medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (24. January) is the feast day of:
1) Babylas (d. 250 or 251). B. was bishop of Antioch on the Orontes (today's Antakya in southwestern Turkey). Said to have died of mistreatment in prison during the Decian persecution, he was venerated as a martyr. The later fourth-century Syriac Martyrology and the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology enter him under today and give him as companions in martyrdom three children (their names in Latin are Urbanus, Prilidanus, and Epolonus).
B. et socc. have legendary Passiones in conflicting versions and in several languages (BHG 205ff.; BHO 126ff.; BHL 889ff.); one version is in the _Suda_. Aldhelm includes a section on them in his early eighth-century verse _De virginitate_. In the Mozarabic Rite they were formerly celebrated on 25. January. Here's their Mozarabic hymn:
According to St. John Chrysostom, B. was translated shortly after his death to a martyrion in the Antiochian suburb of Daphne, home to a renowned temple of Apollo. The emperor Julian, consulting the latter's oracle and receiving no answer, concluded that the area had been polluted by B.'s presence and had the latter's remains returned to their original burial site. Shortly thereafter the great temple was destroyed by fire. Here's a fifteenth-century miniature illustrating these events as well as the martyrdom of St. Theodosius (Paris, BNF, ms. Français 51, fol. 141v; Vincent of Beauvais, _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay):
An English-language translation of Chrysostom's _Sermon on Babylas_ is here:
Chryostom's _Oration on Babylas_ goes into the matter at greater length, using it both to exemplify the power of relics (B.'s had silenced the oracle) and to condemn Julian's attempt to restore pagan cults.
In 379-381 bishop Meletius of Antioch built on the other side of the Orontes, at today's Kaoussie, a cruciform martyrium into which he translated B.'s remains. Here's a ground plan of that church:
B.'s much rebuilt church of San Babila in Milan is first attested from the late eleventh century.
At Milan B. is celebrated with a Memorial (moved to 23. January to accommodate St. Francis de Sales today).
Another eleventh-century dedication to B. is the lower church, called the cripta de San Babil, of the monastery of San Salvador at Leyre in Navarra:
Two pages with views of the thirteenth-century church of San Babil at Puente de la Reina in Navarra:
In later medieval and early modern Navarra B. was venerated as a local saint martyred in the Moorish conquest, imagined sometimes as a monk of Leyre who ran a school there and sometimes as an archbishop of Pamplona.
B. as depicted as depicted in the earlier thirteenth-century (1230s) frescoes in the altar area of the church of the Ascension in the Mileševa monastery near Prijepolje (Zlatibor dist.) in southern Serbia:
B. as depicted in the later thirteenth-century (betw. 1263 and 1270) frescoes in the church of the Holy Trinity at the Sopoćani monastery at Sopoćani (Raška dist.) in southern Serbia:
B. 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:
B.'s martyrdom, and that of his companions, 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:
B. as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (betw. 1335 and 1350) frescoes in the prothesis of the church of the Holy Ascension at the aforementioned Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć:
Scenes from B.'s Passio occur on the late fifteenth-century retable from the iglesia de San Babilés at Quintanilla del Olmo (Zamora) now in the cathedral of León:
2) Felicianus of Foligno (d. ca. 250, supposedly). F. (also Felicianus of Forum Flaminii) is the legendary protobishop of the Umbrian city of Foligno (PG). According to his Passio (BHL 2846, etc.; in Lanzoni's view, late sixth- or seventh-century), he was born at Forum Flaminii, now the Foligno suburb of San Giovanni Profiamma (PG), and from there exercised from the time of pope St. Victor I (189-99) onward the only archiepiscopal authority that then existed in Italy in north of Rome. F. is said to have preached widely in Umbria, to have consecrated the first bishop of Terni (PG), and as a very old man to have died a martyr at Foligno during the Decian persecution.
Foligno's frequently reworked cathedral of San Feliciano is built over that part of an early Christian cemetery where, it is claimed, F. was buried. This structure has two facades: an earlier "primary" one facing the piazza Duomo and a later "secondary" one on the left transept, facing the piazza della Repubblica. Here's a distance view, showing both facades and the palaces between them:
An aerial view:
Primary facade (piazza Duomo; earlier twelfth-century):
Secondary facade (piazza della Repubblica; 1201, with fourteenth-century modifications; restored, 1904):
The Italia nell'Arte Medievale page on this church:
F. seems to have had two transalpine translations: one in 965 to Minden in today's Nordrhein-Westfalen and one in 969 to Metz, the latter as part of the well known collecting activity of its bishop Theodoric (Thierry; Dietrich) I. A bit from F.'s putative remains at Metz was given to Foligno in 1673. F. is presumably the titular of the now Lutheran Felicianus-Kirche in Weyhe (Lkr. Diepholz) in Niedersachsen; despite its proximity to Bremen, in the Middle Ages this area was part of the diocese of Minden. Some views of the church, whose mid-thirteenth-century tower fronts a nineteenth-century neo-gothic nave:
A portrait of F. in glass from 1488 now at Assisi in the Museo-Tesoro del Sacro convento della cattedrale di Foligno:
3) Sabinianus of Troyes (d. ca. 273, supposedly). S. (also S. of Samos; in French, usually Savinien) is a poorly attested martyr of the diocese of Troyes. His first mention in any source comes in the probably early eighth-century legendary Passio of his supposed sister St. Sabina (Savine) of Troyes (BHL 7408), in contradistinction to Sabina he is not recorded in any martyrology prior to that of Usuard in the later ninth century, and his own legendary Passio (BHL 7438), whose earliest witnesses are of the tenth century, is calqued on that of St. Sidronius of Sens (BHL 7702).
