medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (20. January) is the feast day of:
1) Fabian, pope (d. 250). F. was elected bishop of Rome in early January of 236. After governing for years under the Christian-tolerant emperors Gordian III and Philip the Arab he became an early victim of the Decian persecution. Little is known of F.'s pontificate. He ordered an expansion of the cemetery of Callistus, whither he is said in the _Depositio martyrum_ of the Chronographer of 354 to have brought the body of pope St. Pontian (who had died in exile in Sardinia). There F. too was laid to rest in the chamber now called the Crypt of the Popes. A fragment of his tombstone, with its simple but clearly incised Greek-language text, is here:
That fragment as displayed in front of F.'s laterculus (discovered by De Rossi in 1850):
F. was a figure around whom legends grew up. Eusebius tells us that at the assembly held in Rome to find a successor for the deceased pope St. Anterus a dove came and perched on F.'s head, whereupon F., not previously a candidate, was chosen immediately. St. Gregory of Tours made him responsible for sending to Gaul its seven apostles (St. Dionysius et al.). Perhaps also legendary (in its details, at least) is the report in the _Liber Pontificalis_ that F. divided the city into seven ecclesiastical districts, in each of which he appointed subdeacons to work with notaries to record the acts of martyrs.
a) F. (at right, with a bishop, a cardinal, and an emperor identified as Philip the Arab [who thanks to a report in Eusebius was thought medievally to have been Christian]) in an illumination 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. 42v):
b) F. in a detail view of a later fifteenth-century (ca. 1475) panel painting of F. and today's St. Sebastian attributed to Giovanni di Paolo and now in the National Gallery in London (more views of this work are in the notice of Sebastian at no. 2, below):
c) F. at left (today's St. Sebastian at right) in a later fifteenth-century (ca. 1475-1500) panel painting now in the State Hermitage Gallery, St. Petersburg:
d) F. between St. Roch and today's St. Sebastian (both of whom were plague saints) in an earlier sixteenth-century (ca. 1520) fresco in the parrocchiale San Pietro in Benna (BI) in Piedmont:
e) That plague saint connection underlies the customary identification of F. as the pope in this late fifteenth-century (ca. 1480-1490) in the chiesa di San Rocco in Caneve, a _frazione_ of Arco (TN) in Trentino-Alto Adige:
2) Sebastian (d. 3d cent.). According to St. Ambrose of Milan, S. was a native of that city who was martyred at Rome. His legendary Passio (BHL7543; ineptly ascribed to Ambrose) is our earliest source for S.'s frequently depicted attempted execution by arrows. In this account he is said to have been pierced by so many arrows that he came to resemble a hedgehog. The same account then gives a rapidly healed S. a final colloquy with Diocletian followed by an execution in which S. is clubbed to death in the Circus and his body is retrieved by a matron who buries him her nearby home and who converts that into a church. In the tenth century a church dedicated to S., the predecessor of today's early modern San Sebastiano al Palatino, was built there. S.'s putative remains are in the originally fourth-century San Sebastiano _ad Catacumbas_ (or San Sebastiano f. l. M.) on the Via Appia Antica.
