medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (15. January) is the feast day of:
1) Secundina (d. 250, supposedly). S. is a local saint of Anagni (FR) in southern Lazio, a cathedral town whose principal patron is St. Magnus "of Trani" (19. August). In the latter's legendary Vitae (BHL 5167, etc.), whose earliest dated witness is of the twelfth century, and in her own legendary Passio (BHL 7553), whose earliest dated witness is probably of the thirteenth century, she is said to have been a noble Roman virgin whom M. converted to Christianity and who was proselytizing in Anagni prior to her public martyrdom there during the Decian persecution. S.'s putative remains repose along with those of Sts. Aurelia and Neomisia (25. September) in an altar named for her in the crypt of St. Magnus in Anagni's cathedral of Maria Santissima Assunta. In the views shown here it's the one on the left:
A twelfth-century fresco in the same crypt depicts both S.'s proselytizing and her suffering:
And here she is at right in a late fourteenth-century fresco on the cathedral's main level:
2) Ephysius (d. ca. 303, supposedly). E. (also Ephysus, Ephisius, E(u)visius, and Efisius) is a Sardinian martyr of uncertain date. His cult first comes to light in the late eleventh and very early twelfth centuries, when Latin monks from the continental mainland were taking over what previously had been the island's very provincial Byzantine church. The evidence takes two forms: the oldest version of a highly legendary Latin-language Passio (BHL 2567, etc.) and a church at today's Nora (CA) built over a hypogeum containing a loculus traditionally said to have been E.'s.
The earliest surviving version of E.'s Passio occurs in a twelfth-century codex (BAV, Vat. lat. 6453) and was published in _Analecta Bollandiana_ 3 (1884), 362-77. It and its offshoots are an adaptation of the Greek second Bios of St. Procopius, possibly through a lost Latin translation composed on the Italian peninsula or at least by someone with an interest in southern Italy. According to this account E. is a soldier from Jerusalem whom Diocletian places at the head of his army and sends to Italy to harass the Christians. There a voice from heaven shows him a cross, promises him through its power victory over all his enemies, and proclaims that he will become a martyr.
The now Christian E. proceeds to Gaeta, has a goldsmith make him a cross adorned with gold and silver, and then, displaying this as a visible sign and standard (_signum_), defeats in battle a host of Saracens anachronistically present in Diocletian's Italy. In what is clearly a doublet of this scene for a Sardinian audience, E. next proceeds to Arborea (one of the Sardinian judicates) and with the aid of a heaven-sent messenger dressed as an imperial eunuch and bearing a special weapon (a two-pointed _romphea_ with a cross above) wins a victory over local barbarians who are probably to be identified with the Sardinian _barbaricini_ known to us and to E.'s hagiographer from a mention in the correspondence of pope St. Gregory the Great. These feats accomplished, E. goes on to Cagliari, where he is arrested as a Christian, incarcerated, tried, and finally taken to Nora and there decapitated. Thus far E.'s Passio.
E.'s church at Nora is first attested from 1089, when it appears in a list of properties given by the judge of Cagliari to the Victorines of Marseille (a later report says that the Victorines found it empty; this is the basis for the widely accepted view that in the year 1088 E.'s relics were translated to Pisa, whose special devotion to E. is attested as early as 1126). The church, erected in what had been a late antique cemetery, is an originally eleventh-century structure that has since been greatly modified. In the later Middle Ages it was one of Sardinia's major pilgrimage destinations. An exterior view of it is here (could those be pilgrims in the foreground?):
An illustrated, Italian-language page on this monument:
There is a good discussion of it, with photographs and plans, in Pier Giorgio Spanu, _Martyria Sardiniae. I santuari dei martiri sardi_ (Oristano: S'Alvure, 2000), 61-81.
