor.  M. and his companions were executed on the spot by decapitation.  In keeping with a frequent motif in the Vitae of evangelists in France, M. picked up his head and walked to a fountain, next to which, once he had healed a woman of leprosy, the local Christians buried him.  Further miracles were reported at his grave, which latter began to draw crowds.  A church dedicated to St. Peter was erected over his tomb.  Thus far M.'s Vita.

The abbey for which this Vita was surely written is first documented from early in the eleventh century.  A local lord restored it in about 1040 and in 1082 a son of that lord gave it to the abbey of Moissac.  The abbey church (now a ruin) was dedicated in 1097 to the Holy Cross, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to St. M., and to all the saints.  A distance view is here (the church is to the left of center):
http://pagesperso-orange.fr/fouyssac/photos/IMG_0344.jpg
A page of views of the former abbey church of Notre-Dame de Saint-Maurin, many showing some of the church's exterior (into which a modern dwelling has been built):
http://www.romanes.com/Saint-Maurin/
Other views of the tower of that church:
http://www.ffct.org/bcn-bpf/departements/47/st-maurin06.jpg
http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/10478200.jpg

After the Albigensian Crusade the abbot of Saint-Maurin became the local lord and the monastery was fortified.  Some views of what's left of the keep of this _ch‚teau abbatiale_:
http://www.ffct.org/bcn-bpf/departements/47/st-maurin01.jpg
http://www.ffct.org/bcn-bpf/departements/47/st-maurin07.jpg

Best,
John Dillon
(last year's post revised)

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