medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (10. January) is the feast day of:
1) Miltiades, pope (d. 314). Thanks to the policy of the emperor Maxentius (who well before the Edict of Milan returned confiscated properties to the church), M. (also Melchiades) was the first bishop of Rome to operate in conditions of freedom after the Diocletianic persecution. Commissioned by the emperor Constantine to investigate a challenge from within the church to the fitness for office of the bishop of Carthage, M. called a synod that sided with the incumbent and that excommunicated the bishop's chief rival, Donatus. Later Donatists said very unkind things about M. He was buried in the cemetery of Callistus on the Appian Way and was succeeded by pope St. Sylvester I. San Silvestro in Capite is said to hold his relics. But not all of them. One of the bone fragments here is said to be his:
M. (at left; St. Sylvester at right) as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century (1348) copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 58r):
2) Paul of Thebes (d. ca. 345, supposedly). We know about the legendary Egyptian desert hermit P. (also P. the Hermit) through his Vita by St. Jerome (BHL 6596) and from other sources dependent upon it. Whether P. is entirely Jerome's invention or else a literary development from now lost oral tradition is unknown and, in the present state of the evidence, unknowable. According to Jerome, during a mid-third-century persecution the sixteen-year-old-P., fearing for his life, fled into the Theban desert, found a cave with a spring, and took up residence there as an hermit. Almost a century later St. Anthony of Egypt, then twenty-three years of age, received a celestial vision informing him that deep in the desert there dwelt a monk whose monastic way of life was more perfect than his own. A. then set out to find this divinely indicated paragon.
After a journey in which A. encountered an hippocentaur and a faun or satyr (the former perhaps diabolic, the latter certainly so) he found the one-hundred-and-thirteen-year-old P. at his cave, wearing a garment stitched together from palm leaves. They conversed, were fed by a raven (cf. 3 Reg 1-7), and on the following day P. announced that his time on earth is at an end. A. saw P.'s soul ascend to heaven; conducting P.'s funeral with hymns and psalms, he buried his body in a hole miraculously dug by two lions. A. kept P.'s palm-leaf tunic and always wore it at Easter and at Pentecost. Thus far Jerome.
J.'s account and its Greek-language versions (at least five are known: BHG 1466-1470) made P. a figure of common knowledge, especially in monastic circles. Herewith a few visuals.
P. and A. in the desert as figured on a panel on the south side of the probably tenth-century Muiredach's High Cross at the former monastery of Monasterboice (county Louth):
A. conducting P.'s funeral, one of three panels with scenes from P.'s Vita carved on the north side of the tenth-century Cross of the Scriptures at the former monastery of Clonmacnoise (county Offaly):
P. and A. sharing their meal as figured in an earlier twelfth-century (ca. 1120-1132) nave capital in the basilique Marie-Madeleine at Vézelay:
The earlier thirteenth-century (ca. 1205-ca. 1230) Anthony Abbot and Paul the Hermit window at the cathédrale Notre-Dame in Chartres:
P. (at right; St. Arsenius at left) as depicted in the earlier thirteenth-century (1230s) frescoes in the narthex of the Mileševa monastery near Prijepolje (Zlatibor dist.) in southern Serbia:
Details (the epitrachelion, signifying priesthood, is an interesting touch):
P. as depicted, with a very thin epitrachelion appropriate to his austere lifestyle, in the earlier fourteenth-century (ca. 1311-ca. 1322) frescoes in the church of St. Nicholas Orphanos in Thessaloniki:
P. (second from left; with Ephraem the Syrian, Sabas of Jerusalem, and John Climacus) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (ca. 1312-1322) frescoes of the parecclesion of the Theotokos in the monastery church of the Theotokos at Gračanica in, depending on one's view of the matter, either Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija or the Republic of Kosovo:
A very sunburned P. in the earlier fourteenth-century (ca. 1314-ca. 1320) frescoes in the church of St. Nikita at Čučer in today's Čučer-Sandevo in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
P.'s identifying legend in its present state is from a restoration in 1483-1484.
P. (at right; St. Euthymius at left) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (1330s) frescoes in the nave of the church of the Hodegetria 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:
P. as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century (1348) copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 37r):
P. as depicted in the mid-fourteenth-century frescoes in the north choir of 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 (another instance of P. wearing an epitrachelion):
Jerome's Vita of P. in an earlier fifteenth-century (ca. 1425) copy of Italian origin:
P. embracing A. (lower register; above, A.'s search for P.) as depicted in an earlier fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1435-ca. 1440) by the Maestro dell'Osservanza, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC:
P. (at left; A. at right) as figured on the earlier fifteenth-century (ca. 1442) north portal of the Justinuskirche in Höchst, a _Stadtteil_ of Frankfurt am Main:
Scenes from P.'s Vita as depicted in a later fifteenth-century (1463) copy of Vincent de Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 51, fol. 29r):
P. (at right; A. at left) as depicted in a late fifteenth-century (ca. 1480-1490) Hours for the Use of Autun (Autun, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 269, fol. 164r):
P, (at right; A. at left) as depicted ca. 1515 by Matthias Grünewald in a panel of his Isenheim Altarpiece (image expandable):
3) Gregory of Nyssa (d. 395). G. was a younger brother of St. Basil of Caesarea, by whom he was educated. He married and became a rhetor. When he was his early thirties he was ordained priest. In 371 he became bishop of Nyssa (one of Caesarea's suffragan dioceses). What became of his wife is unknown. G., who wrote extensively on Trinitarian theology and who participated in the Council of Constantinople (381), is the most philosophically oriented of the Cappadocian Fathers.
