medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (21. January) is the feast day of:
1) Agnes of Rome (?). Entered under today in the _Depositio martyrum_ of the Chronographer of 354, A. is a martyr of the Via Nomentana, where a cemetery was named for her. Adjacent to it Constantine's daughter Constantina erected a large basilica dedicated to her, remains of which can still be seen today. When A. was martyred is unknown: the two leading candidates are the persecutions of Decius and Valerian. Early literary notices, of which there are a number -- A. was always a popular saint --, stress her youth (twelve years old, says St. Ambrose) and, initially as an indicator of her age but quickly sexualized (as in Prudentius, _Peristephanon_, 14), her virginity.
By the time of St. Maximus of Turin (d. ca. 465) A. had a legendary Passio. This exists in numerous versions; among the highlights are extended treatments of A.'s being placed in a brothel and of the blinding of a male admirer (both already present in Prudentius' poem) and an execution in the Circus Agonalis (today's Piazza Navona). A.'s early modern church there (Sant'Agnese in Agone) is variously said to have some of her hair and/or her head. But her chief place of veneration in Rome is the church over her burial site at the aforementioned cemetery, Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura. Erected by Honorius I in the early seventh century, several times rebuilt, and containing such of her relics as are not elsewhere, this has long been the venue of today's blessing of two lambs from whose wool archiepiscopal pallia are made. Their connection with A. depends upon the similarity between her name and the Latin words _agnus_ and _agna_ ('lamb'; a frequent attribute of A.).
A text of the Ambrosian hymn _Agnes beatae virginis_ is here (starts a little more than halfway down the page):
A text of Prudentius, _Peristephanon_, 14 (the closing piece in this collection of triumphal poems celebrating Christian martyrs):
Brief, illustrated English-language and Italian-language accounts of Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura are here:
A very good, multi-page, Italian-language site on the entire complex on the Via Nomentana is here:
Images of Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura:
Plans and section:
Pope St. Damasus' epitaph for A. (_Epigrammata Damasiana_, ed. Ferrua, no. 37), inscribed in Filocalian letters:
Marjorie Greene's views, in Medrelart, of the Sant'Agnese complex :
The very young A. in a fourth-century _pluteus_ from the altar erected by pope Liberius (352-366) at A.'s tomb and now, like the Damasan inscription shown above, embedded in a wall alongside the basilica's entrance stairway:
A. accompanied by a lamb in the procession of the virgin martyrs (ca. 560; heavily restored) in Ravenna's Sant'Apollinare Nuovo:
A. at left (St. Barbara at right) as depicted in the late thirteenth-century (ca. 1285-1290) Livre d'images de Madame Marie (Paris: BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition française 16251, fol. 96r):
A. appears at far right, holding the Agnus Dei, in Duccio di Buoninsegna's great Maestà (betw. 1308 and 1311) for the cathedral of Seina. Here's a detail view of her:
The altarpiece as a whole:
A. defending herself from her suitor and his friends 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. 44v):
The later fourteenth-century (ca. 1370-1380) Royal Gold Cup in the British Museum is notable for its scenes from A.'s Passio:
It is a bit depressing to find the British Museum misspelling the name of A.'s legendary sister, St. Emerentiana.
Scenes from A.'s passio as depicted in a later fifteenth-century (1463) copy of Vincent de Beauvais' _Speculum hisoriale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 51, fol. 257r):
2) Fructuosus, Augurius, and Eulogius (d. 259). F., bishop of Tarragona and his deacons A. and E. were victims of the Valerianic persecution. Eulogized by Prudentius (_Peristephanon_, 6), they have a brief Passio (BHL 3196) that though thought to date in its present form from the fifth century consists chiefly of a summary eyewitness account of the judicial proceedings against them. At least one of St. Augustine's surviving sermons was delivered on the day of their feast, which latter in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology and in all the Mozarabic calendars is recorded for today. This is still their day of commemoration in the RM and the day of their feast (a Solemnity) at Tarragona; in most Spanish dioceses they have an optional Memorial on 20. January.