Other medieval or possibly medieval dedications to E. are reported from the judicate of Cagliari: a church at Quartucciu (CA) given to the Victorines of Marseille in 1119 (still in their possession in 1218) and the church of undated origin in Cagliari's Stampace quarter built over a subterranean chamber probably used in Roman times as a jail and now exhibited as E.'s prison. An Italian-language account of the latter is here:
Some views (including one of the column to which E. is supposed to have been bound):
In Pisa, E.'s major monuments are the remains of the Camposanto frescoes depicting scenes from his Passio painted by Spinello Aretino in 1391-92. The best known of these is an interpretation of the celestial messenger's showing E. the _romphea_ (in captions on several reproduction sites ineptly called a flag):
The small reproduction here shows more of the composition, with the scene with the angel on the left and a battle on the right:
Another panel from these frescoes was in the news in 2003, as restorers announced the successful use of a bacterium to remove glue that had covered it since it was removed from the wall of the Camposanto in the 1950s:
E.'s cult received a major boost in the early seventeenth century during Cagliari's great promotion of its _corpi santi_. E. is also credited with having brought an end to a plague that ravaged Cagliari and other places from 1652 to 1656; since then he has been the archdiocese of Cagliari's patron saint and was for much of that time also the patron of the city of Cagliari (now St. Saturninus/Saturnus of Cagliari). In 1793 he was credited with having defeated an attempted French invasion of the island. In 1886 a portion of his relics at Pisa was returned to the archdiocese and now resides in his aforementioned church in Cagliari. E. was dropped from the RM in its revision of 2001 but continues to be celebrated liturgically in Sardinia.
3) John the Calybite (d. mid-5th cent.). According to his Bioi (BHG 868-869h; versions in Georgian and Syriac, BHO 498, 499), J. was born to a wealthy senatorial family in Constantinople. At the age of twelve he was inspired by an Acoemete monk to join that recently founded community. The Acoemetes were particularly devoted to the Gospels and required each monk to have his own copy. Being aware of this, J. asked his parents to obtain a copy for him; not being aware of his intent, they provided J. with a very costly manuscript whose binding was ornamented with gold and with precious stones. After J. had been with the Acoemetes for six years he received permission to return to Constantinople, where, dressed in rags, he took up life as a beggar near his parents' palace.
The parents did not recognize J. as their son but his father, who was more tolerant of the beggar than was J.'s mother, allowed a servitor to erect a hut for him next to the palace door (whence his Greek appellation Kalybites, i.e. hut-dweller). J. lived there for another three years, revealing himself (and confirming this by showing his mother the golden Gospels) on when he was a death's door. The parents experienced a religious conversion, turned their palace into a hospice, and erected a church in J.'s memory where the hut had been.
The church was in existence in the year 468. Anthony of Novgorod saw J.'s tomb there in the early thirteenth century. A head of J. venerated at Besançon until its disappearance in 1794 is sometimes said to have arrived there shortly after Constantinople fell to the Latins in 1204 (does anyone know when its presence at Besançon is actually first recorded?). The relics said to be J.'s in the early modern church dedicated to him on Rome's Tiber Island were discovered there only during its construction. Whereas that church's predecessor (first attested from 1016) was dedicated to a St. John, proof that the present J. was its titular is lacking.
In about 870 Anastasius Bibliothecarius translated J.'s pre-metaphrastic Bios (BHG 868) into Latin (BHL 4358); this text was later revised (BHL 4358b; also of Roman origin). After the mid-eleventh century someone probably belonging to or connected with the Amalfitan community in Constantinople translated J.'s metaphrastic Bios (BHG 869) into Latin; this version was published by Paolo Chiesa in 1995 but has yet to be entered in the Bollandists' online database _Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta_. Although J. is said not to appear in western medieval calendars, he was surely venerated at today's Caloveto (CS) in Calabria's Sila Greca: the town takes its name from that of a local rupestrian monastery dedicated to him that is thought to have been founded in the eighth century (the eleventh-century St. Bartholomew of Grottaferrata entered religion there). Herewith a couple of views:
J. at left (his fellow holy fool St. Alexius at right), as depicted in the early thirteenth-century (1230s) frescoes of the Mileševa monastery near Prijepolje (Zlatibor dist.) in southern Serbia:
On J. as an holy fool, see Sergey A. Ivanov, _Holy Fools in Byzantium and Beyond_ (Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 86-90.
