medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (9. January) is the feast day of:
1) Marcellinus of Ancona (d. 5th or 6th cent.). M. is the traditional third bishop of Ancona and one of its patron saints. According to pope St. Gregory the Great (_Dialogi_, 1. 6), when a fire had broken out in that city and could not be put out by ordinary means bishop M., who suffered from gout, instructed that he be brought in his litter to a point next to the flames and be set down there; this was done and right away the fire recoiled from him and ceased its advance, this sparing the remaining buildings. According to St. Bede the Venerable (prose _Vita sancti Cuthberti_, ch. 13), Cuthbert imitated M. when he prevented a fire in a village from assailing a house into which he had entered. M.'s own seemingly very late Vita (BHL 5225; all witnesses early modern) is based on Gregory's narration.
A fragmentary sixth-century Gospels (after 550; _Codices Latini Antiquiores_, III, no. 278) preserved in Ancona's Museo diocesano has long been associated with M. and in pious legend is said to have been held by him when he operated the miracle of the fire.
Remains believed to be those of M. were brought in the eleventh century from Ancona's palaeochristian cathedral of St. Stephen into its new one that later, in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, came to be known as that of St. Cyriac (San Ciriaco). They still repose in the crypt of that since much damaged and then rebuilt structure, a view of whose exterior is shown here:
The second statue shown on this page is an early fourteenth-century image of M. in terracotta (now housed in Ancona's diocesan museum):
2) Hadrian of Canterbury (d. 709). H. (or A., if you prefer to call him Adrian) was of North African origin. Because he is said to have been equally versed in Greek and in Latin, many have supposed an origin in one of the Greek-speaking provinces of the African litoral. In the early to mid-660s this saint of the Regno was twice an imperial ambassador in Francia. When in 667 pope St. Vitalian offered him the vacant archbishopric of Canterbury, H. was abbot of a monastery near Naples usually thought to have been located on the islet unoriginally named Nisida (Greek for 'islet'). H. declined the offer but suggested someone else from Naples who in turn declined for reasons of health. When Vitalian then chose Theodore of Tarsus, a Greek monk living in Rome whom H. had also suggested, he appointed H. to go with him.
In 668 both set out for Britain, with Theodore arriving in 669 and H. (who had been detained in Gaul on suspicion of being an imperial agent) arriving in the year following. In accordance with a command from Vitalian, Theodore made H. abbot of the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul at Canterbury. After a tour of the archdiocese the two settled down in Canterbury, where H. became famous for the instruction he gave at the monastery. According to Bede (who until this point in H.'s life is our only early source for him), H. taught not only Holy Scripture but also versification, astronomy, and the computus. Probably his best known student today was St. Aldhelm.
Citations of H. in later biblical commentaries and glosses show him to have been engaged in literal exposition. Much more on this and on other activities of H. will be found in Bernhard Bischoff and Michael Lapidge, eds., _Biblical Commentaries from the Canterbury School of Theodore and Hadrian_ (Cambridge University Press, 1994). Pre-Conquest liturgical documents of various sorts reveal early English observance of feasts associated particularly with Naples and its environs; the usual explanation for this is that H. brought with him (or gave to Theodore) a sacramentary of Campanian origin.
No remains of a monastery even roughly contemporary with H. have been found on Nisida. In ancient Roman times the Caesarian tyrannicide Q. Caepio Brutus had a villa on the island; Cicero had a long conversation with him there shortly after the assassination. During the War of the Sicilian Vespers a planned insular Sicilian landing on the island as the initial phase of a lightning campaign to seize Naples was foiled by Angevin naval resistance. After the fall of Rhodes in 1522 the Grand Master and his fleet were quarantined at Nisida for several weeks before being allowed to enter Naples. The island was used as a quarantine station into the twentieth century; from at least the eighteenth century until the twentieth it also housed a prison of very ill repute. Today it is probably best known as the site of a penal institution for minors. Herewith some views:
Looking SSE from Pozzuoli, with Posillipo (at left) and Nisida in the middle distance and the Sorrentine Peninsula and Capri in the far distance:
Looking south from above Coroglio, a closer view of the island:
Aerial views from the south, revealing Nisida as a sunken volcanic cone:
That's Vesuvius in the background of the second view.
Satellite view (rather grainy):
3) Honoratus of Buzançais (d. 1250). H. (also Honorius; in French, Honoré) is a poorly attested local saint of Berry. The traditional story (which comes to us in late and varying accounts) is that he was a native of Buzançais (Indre) and a successful and very devout livestock merchant who performed works of charity in his community and on his travels. These often took him to Buzay near Thénezay (Deux-Sèvres), where he was killed by robbers whom he had reproached. H.'s mother, who lived at Buzançais, had behind her house a flourishing tree whose sudden withering told her that her son was dead.