Some representations of S. and dedications to him:
a) S. (at far right) in the sixth-century mosaics (ca. 560) in Ravenna's Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, his earliest known depiction:
b) S. in a probably late seventh-century portrait in Rome's San Pietro in Vincoli:
c) The originally twelfth-century cappella di San Sebastiano at Bergolo (CN) in Piedmont:
d) The originally twelfth- and thirteenth-century iglesia de San Sebastián in Segovia:
e) S. (at left; St. Mary Magdalen at right) in a mid-thirteenth-century (ca. 1250-1260) window in the west choir of the cathedral of Naumburg:
f) A thirteenth-century (ca. 1260) illumination of S.'s martyrdom in a Cistercian psalter (Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 54, fol. 15r):
g) The originally eleventh-century Sankt-Sebastian-Kirche in Magdeburg (now that city's Roman Catholic cathedral), largely rebuilt in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, badly damaged in World War II, and since rebuilt:
Illustrated, German-language accounts:
Exterior and interior (views during and after the renovation of 2004-05):
h) S. (at right) and a pope in a pair of late fourteenth- or fifteenth-century frescoes in the ambulatory of the abbey church of Sant'Antimo at Montalcino (SI) in Tuscany (the abbey claimed to possess relics of S. given at its foundation in 781 by pope Hadrian I, who supposedly had received them from Charlemagne):
i) S. in an early fifteenth-century (ca. 1400-1410) fresco by Taddeo di Bartolo, now in Naples' Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte:
j) Three views of S. (at right; pope St. Fabian at left) in a later fifteenth-century (ca. 1475) panel painting attributed to Giovanni di Paolo, now in the National Gallery in London:
Before cleaning in the 1970s (the National Gallery still calls this cleaning 'recent'):
After cleaning (the second image is clearer but the colors are off) :
k) S.'s martyrdom in a late fifteenth-century fresco by Giovanni Baleison (fl. 1480-1500) in the Chapelle Saint-Sebastien, Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée (Alpes-Maritimes):
An illustrated, French-language set of pages on this chapel begins here:
3) Euthymius the Great (d. 473). Our principal source for the monastic founder E. is his sixth-century Bios by the monastic hagiographer Cyril of Scythopolis (BHG 647), who had spent a decade in the lavra named for E. near a major road between Jerusalem and Jericho. According to C., E. was the offspring of long childless parents in Melitene in Armenia (now Malatya in southeastern Turkey) who had promised him to God should they be successful in having issue. Within two years of E.'s birth his father died, whereupon his mother put him in the care of her brother, a priest. The child E. was soon received into the church by Melitene's bishop. In time E. was made a lector and at age nineteen he was ordained priest. Given the duty of supervising suburban monasteries, he lived at two of these but made it his practice to spend Lent in retreat on an uninhabited mountain.
In about 406, finding his duties an impediment to his spiritual development, E. fled to Palestine. After visiting the Holy Places he settled at the laura of Pharan and continued his practice of solitary retreat during Lent. After five years E. became an hermit in a cave with his fellow solitary Theoctist; in time they attracted followers and E. was persuaded to found a monastery which he then placed under Theoctist's direction before returning to the cave and later (in about 420) converting to Christianity a band of Saracen tribesmen. E. founded two other monasteries; it was his third lavra, which he himself guided and at which he died, that took his name. E. accepted the Christological formulation promulgated at Chalcedon in 451, used his authority among the monks of Palestine to secure their rejection of monophysite views, and (still according to Cyril) through his counsel obtained the empress Eudoxia's adherence to Chalcedonian orthodoxy.
Today is E.'s _dies natalis_. His cult was immediate and quickly became widespread both in the "east" and in especially "eastern"-influenced areas of the "west", e.g. Naples, where his is today's feast in that city's earlier ninth-century Marble Calendar and where the late ninth- and early tenth-century ecclesiastical historian John the Deacon translated Cyril's Bios of E. into Latin (BHL 2778d).
E. (at left, with Arsenius the Great and Paul of Thebes) 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:
E. as depicted in a thirteenth-century menaion from Cyprus (Paris, BnF, ms. Grec 1561, fol. 82v):
E. (at right) as depicted in the very late thirteenth- or early fourteenth-century frescoes in the church of the Peribleptos (now Sv. Kliment Novi) in Ohrid:
E. as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (ca. 1314-ca. 1320) frescoes of the church of St. Nikita at Čučer in today''s Čučer-Sandevo in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
E.'s identifying legend in its present state is from a restoration in 1483-1484.
E. (at left; Paul of Thebes at right) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (1330s) frescoes of 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:
4) Wulfstan (d. 1095). W. (also Wulstan [a pronunciation spelling], Wolstan, Vulstan; in the Latin of the Bollandists, Vulstanus) was born around 1008 at Itchington in Warwickshire, then an estate of Worcester Cathedral; his father, a priest, may have been of the bishop's household. At some time in the 1030s W. too became a secular priest. But he soon entered monastic life, making his profession at Worcester Cathedral Priory. There W. was successively novice master, precentor, sacrist, and (ca. 1055) prior. Personally ascetic, he insisted on strict monastic discipline while at the same engaging in works of charity in the town and in public preaching. In 1062 W. was elected bishop of Worcester; he was consecrated in that year by the archbishop of York. After the Conquest he was retained in office when many of his Anglo-Saxon episcopal colleagues were dismissed.
