medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (31. January) is the feast day of:
1) Cyrus and John (?). C. and J. are saints first venerated either at Alexandria or at nearby Menouthis. The circumstances surrounding the origin of their cult at the latter site have long been controversial. They were viewed there as healers, as the locally venerated Isis had also been. In the sixth and seventh centuries their shrine at Menouthis, which operated largely by incubation, was a major pilgrimage destination. In the earlier seventh century St. Sophronius of Jerusalem wrote both an Encomium of C. and J. (BHG 476) and an account of their Miracles (BHG 479). The Encomium makes C. a monk who practiced healing and J. a former military officer who became his companion; both were martyred, Sophronius says, at Canopus under Domitian. C. was always thought of as having been from Alexandria; one tradition made J. a Syrian from Edessa.
In the 870s the papal secretary Anastasius Bibliothecarius translated Sophronius' Encomium of C. and J. into Latin (BHL 2077; called a Passio) and together with Bonifatius Consiliarius produced a Latin translation of their Miracula (BHL 2080). By this time relics said to be those of C. and J. had been translated to Rome, where they were deposited in a little church on the Via Portuensis that came to be known as that of Abba Cyrus and that is now Santa Passera. There being no Saint Passera, the present name is thought to be that of Abba Cyrus transmogrified.
C. as depicted in a seventh-century fresco in Rome's Santa Maria Antiqua:
C., Christ, and J. as depicted in a thirteenth-century fresco in the apse of the upper church of Santa Passera:
Illustrated, Italian-language accounts of Santa Passera are here:
and here (much better views):
The martyrdom of C. and J. (at right; St. Sampson the Hospitable at left) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (betw. 1335 and 1350) frescoes of the narthex in the church of the Holy Ascension at the Visoki Deèani monastery near Peæ in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
In the later seventeenth century C. became a saint of the Regno when St. Francesco de Girolamo brought important relics of him to Naples. From there, at various times, relics of C. went to Portici (NA) in Campania, where he is the patron saint, and to Marineo (PA) in northwestern Sicily, where he is also the patron saint and whose principal church houses a skull said to be his:
, as well as to Grottaglie (TA) in southern Apulia, and to Foggia (FG) in northern Apulia, which latter has what is said to be C.'s lower jaw.
2) Abraham of Arbela (d. 345). We know about the Mesopotamian martyr A. (also Abraam, Abram, etc.) chiefly from his Passio in Syriac (BHO 12; Greek-language translation: BHG 10). In the fourth year of the Persian king Shapur II's persecution of Christians in his domains he was elected bishop of Arbela (today's Erbil in Iraq) to succeed the martyred John (d. 1. November 344). Zoroastrian priests who were enforcing the persecution arrested A. in his turn and brought him before a chief priest who offered him the opportunity to recant and to offer ritual sacrifice to the Sun. A. declined to do this and was decapitated. Today is his _dies natalis_.
3) Geminian of Modena (d. ca. 396). Though almost nothing is known for certain about the historical G., it is probable that he was the bishop Geminianus who took part in a north Italian synod in 390 under the presidency of St. Ambrose of Milan. From the early Middle Ages onward he has been patron of the Emilian city of Modena (initially sole patron, he now shares honors with the twelfth-century lay saint Homobonus of Cremona). An early Vita (BHL 3296; ca. 900) modeled on that of St. Zeno of Verona) and an expanded longer one (BHL 3297) now thought to be of the mid-eleventh century) are both quite unreliable.
In the final decade of the ninth century, when Modena was under threat of attack from Hungarian raiders, someone there composed two versions, probably drafts of a work undergoing revision, of a Latin verse prayer to G. seeking his protection against this new scourge just as he had (legendarily) saved Modena's inhabitants during the time of Attila (incipit: _Confessor Christi, pie dei famule_). These together with the so-called "Song for the Watchmen of Modena" (incipit: _O tu qui servas armis ista moenia_) preserved in the same Modenese manuscript are known collectively as the _Carmina mutinensia_. Their classic treatment is that of Aurelio Roncaglia, "Il 'Canto delle scolte modenesi,'" _Cultura neolatina_ 8 (1948), 5-46 and 205-22.