J. at right (St. Euplus at left), as depicted in the thirteenth- or early fourteenth-century frescoes of the church of the Evangelisteria in Geraki (Laconia prefecture) on the Peloponnese:
J. as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (betw. 1335 and 1350) nave frescoes in the church of the Holy Ascension at the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
J. at left (St. Alexius at right), as depicted in the early sixteenth-century frescoes (1502) by Dionisy and sons in the Virgin Nativity cathedral of the St. Ferapont Belozero (Ferapontov Belozersky) monastery at Ferapontovo in Russia's Vologda oblast:
4) Maurus, abbot in France (?). Prior to its revision of 2001 the RM commemorated on this day St. Maurus the well known disciple of St. Benedict (now commemorated along with his fellow disciple St. Placidus on 5. October), giving him an elogium that accepted Odo of Glanfeuil's identification, in his_Vita sancti Mauri_ (BHL 5772; ninth-century but presenting itself as a re-wording of a late antique predecessor by an otherwise unattested disciple of St. Benedict named Faustus), of that M. with the founding abbot of Glanfeuil at today's Saint-Maur-de-Glanfeuil (Maine-et-Loire) in the Loire Valley. The abbey's own age is unknown. Its veneration of M. in this abbatial role may not have antedated the ninth century, when it begins to be attested in charters. According to Odo M.'s relics had been the subject of a relatively recent Inventio there. Excepts from ninth-century charters referring to M.'s abbey at Glanfeuil are given here:
In Odo's construction M. was both a thaumaturge and a paragon of Carolingian monastic ideals. His Miracula of M. (BHL 5775) relates as well the community's flight under pressure of Norse raiders, with M.'s putative relics, to the environs of Paris, where in 868 the brothers re-established themselves at Saint-Pierre-des-Fossés (later Saint-Maur-des-Fossés) and continued to promote M.'s cult from there. Cluniacs and others used M.'s Vita to advantage in advancing their own views of ideal conformity to the Benedictine Rule. Numerous miracles, especially cures of gout and of epilepsy, were reported at his shrine. In the eighteenth century the wonder-working relics were translated to Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where they are said to have been profaned and scattered during the Revolution.
For more on the Vita and on M.'s cult, see John B. Wickstrom, tr., _The Life and Miracles of Saint Maurus: Disciple of Benedict, Apostle to France_ (Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications/Liturgical Press, 2008; Cistercian Studies Series, vol. 223).
M.'s monastery at Glanfeuil was later reoccupied as a priory of Saint-Pierre-des-Fossés (it regained its abbatial status in 1096). Eleventh(?)- to thirteenth-century ruins survive at the site, along with a modern structure built over the foundations of the abbey church. Herewith two very different illustrated, French-language pages on the site (the second retailing great gobs of hokum):
Nineteenth-century archeological excavation on the site revealed significant remains of a structure originally interpreted as a nymphaeum from a Roman villa (they are still often so described in touristic and other "popular" writing) :
The same remains are now more soberly, but no less interestingly, interpreted as being from a twelfth-century monastic lavatory. See the last item here:
A CD-ROM facsimile of an illuminated twelfth-century manuscript of M.'s Vita and Miracula (Troyes, Médiathèque de l'Agglomération troyenne, ms. 2273) is on offer here:
M. the mitred abbot 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. 432v):
Abbot M. healing a boy both lame and mute as depicted in a later fifteenth-century (ca. 1470) copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay as continued by Jean Golein (Mâcon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 3, fol. 137v):
5) Arsenius of Armo (d. ca. 900). Our information about this less well known saint of the Regno (also A. of Reggio di Calabria) comes from the Bios of St. Elias the Speleote (BHG 581; BHL 3798b [a Latin translation from ca. 1082 with matter absent from the Greek-language text]). An ordained priest living as an hermit monk near his native Reggio di Calabria, he received the young Elias as a disciple, tonsured him and gave him his habit, taught him ascetic practices and monastic discipline, and for the remainder of his own life treated him as a son. The pair preached and engaged in works of charity at a sequence of local churches. At the first of these A. was treated unjustly by a cathedral priest. When he sought redress from the military governor the latter struck him with such force that he bled. A.'s prayer for divine retribution was answered by the official's swift demise. At Armo, now a _frazione_ of Reggio, he received the gift of discernment of spirits.
A. accompanied Elias on his lengthy travels in Greece. Returning to Armo, he died there and was buried at its church of St. Eustratius. The local populace honored him as a saint. When some years Muslim invaders came to Armo they opened his tomb in the hope of treasure. Not finding any, they attempted to burn A.'s body but failed when it miraculously refused to catch fire. Chastened by this wonder, they departed. Elias, who in the interim had founded his community at Melicuccà, returned to Armo and re-interred his mentor's remains. Thus far Elias' later tenth-century Bios. A. was one of the Italo-Greek saints to enter the RM in 2004. He is celebrated liturgically today in Armo's chiesa dalla SS. Maria Assunta.
(last year's post revised and with the additions of Secundina and Arsenius of Armo)
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