medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (14. January) is the feast day of:
1) Potitus (?). This less well known saint of the Regno first comes to light in the ninth century, when his feast is listed on the Marble Calendar of Naples as falling on 13. January (which is also where he was in the Roman Martyrology until its revision of 2001) and when the early portion of the chronicle of Naples' bishops ascribes to bishop St. Severus the foundation of that city's monastery dedicated to P.
Also from the ninth century, it is thought, is the earliest version of the _Passio sancti Potiti_ (BHL 6908). In this legendary account P. is the Christian child of a pagan father in the city of Sardica (variant: Serdica), presumably the Sardica/Serdica in Dacia that is now Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. While successfully converting his father he is taken off by a cloud and set down in Epirus, where an angel tells him that the devil is on his way to tempt him. In the ensuing confrontation P. remains firm, whereupon the devil announces that he will afflict the emperor Antoninus' only daughter and that both this emperor and governor Gelasius will hurt P. unto death. P. then goes off to a city called Valeria, where he cures a woman of leprosy, comes to the emperor's attention, and -- being a Christian -- is brought to him in chains by Gelasius.
In short order P. cures the emperor's daughter of diabolic possession, refuses in colloquy with the emperor to abandon Christ, overturns idols in the emperor's presence, is thrown in jail (where he is visited by an angel), and is sentenced to several modes of torment and execution, none of which manages either to kill him or to prevent him, though his tongue has been excised, from baptizing the emperor's daughter. Finally he is led off to a place in Apulia whose location is indicated in the _Passio_ by toponyms that have stimulated much inquiry and on the Kalends of January, at the age of thirteen, is there decapitated. His spirit is seen in the form of a dove and his body is buried three days later. Thus far his Passio.
That P.'s cult was widespread in Campania in the central and later Middle Ages is evident both from toponyms -- e.g. today's San Potito Sannitico (CE), San Potito Ultra (AV), and San Potito the locality in Roccapiemonte (SA) -- and from calendars and liturgies from Naples, Capua, and Benevento. The church of San Potito at Lauro (AV) had a predecessor of the same dedication in 1038. In the eleventh century P.'s veneration had also reached Marsican territory, where the locality San Potito in today's Ovindoli (AQ) in Abruzzo is attested from 1074. By 1118 a church dedicated to P. existed at today's Ascoli Satriano (FG) in northern Apulia.
At some time in or shortly after the eleventh century P.'s cult reached Sardinia, where the Sardica of the _Passio_ was given a new interpretation and P., treated as a local martyr, was venerated with St. Ephysius (15. January) at the latter's major sanctuary at Nora in the judicate of Cagliari. Perhaps in the late eleventh century and certainly in 1316 relics said to be those of both saints were translated to Pisa, where they were housed in the cathedral. In 1391/92 Spinello Aretino painted on the south wall of the camposanto in the cathedral precinct scenes from their _passiones_ and from their translation to Pisa; those depicting P. were on the lower register and have survived only in older drawings made of them. In 1886 some powder from P.'s putative relics in Pisa was returned to the archdiocese of Cagliari along with a part of those of St. Ephysius; these now reside in Cagliari's baroque church of Sant'Efisio.
In 1433 or 1434 the young Leon Battista Alberti wrote a _Vita sancti Potiti_ (BHL 6912d) as part of an assignment from Eugenius IV's chancellor to improve the accuracy and style of lives of various martyrs. In her _Possible Lives: Authors and Saints in Renaissance Italy_ (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), pp. 67-70, Alison Frazier provides an account of Alberti's procedures vis-a-vis the information he says he found pertaining to P. and to others of this name.
P. is the patron saint of Ascoli Satriano (which claims to possess one of his arms) and, in Basilicata, of Tricarico (MT). The latter's liturgical celebration of P. today is thought to underlie the RM's recent change in his day of commemoration. A discovery of P.'s remains is in legend connected with both locales. Relics said to be those of P. are also preserved in that hall of saints venerated medievally in Campania, the Cripta San Guglielmo at Montevergine.
2) Felix of Nola (?). Our information concerning the life of this less well known saint of the Regno comes from the writings of that later fourth-/early fifth-century Burdigalan retiree in Campania, Pontius Meropius Paulinus (a.k.a. St. Paulinus of Nola). As governor of Campania, P. had taken part in local veneration of this saint in 381. In 394 he left government service and was ordained priest at Barcelona; in the following year he and his wife Therasia returned to their estates in Campania, where they established a monastery at today's Cimitile on the outskirts of Nola and, as Catherine Conybeare puts it, "more or less reinvent[ed] the cult of Saint Felix" (_Paulinus Noster: Self and Symbols in the Letters of Paulinus of Nola_ [Oxford University Press, 2001], p. 5).
P.'s promotion of F. entailed both the erection of a small basilica over the saint's tomb at Cimitile and his own annual writing and public reading of a poem in F.'s honor on the latter's _dies natalis_. We have fourteen of these _Natalicia_ for F. from P.'s pen. They tell us that F. was the son of a wealthy Syrian immigrant, that he became a priest at Nola, that he suffered during a persecution when he was acting the place of the bishop of Nola, that having survived these travails he declined election to that post after the incumbent's death, and that he spent his final years in poverty and toil. Guesses vary as to whether the persecution were that of Decius or of Diocletian. Because of his suffering, F. was considered a martyr. Gregory of Tours ends his _In gloria martyrum_ with a consideration of him.