According to that text, S. was young pagan nobleman on Samos when the truth of Christ was revealed to him by an angel. He traveled to Gaul, was there baptized, and through his miracle-accompanied preaching made many converts. S. was brought before the emperor Aurelian (270-75) at Troyes, refused to abjure his faith, was sentenced to death by fire but emerged unscathed, and was then shot at with arrows, none of which struck him but one of which injured Aurelian in an eye. S. escaped briefly, crossing the Seine on dry feet, but was recaptured and was then decapitated on this day at a place called Rilliacum.
S. then arried his head for forty paces to the place where he was buried (cephalophory seems to have been as common among the martyrs of Bourgogne as it was among the apostles of France). At his recommendation, a cloth soaked in his blood was used to heal Aurelian. Later, the blind Syra (Sainte Syre) with God's help found S.'s grave, miraculously recovered her sight, and erected a church over his tomb. Thus far S.'s Passio.
Usuard, followed by cardinal Baronio in the early RM, entered S. under 29. January. In 2001 the RM moved this commemoration to S.'s _dies natalis_ as given in the Passio (a change probably founded on the not unreasonable assumption that this was S.'s feast day at the time of its writing).
Rilliacum is traditionally identified with today's Rilly-Sainte-Syre (Aube) in Champagne, the oldest part of whose église paroissiale Saint-Savinien is said to date only from the eleventh century. Two expandable views of that structure are here:
S.'s putative remains are said to now repose in the cathedral of Troyes, where scenes from his Passio are depicted in one of the thirteenth-century upper windows of the choir (no. 209):
4) Exuperantius of Cingoli (d. 5th cent., supposedly). A legendary, late twelfth- or early thirteenth-century Vita (BHL 2808) makes E. a monk from Africa who sailed to Italy, arrived at the Adriatic port of Numana in today's Marche, and made his way to Rome, where he was consecrated bishop by pope Paschasius and put in charge of the diocese of Cingoli (today's self-proclaimed Balcony of the Marche). There he succeeded the latter's deceased bishop Theodosius, encountered various martyrs venerated at Osimo and other nearby towns, and died of natural causes some fifteen years later. Succeeded by his faithful disciple Formarius, E. was credited with having cured a paralytic.
Bishops Theodosius, Exuperantius, and Formarius are no better attested than is pope Paschasius. E. is one of a group of Umbrian saints (Savinus, Exuperantius, and Marcellus) whose cult had spread in St. Gregory the Great's time to various places in central Italy. By 1139 monks of Fonte Avellana were caring for a church outside Cingoli dedicated to E. alone. In 1218 they erected inside the town another dedicated to E. and to St. Nicholas and housing putative relics of both. A late twelfth- or early thirteenth-century copper plaque identifying those of E. was found in 1628 during an examination of the relics. It too identifies E. as a bishop and confessor.
Some views of the thirteenth-century chiesa collegiata di Sant'Esuperanzio at Cingoli (MC), starting with an illustrated, Italian-language guide to this church:
The Italia nell'Arte Medievale page on this church:
Another interior view (note the huge ogival arches in this single-aisled church):
The frescoes along the side once adorned Renaissance chapels. Here's an early sixteenth-century one with E. at left:
A page, partly in Italian and partly in English, on the apses and their decor:
Sant'Esuperanzio has two medieval crucifixes:
A drawing of E. as he appears on the church's late twelfth-/early thirteenth-century copper gilt crucifix is here:
E. on Cingoli's late thirteenth- or early fourteenth-century seal:
5) Paola Gambara (Bl.; d. 1515). P., a native of Brescia, belonged to the noble family that took its name from the town of Gambara (BS) in Lombardy. According to the report issued in connection with her beatification in 1845, in her adolescence she was admired even more for her practice of Christian virtues than she was for her extraordinary beauty (if the Franciscans who promoted her cause had preserved any documentation tending to confirm the accuracy of this statement, it seems to have escaped the notice of the church historian Gian Domenico Gordini, whose notice of P. in the _Bibliotheca Sanctorum_ is strikingly devoid of references to late medieval or early modern sources).
Despite what is said to have been her expressed desire to devote herself to a life or prayer, solitude, and penance, the young P. was married off to a Piedmontese noble, Lodovico Costa, count of Bene (today's Bene Vagienna [CN]) and of Trinità and lord of Carrù. After a period of what is described as behavior that was not always praiseworthy and conforming to Christian principles, she came under the influence of the Franciscan preacher and moral theologian Bl. Angelo Carletti (Angelo of Chivasso; d. 1495), began to mend her ways, and became a Franciscan tertiary.
The count, who seems not to have shared P.'s newly acquired outlook, installed a mistress in their house. P. is said to have borne patiently the unspeakable pain that this caused her and in time to have effected her husband's conversion (that we are not told of a similar outcome for the mistress leads one to fear that the Beata may have been less successful in the case of this other sinner). A witness statement reportedly included in the documentation for Bl. Angelo's eighteenth-century beatification avers that at a time when the count was gravely ill P.'s prayers to Bl. Angelo led to her husband's complete recovery and to his pilgrimage immediately thereafter to A.'s tomb at Cuneo.
After her husband's death P. devoted herself to prayer, penitence, and works of charity. She is reported to have died on this day at Binaco near Milan. In the early modern period P. enjoyed a cult at Bene, Carrù, and other places in Piedmont and at Gambara holdings in Lombardy. The Franciscan convent at Bene Vagienna keeps her remains.
(last year's post revised and with the addition of Paola Gambara)
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