A text of Prudentius, _Peristephanon_, 6:
The remains of the late antique basilica dedicated to F. at Tarragona:
The originally twelfth-century iglesia de San Fructuoso at Barós (Huesca) in Aragon:
The originally twelfth- or thirteenth-century iglesia/ermita de San Fructuoso at Valoria del Alcor (Palencia) in Castilla y León, incorporating a tenth-century predecessor as its atrium:
The originally thirteenth-century iglesia/ermita de San Fructuoso at Bierge (Huesca) in Aragon:
Its later thirteenth-century mural paintings:
The cult of F., A., and E. radiated from Iberia into what is now southern France, where their Passion is depicted on one of the late eleventh- or very early twelfth-century capitals of the abbey cloister at Moissac:
The originally eleventh-/twelfth-century église paroissiale Saint-Fructueux at Taurinya, Arr. de Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) in Roussillon:
The originally later twelfth-century église Saint-Fructueux at Llo (Pyrénées-Orientales) in Roussillon:
A French-language account occurs about halfway down the page here:
Another is here:
These saints' cult also reached Italy, where in the tenth century was founded the abbey of San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte at today's Camogli (GE) in Liguria. Two illustrated, Italian-language pages on the abbey, showing medieval construction from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries:
A multi-page, English-language site put up by the abbey's commercial proprietors begins here:
3) Patroclus of Troyes (?). P. (in French also Patrocle and Parre) has been venerated at Troyes since at least the later fifth or early sixth century when his legendary Passio (BHL 6520; known in some form to St. Gregory of Tours) is thought originally to have been written. This makes him a noble inhabitant of Troyes martyred there on this day under Aurelian (a pretty good indicator of fiction) on a _mons idolorum_ ('hill of idols') where later arose a martyrial church dedicated to him. P. is entered under today in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology and in the ninth century martyrologies of Florus of Lyon, St. Ado of Vienne, and Usuard.
P.'s cult was once widespread in the diocese of Troyes. Aspects of it have enriched the cult of his homonym of Berry, St. Patroclus of Bourges. In 960 bishop Ansegisus of Troyes gave a relic of P. to archbishop St. Bruno of Köln; in 964 Bruno transferred the relic to a canonry he had founded at Soest in Westphalia some ten years earlier (accounts of this translation are BHL 6523 and 6523b). In the later eleventh century the canons began to replace their original church with today's mostly twelfth- and thirteenth-century church dedicated to P. (often called the Patrokli-Dom, with 'Dom' in the sense of 'large, impressive church'). An illustrated, German-language account of that structure is here:
P. is Soest's patron saint; in this capacity he is at least usually depicted as a knight. Here he is on a city seal from the thirteenth century:
4) Epiphanius of Pavia (d. 496). A native of Pavia, E. was destined from childhood for an ecclesiastical career. At the age of eighteen he was made subdeacon; ordination to the diaconate followed two years later. Chaste, ascetic, studious, and eloquent, he was groomed to succeed to to the see of Pavia and did so in 466. His Vita by his student St. Ennodius (BHL 2570), our principal source for S.'s life, then focuses on his extraordinary service as a peace-seeking ambassador between rulers in Italy (emperors Anthemius and Julius Nepos; king Theodoric) and various Germanic military chiefs and foreign kings (Ricimer, Euric, Gundobad) as well as on his actions on behalf of his city under Odoacer and Theodoric. E. died of an illness he had contracted during a return journey in winter from a mission to Theodoric in Ravenna. His body lay in state for three days before being laid to rest amid universal mourning at Pavia.