In 1099 work began on Modena's present cathedral, dedicated to G. and today the cynosure of Modena's Piazza Grande, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In this panoramic view the cathedral is the second building on the left:
An aerial view:
A timeline of the cathedral's history:
An Italian-language Wikipedia page on this church with expandable views (esp. good for the pontile):
Further exterior views:
The cycle of reliefs on the Porta dei Principi showing episodes from G.'s legendary voyage to the East to cure the daughter of emperor (who in the reliefs is called 'rex'):
Further interior views:
Various views (mostly sculptural details):
More (including relief sculptures from the cathedral now in the Museo del duomo):
The later fourteenth-century (1376) bronze statue of G. in Modena's Museo del duomo (formerly in the loggia over the cathedral's Porta Regia):
On 30. April 1106 G.'s remains were brought to the cathedral and placed in the crypt:
Which is where they remain today, in this fourth-century sarcophagus:
But G. doesn't look too healthy:
On 7. and 8. October of the same year Paschal II, in the presence of the cathedral's great patron, Matilda of Canossa, and of various ecclesiastical dignitaries, conducted a solemn recognition of G.'s relics and then consecrated the cathedral's high altar. A twelfth-century manuscript in Modena (Archivio capitolare, ms. O.II.11) containing an account of this translation offers several illuminations, including this one of G. in his tomb:
Said account (_Relatio translationis corporis Sancti Geminiani_; BHL 3302) was edited by Giulio Bertoni in _Rerum Italicarum Scriptores_, n.s., vol. 6, pt. 1 (1907), where in one of several valuable appendices (another has an edition of the _Carmina mutinensia_) black-and-white versions of the illuminations occur between pages 22 and 23:
The cathedral itself was consecrated in 1184 by Lucius II. Among its liturgical treasures is the very fine rhymed late twelfth- or thirteenth-century Office for G. edited by Giuseppe Vecchi in his "S. Geminiano nella lirica della liturgia modenese," _Miscellanea di Studi Muratoriani_ (Modena: Aedes Muratoriana, 1951), pp. 524-38.
G.'s cult spread widely in northern Italy, e.g. to Tuscany, where San Gimignano (SI; previously Silvia and until relatively recently San Geminiano) was named for him in gratitude for his protection of that town from marauding Huns and where Pontremoli (MS) also claims him as its patron saint, and to Umbria, where G. is the patron saint of San Gemini (TR). Back in Emilia, G. is the titular of the originally ninth-century chiesa di San Geminiano at Vicofertile (PR) on the Via Francigena, largely rebuilt in the early thirteenth century:
The Fitzwilliam's page on its Simone Martini (and workshop) altarpiece of Sts. Geminian, Michael, and Augustine (ca. 1319) is here (expandable enlargement at bottom):
4) Marcella of Rome (d. 410). We know about M. from the correspondence of St. Jerome, especially from Letter 16 (BHL 5222). A wealthy Roman aristocrat, she was orphaned early, married young, and in six months was a widow. Very pious, she refused an advantageous second marriage, studied Holy Writ, and opened her house on the Aventine to visiting churchmen whose conversation led her both to adopt a monastic existence and to promote monasticism among other great ladies of the city, some of whom she gathered into a community centered on her house. In 382 Jerome became their spiritual advisor; M. stayed in contact with him after his departure for Palestine. She was killed during the Gothic sack of Rome by looters who could not accept that the shabbily dressed old woman living with others in her great mansion was actually poor.
5) Julius, venerated in the diocese of Novara (d. earlier 5th cent. ?). J.'s cult, which is centered on the island named for him in the Lago d'Orta in Piedmont, is not attested before the eighth century, the earliest possible date for his oldest Vita (BHL 4557). Making him a priest and giving him a brother named Julian who was a deacon, this account presents the two as Greeks from Aegina who in the reign of an emperor Theodosius (whether the first or the second is not clear) left their homeland and traveled to Italy for the purpose of spreading Christianity. After spending some time time in Rome they moved on today's Piedmont, where they established many churches and finally settled down on the aforementioned island. Though the eighth-century Paul the Deacon calls that latter that "of St. Julian", their medieval cult centers on Julius to such an extent that his perhaps fictitious brother has never graced the pages of the RM.
J.'s relics are preserved in the much rebuilt basilica di San Giulio on the Isola di San Giulio, Orta San Giulio (NO), in Piedmont. An Italian-language account of this church is here:
Older views are here:
Distance views (recent):
Expandable views of the early twelfth-century ambo:
J.'s effigy reliquary:
An illustrated, Italian-language page on the originally eleventh-century oratorio di San Giulio at Cressa (NO) in the same province:
The twelfth-century apses of the since largely rebuilt chiesa di San Giulio at the Badia di Dulzago in Bellinzago Novarese (NO):
6) Máedóc of Ferns (d. 625?). The Irishman M. (also Mogue and Áedán, Aidan, Edan, etc.; the name is formed on Áed and in the Latin of the Bollandists he is chiefly Aidus) is the largely legendary protobishop of Ferns (Fearna; county Wexford). He has a rich and colorful hagiography in Latin (Vita: BHL 184-186) and in Irish and he figures in the Lives of several other saints (most notably David of St Davids). Both of his parents are said to have received marvelous dreams presaging his birth. At the core of his posthumous construction is an extremely ascetic abbot-bishop and thaumaturge. By the twelfth century the center of his cult was at the abbey of Drumlane (in Milltown, county Cavan); in the fifteenth century it was at Rossinver (county Leitrim).
Views of the remains of the originally thirteenth-century cathedral of Ferns:
Views of the twelfth-/fifteenth-century remains of Drumlane abbey:
(last year's post revised and with the additions of Abraham of Arbela and Máedóc of Ferns)
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