In Campania F. is the patron saint of Cimitile, of nearby Pomigliano d'Arco (NA), of Rocca San Felice (AV), and of San Felice a Cancello (CE). His cult spread elsewhere via a church in Rome "in Pincis" (on the Pincian) said to have been ruinous when it was rebuilt by pope Hadrian I (772-795). One instance of this is at today's Borgo San Felice in Castelnuovo Berardenga (SI) in Tuscany, where the cult is first documented with certainty from the late tenth century for a church already dedicated to a Felix before 714. But F.'s major cult center was always at Cimitile, an important late antique and early medieval pilgrimage destination.
Views of the ancient parts of this site's basilica di San Felice in Pincis showing some of the surrounding structure (most of these also show F.'s tomb):
The church's apse and belltower (Paulinus is traditionally credited with having introduced the use of church bells):
Better view (old postcard) of the belltower:
A page from the St Albans Psalter (Hildesheim, Dombibliothek, MS St. Godehard 1; written between 1120 and 1145) showing today as the feast of St. Felix in Pincis:
3) Nino (d. early 4th cent.). N. is the name now given to the woman revered as the enlightener of Georgia. We first learn of her in additional material included by Rufinus in his translation of Eusebius' _Historia ecclesiastica_. In this account (_H. E._, 10. 11) no name is given for her: she is merely said to have been a Christian who had been enslaved somewhere in East Roman territory by Iberian raiders and whose piety, chastity, and acts of thaumaturgy attracted the respect of her captors and brought her to the attention of their queen. N. cured the queen of an illness, the queen converted to Christianity, her husband the king did likewise after having been granted a sign of divine favor, and the royal pair sent to the emperor Constantine a request for a bishop and priests to effect the conversion of their nation.
In our sources N. is first named in the eighth-century _History of the Armenians_ of pseudo-Moses of Khoren, where she appears as Nouné. The latter's similarity to Greek _nonna_ (which latter has meanings of 'holy woman' and 'nun') suggests that this too may not have been her given name and that the latter, assuming that a real N. did exist (she may be a fictional representative of early bringers of Christianity to Georgia), is irretrievably lost. In this account the king is named Miriam (he's now variously said to be either Miriam/Mirian II or Miriam/Mirian III) and N. is a refugee who seeks succor at his capital of Mtskheta. Later accounts in Georgian and in Greek embellished this story.
From at least the tenth century onward, today has been N.'s principal feast day in Georgia. Cardinal Baronio's entry for her in the RM under 15. December as Christiana (Rufinus 'Christian woman' interpreted as a proper name) lasted until the revision of 2004, when she was moved to today and entered as Nino.
Two views of N.'s tomb in Mtskheta's originally eleventh-century Svetitskhoveli cathedral:
The cathedral is one of several monuments forming the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mtskheta. Some other views of it:
Some views of the originally sixth-century nearby Jvari monastery (i.e. monastery of the Cross), sited where N. herself is said to have raised a cross:
St. Nino's Cross:
A plan of the monastery church:
4) Oddo of Novara (Bl.; d. 1198). We know about this less well known holy person of the Regno (in Italian, also Oddone) from the acts of a canonization hearing held in December 1240. A native of the Novara in Piedmont, he had been prior of the Carthusian monastery at today's Jurklošter near Laško (Štajerska) in Slovenia when in about 1189 or 1190 he traveled to Italy to seek papal resolution, which was not forthcoming, of a conflict that had arisen in his community and that had led the local bishop to order the monks' expulsion. O. then settled down in today's Tagliacozzo (AQ) in Abruzzo, where the abbess of the monastery of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, a relative of the pope (Clement III) supervised his activities. O. lived ascetically in a little cell next to the monastery, performed various duties, notably preaching -- at which he was said to be very effective --, and was credited with miracles.
Further miracles were reported after O.'s death. A cult arose and shortly before 1240 his body, said at the time to have been found incorrupt, was translated to the monastery church. Relics of O. remain there today. O.'s cult was confirmed in 1859 at the level of Beatus.
An illustrated, Italian-language page on Tagliacozzo's originally "romanesque" chiesa dei Santi Cosma e Damiano (a predecessor is attested as early as the eighth century):
An exterior view:
5) Sava of Serbia (d. 1235). S. (also Saba, Savvas, and Sabbas) was the youngest son of the Serbian ruler Stefan Nemanja. He refused an appanage and instead became a monk on Mount Athos. In 1198, after his father had also become an Athonite monk, he received permission from emperor Alexius III to found for Serbs the Chilandar monastery on Athos. In 1208, once Athos had come under Latin control, S. returned to Serbia, where he took charge of the Studenica monastery founded by his father and wrote its typikon. In 1219 he was consecrated the first archbishop of the autonomous Serbian Orthodox Church by the Nicaean patriarch Manuel I Sarantenos. His organization and committed defense of his nascent church has caused him to be considered its founder.
14. January is S.'s _dies natalis_ and his feast day not only in the Serbian and other Orthodox churches but also in the Roman-Rite churches of Serbia and Croatia. S. has yet to grace the pages of the RM.
S. died at Veliko Tarnovo in today's Bulgaria and was buried there. In 1236 his relics were moved by the Serbian king Vladislav to his newly founded Mileševa monastery near Prijepolje (Zlatibor dist.) in Serbia; they were burned by Turks in 1594. The monastery preserves a contemporary (ca. 1236) fresco portrait of S.:
S. in the later thirteenth-century (1260-1263) frescoes 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:
S. as depicted 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:
S. as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (ca. 1317-1324) of the church of St. Demetrius in the aforementioned Patriarchate of Peć:
S. in the earlier fourteenth-century (1330s) frescoes of the diaconicon of the church of the Hodegetria in the aforementioned Patriarchate of Peć:
Some views of S.'s originally twelfth- or thirteenth-century church at Budva in Montenegro:
(last year's post revised and with the addition of Oddo of Novara)
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