Late in 962 E.'s relics were residing in a hypogeum under an extramural church in Pavia dedicated to him (presumably on the site of the later convent whose grounds now serve as the university's botanical garden) when they became the object of a transalpine _furtum sacrum_ and were translated to Hildesheim on the orders of the latter's Reichenau-educated bishop Othwin. Early in the following year E. was re-interred, not without miracles, in Hildesheim's then cathedral. Since then he has been the patron saint of the diocese of Hildesheim. Most of his relics now repose in a gilded shrine under main altar of Hildesheim's eleventh-century cathedral of St. Mariä Himmelfahrt:
Here he is at left in the tympanum of the portal to Hildesheim's earlier twelfth-century Basilika St. Godehard (image expandable):
One of the treasures of the Hildesheim cathedral's collection of bronze work is a thirteenth-century baptismal font bearing, inter alia, an image of Epiphanius. Views of the font, including one of the scene showing E., are here:
A richly illustrated, German-language treatment of E. in his Hildesheimer context: Bernhard Gallistl, _Epiphanius von Pavia. Schutzheiliger des Bistums Hildesheim_ (Hildesheim: Bernward Mediengesellschaft mbH; Gutersloh: Verlag für Regionalgeschichte, 2000).
In 1866 a rib from E.'s relics at Hildesheim was returned to Pavia and placed in its "gothic" church of San Francesco Grande (built ca. 1230-1298), shown here:
Later, a piece of this rib was also deposited in one of the city's famous "romanesque" churches, San Michele Maggiore, shown here:
and shown and described here (Italian-language):
5) Abo of Tbilisi (d. 786). According to his Georgian-language Passio, the martyr A. was an educated Muslim and a maker of perfumes and unguents in Bagdad. He became acquainted with a Georgian great noble of Christian faith who had been imprisoned there and who had been released upon the accession of a new caliph. When the noble returned to Georgia (which had been under Muslim rule since 655), A. accompanied him as a member of his household. A. became both orally proficient in Georgian and literate in that tongue. He read Holy Scripture and other Christian writings but for fear of denouncement as an apostate refrained from converting.
When the noble and his household were later in exile among the Khazars A. did convert; later they all returned to Georgia, where A. spent three years as a practicing Christian in Tbilisi before being denounced. The amir before whom he was brought offered him opportunities to abjure his Christianity. A. refused and was executed; a miraculous pillar of light appeared that evening on the spot of his execution and glowed in the dark for some three hours. An even more marvellous light, so bright that it illuminated the whole town, appeared there on the following night. Thus far A.'s Passio. A. has yet to grace the pages of the RM. He is Tbilisi's patron saint.
6) Meinrad (d. 861). M. was a monk of Reichenau who became an hermit at a place in today's Switzerland where in the following century was founded a monastery that later became the famous Benedictine abbey of Einsiedeln. He is said to have been murdered by robbers. Venerated as a martyr, M. has a late ninth-century Passio (BHL 5878) that probably was composed at Reichenau, where in 1039 his relics received a formal _elevatio_ and where an Office was written for him that is still in use. Even before this, distribution of M.'s relics had begun. Einsiedeln has a head said to be his. A later fourteenth-century Vita by George of Gengenbach (BHL 5878b) added numerous miracles and other legendary episodes.
Here's a full-page illustration from a later fifteenth-century manuscript in the university library at Heidelberg showing M.'s martyrdom. Included in this scene are two ravens that -- so the story goes -- M. had been feeding for some time and that had become habituated to him. They are said to have pursued M.'s murderers and by calling attention to these felons to have caused them to be brought to justice:
7) Zachary of the Mercurion (d. earlier 10th cent.). Today's less well known saint of the Regno is named in the Bios of St. Nilus of Rossano (BHG 1370) as one of the latter's spiritual guides in the monastic "eparchy" of the Mercurion in the mountainous area along the border between northern Calabria and today's Basilicata (then still Lucania). When Nilus arrived there in around 930 Z. was already hegumen of a noteworthy lavra. He had died, and his monastery was being called that of the holy father Z., when in around 950 his successor Luke (who later joined Nilus' community at today's Valleluce [FR] in southern Lazio) abandoned it under pressure of Muslim raids.
Kirsopp Lake conjectured that Z. received his training at the monastery of St. Elias the Speleote (d. ca. 930) at today's Melicuccà (RC) near Seminara in Calabria. While there's no proof of that (though another monastic leader in the Mercurion, St. Fantinus the Younger, made _his_ profession there), in the absence of any visuals bearing directly on Z. herewith some views of the restored remains of the rupestrian monastery at Melicuccà:
(last year's post revised and with the additions of Patroclus of Troyes and Abo of Tbilisi)
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