medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (19. January) is the feast day of:
1) Germanicus (d. ca. 155 or ca. 166). According to the _Martyrium sancti Polycarpi_ (BHG 1556-1557), G. was a youth of Smyrna who perished shortly after St. Polycarp. Exposed to beasts along with other Christians, he is said both to have encouraged his fellows to behave well when meeting their end and, wishing to get it over with (er, wishing to enter Heaven as soon as possible), to have successfully incited one of the animals to attack him. In his martyrology Florus of Lyon entered G. along with Polycarp on 26. January. St. Ado of Vienne gave him his own entry on this day.
2) Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abacum (?). M., M., A., and A. (the last with all the usual variants of this Biblical name, e.g. Ambacum, Ab[b]acuc, Hab[b]acuc) are Roman martyrs of the Via Cornelia recorded in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology in textually problematic entries under 15., 16., and 20. January. Nothing is known about them. Their perhaps sixth-century legendary Passio (BHL 5543) makes them members of a single nuclear family (M. and M. as husband and wife, A. and A. as their sons) who had come to Rome from Persia to venerate the martyrs and who, having during a persecution under an emperor Claudius conspired with a priest named John to bury two-hundred and sixty of them on the Via Salaria, were arrested, refused to sacrifice to the idols, and were condemned to death, with the three males decapitated in one location and Martha drowned in another. Part of this Passio recurs in the equally legendary Passio of St. Valentine of Rome (BHL 8465).
The Old Gelasian sacramentary records a Mass for these saints on 20. January, the date under which they are also entered in the martyrologies of St. Bede the Venerable, St. Ado of Vienne, and Usuard. Florus of Lyon entered them under today; the RM has always done likewise.
Relics said to belong to this group of martyrs are reported to have been translated to the Roman churches of Sant'Adriano (al Foro) and Santa Prassede. In 828 Charlemagne's biographer Einhard acquired a set that he donated to the monastery in today's Seligenstadt (Lkr. Offenbach) in Hessen. They, or at least some of them (Prüm too has relics of these saints), now repose there in the much rebuilt Einhard-Basilika, two views of which are here:
Herewith an expandable view of M., M., A., and A. as depicted in a later fourteenth-century (ca. 1370) Roman Missal from Bologna (Avignon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 136, fol. 224v):
3) Pontianus of Spoleto (?). According to his oldest Passio (BHL 6891; known to St. Ado of Vienne in the ninth century), P. was a Christian layman who endured many tortures at Spoleto during a persecution under an emperor Antoninus, who was decapitated on 14. January, and who was laid to rest on 18. January. Since the early Middle Ages he has been commemorated either today (so the historical martyrologies from Bede onward) or on 14. January (as he still is at Spoleto). The archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia regards him as the protomartyr and patron of the city of Spoleto.
P.'s originally late twelfth-century extramural church at Spoleto abuts an early Christian cemetery. Some views:
4) Macarius the Elder (d. ca. 390). The Upper Egyptian monk M. (also M. the Great, M. the Egyptian) became an hermit monk as a young man, spending most of his very long life in the Lower Egyptian desert community of Scetis, where he was a priest and spiritual director of many other hermit monks whom he gathered into a community. We know about him chiefly from Palladius' _Historia Lausiaca_ and from Rufinus' _Historia monachorum_ as well as from bits in the church historians Socrates and Sozomen and in his own writings to the extent that these are considered genuine. Attributed to M. (with differing degrees of modern acceptance) are a few letters and prayers, a collection of sayings in the _Apophthegmata Patrum_, and many homilies in different collections. Relics believed to be his are kept in the great Coptic monastery of Der Abu Makar in Wadi Natrun, which claims him as its founder.