As bishop W. engaged in an active pastorate, tended to the landed wealth of his diocese, and, in the 1080s, started work on a new cathedral (the present one), whose crypt he completed and into which he oversaw the translation of St. Oswald. During his time Worcester continued to maintain traditional English liturgical and scribal practices and to translate useful books from Latin into Old English. Miracles were reported soon after his death and a cult began. An Old English Life was composed by the monastic chancellor Coleman a few years later. This does not survive but its expansion by William of Malmesbury (BHL 8756; written sometime between ca. 1124 and ca. 1142) does. W. was canonized by Innocent III in 1203. King John took W. as his personal patron and at his request reposes near him in Worcester Cathedral.
Today is W.'s feast day in the Roman Catholic Church. In the Church of England his feast falls on 19. January. Worcester Cathedral's page on him.:
A relatively recent collection of essays on W., including work on his later cult, is Julia S. Barrow and N. P. Brooks, eds., _St Wulfstan and his World_ (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005).
Some pages with views of Worcester Cathedral (the first two have views of the crypt):
5) Henry of Uppsala (d. ca. 1150, supposedly). H. (also Henry of Finland) is an at least very largely legendary figure associated with the at least very poorly attested -- some would say wholly imaginary -- military conquest of Finland by king St. Erik of Sweden (d. 1160). Depending on one's view of their chronological precedence, he first appears either in the later thirteenth-century Vita (BHL 2594) his own late thirteenth-century Vita et Miracula (BHL 3818) or in the roughly contemporary Vita of St. Erik (BHL 2594; sometimes said to be the earlier of the two). This makes him an Englishman and a bishop of Uppsala who accompanied Erik on his campaign, who stayed in Finland to spread the faith and who was murdered by a Finn whom he had excommunicated for having killed a Swedish soldier. A late fifteenth-century _Legenda nova_ of H. (BHL 3818b) adds details that at best are unverifiable.
H.'s cult is first documented in Finland in the late thirteenth century, when he is recorded as patron of the cathedral at Turku. In 1300 his putative remains were translated thither from a church at Nousiainen (Swedish: Nousis) in Varsinais-Suomi for the cathedral's consecration (it was dedicated to the BVM and to H.). H.'s cult spread slowly in Sweden until the early fifteenth century, when it was widely adopted.
For a traditional, Swedish-oriented account of H. in English see this brief summary evidently written by someone either unaffected by a distaste for colonialism or unwilling to see Swedish rule in Finland as colonialist (and who has an interesting spelling of Uppsala):
For a more sceptical account, also in English but reflecting recent Finnish scholarship, see this illustrated Wikipedia page on H.:
a) H.'s representation in the fifteenth-century vault paintings of Brunnby Kyrke in Höganäs (Skåne län):
b) A view of part of H.'s early fifteenth-century bronze sarcophagus at Nousiainen:
c) Slightly reduced views of this and other panels are in Unto Salo's Finnish-language account of it here:
The English-language version of the official website of Turku Cathedral (now Lutheran) offers an historical overview of that building's history:
In Lutheran churches (and perhaps more broadly in the Nordic countries, thanks to official name days deriving from the Lutheran state churches) H. is celebrated on 19. January.
6) Eustachia Calafati (d. 1458). E.'s forename is also given as Eustochia and as Eustochium; her baptismal name was Smeralda. Against the wishes of her parents she became a Poor Clare in her native city of Messina, where she founded a new, Observant-oriented convent in the Montevergine district. After a life of constant self-denial she died at the age of thirty-five. E.'s cult was confirmed in 1782. She was canonized in 1988.
The originally fifteenth-century church of E.'s convent now sports a seventeenth-century facade and lots of eighteenth-century interior decor. Views of it and of the adjacent main building (1634; restored, early twentieth century) are here:
That's the incorrupt and very upright E. in the photo at the lower left. Here's another view of her, this time in color:
And here she is again, in close-up:
(last year's post revised and with the addition of Euthymius the Great)
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