Here's a view of what is said to be G.'s jawbone, preserved at the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of recent events, the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
G. (at right; St. Philotheus of Sinai at right) in the eleventh-century mosaics of the katholikon of the monastery of Hosios Loukas near Distomo in Phokis:
G. in an unsourced mosaic (eleventh[?]-century):
Can anyone identify this by location?
G. in the eleventh-century mosaics of the cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv (Kiev):
G. (at left; St. Gregory of Nazianzus at right) in an illumination in an eleventh- or twelfth-century copy of the _Orationes_ of St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Paris, BnF, ms. Coislin 239, fol. 158v):
G. (at right; at left, surely St. John Chrysostom, the caption notwithstanding) in an illumination in an earlier twelfth-century copy of Jacob of Coccinobaphi, _Orationes encomiasticae in SS. Virginem Deiparam_ (Paris, BnF, ms. Grec 1208, fol. 1v):
G. in the later twelfth-century mosaics of the Cappella Palatina at Palermo:
G. (at right) in the earlier fourteenth-century (ca. 1313-ca. 1320) frescoes in the King's Church (dedicated to Sts. Joachim and Anne) in the Studenica monastery near Kraljevo (Raška dist.) in southern Serbia:
G. (at right; St. Athanasius at left) in the earlier fourteenth-century (betw. 1335 and 1350) frescoes of the church of the Holy Ascension at the aforementioned Visoki Dečani monastery:
4) Agatho, pope (d. 681). A Greek-Latin bilingual from Sicily, A. is chiefly remembered for his efforts leading to the Sixth Ecumenical Council's anathematization of monotheletism, a posthumously obtained victory that greatly reinforced the prestige of the bishop of Rome (expressed, for example, in the Council's formula that Peter had spoken through Agatho). A.'s papacy also saw the final submission of the previously autocephalous church of Ravenna to the see of Rome and the first known papal resolution of a dispute between English bishops (saints Theodore of Canterbury and Wilfred of York).
A. (with triple tiara!), at right in this composite of two frescoes, in a fifteenth-century portrait in the vaulting just before the entrance to the chapter room of the St. Benedict Monastery at Subiaco:
5) Benincasa (Bl.; d. 1194). This less well known holy person of the Regno was the eighth abbot of the monastery of the Most Holy Trinity at today's Cava de' Tirreni (SA) in southern Campania, where he succeeded Bl. Marinus on 30. January 1171. According to John of Capua in 1295, B. was _pius, prudens, et pastor opimus_ ("pious, prudent, and a most worthy shepherd"). B. enjoyed excellent relations with king William II, who entrusted to the Cavensians the royal monastery he established at Monreale in the early 1170s, who granted the abbey the legal status of a tenant in chief in its secular holdings, and who resolved in the abbey's favor a dispute with the bishop of Salerno over control of the port of Vietri, where the abbey kept a ship used in commercial ventures that in B.'s time extended to ports in the kingdom of Jerusalem.
B.'s cult was immediate. It was confirmed papally at the level of Beatus in 1928 in a job lot with seven other abbots from Simeon to Leo II.
In the later tradition of Monreale, William's choice of the Cavensians to staff that abbey was an act of gratitude for the spiritual care he received from B. in 1172 at Salerno that led to his physical recovery from a painful medical condition then afflicting him. Herewith some views of Monreale's cloister and adjacent monastic buildings, starting with a view taken from the cathedral of Santa Maria la Nuova:
And a view back across the cloister to the cathedral:
6) William of Bourges (d. 1209 or 1210). W. (also W. of Corbeil, W. of Donj[e]on), a descendant of the counts of Nevers and the patron saint of the French nation at the University of Paris, was a monk at Grandmont before entering the Cistercian order at Pontigny. He rose to become abbot at his order's houses at Fontainejean (Loiret) and Chaalis (Oise). In late 1199 he was chosen, reportedly by lot, from among three Cistercian abbots to succeed to the recently vacant archiepiscopal see of Bourges. He made his formal entry and was consecrated in the following January. W. was an active supporter of policies espoused by the Reform papacy. His predecessor had provided funds for the rebuilding of Bourges' cathedral and in W.'s time the crypt was completed and work on the choir had begun.
In what is usually said to have been 1209 W. became fatally ill from a condition either brought on or exacerbated by an open-air, midwinter service he had conducted in the new cathedral's unfinished choir on the Vigil of the Epiphany. His death is said to have followed swiftly on this day and to have prevented him from participating in the Albigensian Crusade, which began in 1209. (In his posthumously published "'Fabrica, opus' and the Dating of Mediaeval Monuments", _Gesta_ 15 , 27-30 [article written in 1955], at p. 29, Robert Branner cited a charter executed by W. early in _1210_.). Miracles followed as did also a very prompt canonization by Honorius III in 1217. W. has several Vitae and Miracula based upon his canonization hearing (BHL 8900-8905).
W. (with St. Bernard) as depicted in an earlier fifteenth-century copy of Guillaume de Deguileville's (or Degulleville's) _Pèlerinage de vie humaine_ (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 376, fol. 95r):
The naked figure at right is the author, Guillaume de Deguileville, a fourteenth-century Cistercian of Chaalis.
Illustrated, English-language pages on, and other pages of views of, the originally late twelfth- to early fourteenth-century cathédrale Saint-Etienne at Bourges:
(last year's post revised and with the addition of Paul of Thebes)
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