M. (at right; St. Onuphrius at left) as depicted in the earlier thirteenth-century (1230s) narthex frescoes in the church of the Ascension in the Mileševa monastery near Prijepolje (Zlatibor dist.) in southern Serbia:
View of the wall on which this fresco occurs:
M. as depicted in a thirteenth-century menaion from Cyprus (Paris, BnF, ms. Grec 1561, fol. 80r):
M. as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (1330s) frescoes in the nave 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:
M. as depicted in the late fourteenth-century (1390s) frescoes in the church of the Ramaća monastery in Stragari (Šumadija dist.) in central Serbia:
5) Bassianus of Lodi (d. 409, perhaps). The extremely little we know about this late fourth-century bishop of Lodi in southern Lombardy comes from the correspondence of Ambrose of Milan, from stray records of contemporary northern Italian church councils, and from Paulinus of Milan's Vita of Ambrose. Apart from that there is a brief, later twelfth-century Vita of B. from Lodi (BHL 1040), thought to be a revision of a ca. tenth-century original. Whether this preserves any reliable earlier information is really anyone's guess, as is therefore the accuracy of the Vita's dating of B.'s death (at fourscore years and ten) to the eighth year of Honorius and Theodosius.
According to the Vita, B. was a Sicilian from a wealthy family who was sent to Rome for literary (i.e. higher) education and who by divine grace obtained a Christian teacher. B. converted to Christianity and was active in the church at Rome. While still a young man he fled to Ravenna in order to escape agents sent by his father, who wished him to renounce his faith and to return to Sicily. Approaching Ravenna, he performed the miracles for which he is best known today: the sudden taming of a wild doe who with two fawns was fleeing hunters and, after protecting the doe from her pursuers, the curing of one of the hunters who was possessed by a demon. Arriving at Ravenna he performed a public miracle that led to the conversion of the local prefect and hence to that of many others as well.
At Ravenna B. was ordained priest. Years later the church of Lodi through divine intervention chose him to replace its recently deceased bishop. B.'s exemplary performance in this office saw his operation of further miracles; he also obtained the grace of predicting both Ambrose's death and his own. Thus far the Vita. A thirteenth-century verse Vita in volgare is based upon it. Herewith a few specimens of that:
Lodi's cathedral has been dedicated to B. since at least the tenth century. When the Milanese destroyed Lodi in 1158 they spared the then cathedral church, located in what came to be known, once the city had been re-founded in a new location, as Lodi Vecchio ('Old Lodi'). Herewith an illustrated (one view) Italian-language account of this structure, which in the thirteenth century received a new facade and other modifications:
The new cathedral in the new city was already under construction in 1159. B.'s relics were translated into it in 1163. Herewith an illustrated, Italian-language account of this structure:
Prior to this, however, refugees from Lodi had erected at today's Pizzighettone (CR) further south in Lombardy a church dedicated to B. Said to date originally from 1158 and modified in the later Middle Ages, that too is still in existence. Some views follow:
6) Catellus (d. late 8th cent.?). Today's less well known saint of the Regno is the patron saint of Castellammare di Stabia (NA) on the Gulf of Naples south of Vesuvius, south southwest of Pompeii, and north of the Monti Lattari, an extension of the southern Appennines whose western end forms the Sorrentine Peninsula. A map of the area is here:
Everything that we know about C. comes from the Vita of St. Antoninus of Sorrento (BHL 582), an appealing late ninth- or tenth-century text that is one of the few surviving monuments of the early medieval duchy of Sorrento, a short-lived offshoot of the duchy of Naples. According to this account, Antoninus was a monk who was forced to abandon his monastery during a period of Lombard raids and who attached himself to the holy Catellus, bishop of Stabiae (today's Castellammare di Stabia). In time C. turned over his diocese to A. and took up an hermit's existence on a mountain that when the Vita was written was named after St. Michael the Archangel but whose general name today is Monte Faito (individual peaks are named as well and one of these, perhaps the original Michaelsmount, is now Monte Sant'Angelo). Situated on the Sorrentine Peninsula, it overlooks Castellammare di Stabia to the northeast and Sorrento to the west southwest.
Antoninus joined C. not long thereafter and together the two of them, inspired by the appearance of St. Michael in a vision vouchsafed to both hermits, established on the mountain an oratory dedicated to the Archangel. According to the Vita (whose local boosterism is one of its charms), this in time became a successful pilgrimage destination.