H.'s mummified body was kept in the church of Thénezay, where it was reported to effect cures of those who touched it. A petition to Eugenius IV listing some of these is said to have caused him to confirm H.'s cult in 1444. In 1520 most of H.'s remains were translated to Buzançais. Those have not survived, but the modern church at Thénezay still has some, kept in the reliquary shown here:
4) Giulia Della Rena (Bl.; d. ca. 1370). The very poorly documented Tuscan solitary G. has been claimed both by the Augustinians and by the Vallombrosans. According to the more widely accepted Augustinian tradition, she was a member of the dispossessed noble family of the Della Rena who at the time of her birth were living in exile in today's Certaldo (FI). Before she was twenty she entered a noble household in Florence's Oltrarno as a serving woman. The monastery of Santo Spirito was close by and under its guidance G. became an Augustinian tertiary.
Later G. is said returned to have returned Certaldo, where she immured herself in a little cell next to the apse of the local church of Sts. Michael and James (today's chiesa dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo). The cell had two windows. One communicated with the church and so allowed G. to hear Mass and, presumably, confess her sins. The other was external: through it G. communicated with pious locals, whose offerings of food she reportedly repaid in all seasons of the year with bunches of sweet-smelling fresh flowers. Considered a saint in her lifetime, she was in 1372, not long after her death in a now unknown year, given an altar in the church. Her relics are now on display there in a nineteenth-century chapel. Here's a view:
In 1506 civic authorities in Certaldo recognized G.'s cult by contributing a sum for the annual festivities in her honor. Pius VII confirmed her cult at the level of Beata in 1819.
While we're here, an illustrated, Italian-language page on Certaldo's originally late twelfth(?)-century chiesa dei santi Jacopo e Filippo, also the burial church both of Bl. Giacomo (Jacopo) da Certaldo and of Giovanni Boccaccio:
That little window in the apse is said to be the one that communicated with G.'s cell.
5) Antonio Fatati (Bl.; d. 1484). Another Anconitan and by virtue of a couple of his offices also a holy person of the Regno, the ecclesiastical administrator A. was a scion of the nobility of Ancona who after obtaining a degree in Law at Bologna was ordained priest and who in 1440 became a cathedral canon in his native city. Nine years later the newly appointed archbishop of Ragusa, Giacomo Venier (a native of Recanati in the Umana [now Numana] portion of what was then the diocese of Ancona and Umana) made A. his vicar. Returning from that assignment, which had lasted for about a year, A. became archpriest of Ancona. In 1444 he was briefly vicar in Siena for a newly appointed bishop whose other duties kept him in Rome. In 1446 Eugenius IV made him papal collector for Lucca, Siena, and Piombino.
On 4. June 1447 the recently consecrated Nicholas V named A. vicar for the Vatican basilica and on 2. September (the summer heat having already broken?) he formally became a canon of St. Peter's. Household appointments as papal chaplain and cleric of the papal chamber soon followed. In 1449 A. became treasurer general for the March of Ancona and in 1450 bishop of the Abruzzese diocese of Teramo (the home of his mother's family), residing in Macerata, and in 1454 he was named governor general of the March of Ancona and of the Massa Trabaria to its north. In 1455 Callistus III gave A. permission to reside in his diocese and by the following May, now that he seemed settled in the Regno, A. had also become a member of the king's high council.
In August 1463 Pius II translated A. to the see of his native Ancona, where he assisted in the preparations for the pope's projected crusade against the Turks and where he was present for Pius' death in the episcopal palace in August 1464. In 1466 Paul II added treasurer general for Bologna to A.'s duties; A. continued to serve in that capacity until 1470. A., who had reputations both for learning and for humility, is said to have lived ascetically, fasting regularly, wearing a hair shirt, and amid all his other obligations making time for sustained prayer and meditation. Already before his death he was considered holy; post-mortem miracles were soon reported (today is A.'s _dies natalis_) and a cult arose. Pius VI confirmed his cult at the level of Beatus in 1795.
One of A.'s benefices accumulated as he was climbing the ecclesiastical ladder was the abbey of San Pietro al Conero on the Adriatic coast south of Ancona. Here's an illustrated, English-language page on this originally eleventh-century house (now a tourist hotel):
As often, the Italia nell'Arte Medievale page on the church of this abbey focuses on sculptural details (mostly interior):
(last year's post lightly revised and with the addition of Giulia Della Rena)
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