Charged with having abandoned his diocese, with celebrating Mass in the wilds _contra ritum_, and with spreading heresy, C. was arrested, taken to Rome, and thrown in jail while the pope considered the matter more closely. C. prophesied to a papal cleric to whom he proclaimed his innocence that he (the cleric) would soon become pope and asked to be released when that happened. In short order this prophecy was realized. The new pope not only freed C. but also promised to give him whatever he should ask for. C.'s request was for sufficient lead for the roofing of the oratory; this was given to him and on his return, Antoninus having already gone on to settle at Sorrento, C. rebuilt the structure with stone foundations, a wooden superstructure, and a lead roof.
Thus far our information about C. His cult was confirmed papally in 1729. Castellammare di Stabia's present cathedral (a co-cathedral of the archdiocese of Sorrento-Castellammare di Stabia; main part built from 1587 to 1643) is dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption and to C. Castellammare di Stabia has two relics of C. said to be fragments of his cranium. One of these is in the cathedral and the other, according to the illustrated account here, was rediscovered in 1999 in the parish church at Scanzano:
Not surprisingly, C. is also venerated in Sorrento, which also has a relic of him and where a confraternity in his honor is said to have been founded in 1380. A brief sketch of the latter's history is here:
There has been a sequence of little churches on Monte Faito's Monte Sant'Angelo. Excavations at the site in 1726 produced a few fragments of lead sheeting that were proclaimed to have come from the roof of C.'s building. Herewith two views of the present church (early twentieth-century; easily reached by funicular from Castellammare di Stabia):
This view of Castellammare di Stabia (with Vesuvius in the background) from Monte Faito might give some indication of the difference in elevation between C.'s oratory and the town below:
One may visit a cave on Monte Faito said to have been C.'s abode:
'Faito' is a dialect form of 'faggeto' ('beech wood', i.e. the forest type, not the material). In C.'s day much of the Sorrentine Peninsula between the coastal communities and the highest peaks will have been been covered in beeches. If there's any old growth left it's in ravines and is well hidden. But the slopes of Monte Faito and the peninsula's spine to the west of that have more recent beech woods somewhat suggestive of what C. might have experienced, e.g.:
C. was dropped from the RM in its revision of 2001. He continues to be celebrated liturgically on this day in the archdiocese of which he is a co-patron. In Castellammare di Stabia C. is also celebrated on the second Sunday in May.
7) Arsenius of Corfu (d. ca. 953). Our chief source for the life of the Corfiote bishop and hagiographer A. is an apparently credible synaxary account (BHG 2044; there's said to be a translation into Latin in BAV, ms. Barberinianus Latinus 2663). According to this he was born at Bethany in Palestine in the reign of Basil I (867-86), entered religion at age twelve, completed his studies at Seleucia in Syria (Seleucia Pieria), was ordained priest, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Places in Palestine, and then became an associate in Constantinople of the future patriarch Tryphon (928-31). In 933 Tryphon's successor Theophylact made A. bishop of Corfu.
We are poorly informed about A.'s episcopate. During this time he wrote his surviving sermons on Sts. Andrew the Protoclete, Barbara, and Terinus (a Corfiote martyr) and, if it is his, the poem on Palm Sunday that has been attributed to him. A witty epigram in A.'s honor by the earlier thirteenth-century imperial notary, diplomat, and poet John of Otranto (Joannes Grassus), an Italo-Greek subject of Frederick II, praises the immaterial virtues through which A. participated in the Holy Spirit and implies that it was thanks to these that he eluded Ethiopian (i.e. Muslim) pirates who sought to waylay him at sea.
A. is said to have died near Corinth while returning from a mission to the emperor Constantine VII on behalf of the island's notables. His body was taken to Corfu, where it was buried in a church of Sts. Peter and Paul. A relic believed to be his was turned over by the island's Franciscans in 1943 to the metropolitan of Corfu and is now preserved in the latter's cathedral church of the Panagia Spiliotissa.
(last year's post revised and with the additions of Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abacum and Arsenius of Corfu)
To join the list, send the message: join medieval-religion YOUR NAME
to: [log in to unmask]
To send a message to the list, address it to:
[log in to unmask]
To leave the list, send the message: leave medieval-religion
to: [log in to unmask]
In order to report problems or to contact the list's owners, write to:
[log in to unmask]
For further information, visit our web site: