medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (4. January) is the feast day of:
1) Gregory of Langres (d. 539 or 540). The chosen name-saint of St. Gregory of Tours (who had been baptized Georgius Florentius) and his maternal great-grandfather, the Gallo-Roman aristocrat G. had been count of Autun for forty years before becoming bishop of Langres after the death of his wife. Like his predecessors from at least the late fifth century onward, he resided at Dijon, where he promoted the cult of St. Benignus. While in public life G. was secretly ascetic and very devout; after his ordination he exercised humility and operated miracles of the healing and prisoner-release varieties. We learn all this from Gregory of Tours' account of him in the _Vita patrum_, cap. 7.
Expandable views of two late fifteenth-century illuminations portraying G. in breviaries for the Use of Langres are here:
2) Ferreolus of Uzès (d. 581). F. (in French, Ferréol), who seems to have been descended from an homonymous late fifth-/early sixth-century senator of Narbonne, succeeded his father St. Firminus as bishop of Uzès in about 554. His rule for the monastery he founded there is dedicated to a bishop of Die who died in 573. According to St. Gregory of Tours, F. was tolerant of Jews in his diocese. Early in his rule he endured three years of exile under Childebert I, who had recently conquered the area from the Visigothic kingdom. A church at Uzès dedicated to F. (in origin probably the church of his monastery) was destroyed by Albigensians in 1177.
3) Pharaildis (d. earlier 8th cent. ?). Also known as Pharahildis, Pharailde, Veerhilde, Veerle, etc., P. is the patron saint of G(h)ent/Gand. She has a brief, prosimetric, essentially legendary Vita (BHL 6791), said to be of the twelfth century, that makes her the daughter of a king Theodoric who ruled in the border area of Lotharingia and Gaul. Through her prayers she obtained the grace of preserving her virginity on her wedding night. Thereafter P. went nightly to a monastery. Her husband, falsely suspecting her of adultery, beat her daily (except in the year during which P. helped him recover from a nearly fatal hunting accident). After many years of this he did die and P. was free to live as a pious widow until she was nearly ninety, engaging in acts of mercy and performing miracles.
This Vita (a.k.a. P.'s Vita prima) details one miracle. P. found some wild geese in a field and herded them into a pen for the night as though they were domestic animals. One was stolen by a servant, cooked, and partially consumed. P. reconstituted it and brought back to life. As G(h)ent's Latin name-forms 'Gandum' (whence French 'Gand') and 'Gandavum' were held to derive from a word for goose (cp. English 'gander' or German 'Gans'; modern scholarship favors a derivation from a Celtic word for confluence), a patronal allegory would seem to be operative here.
Medieval Ghenters thought that P.'s remains had been in their city if not always then since at least 752, when, it was later recorded, they had been brought to that city's abbey of St. Bavo (Sint Baaf). P.'s Vita secunda, of the thirteenth century, is even more legendary, adding miracles and through a fabricated genealogy connecting her with other female patron saints of the region.
In 939 the count of Flanders obtained from the monks of St. Bavo some relics of P. for the chapel of his castle at G(h)ent. In the late twelfth century the castle (het Gravensteen) was rebuilt; during the period from 1190 to at least 1216, when it was consecrated, a collegiate church dedicated to P. was built in the immediate vicinity. This church served both the castle and members of the comital household residing nearby. It remained the comital church until 1289, was supported thereafter by wealthy burghers, maintained a school for choristers, and was deconsecrated and structurally altered in the 1580s when G(h)ent was officially Calvinist. The transept of this former Sint-Veerlekerk occupied the space that has become the privately owned dwelling at Sint-Veerleplein, nr. 2; here's a view of the rear of that building showing a stepped gable said to be a survivor from the reworked church:
The nave was transformed into houses and a smaller church that in turn gave way to the city's baroque Oude Vismijn ('Old Fishmarket'):
Archeological work in the Oude Vismijn since 2007 has revealed parts of the later medieval church's brick walls as well as a number of burials. The choir lies beneath the adjacent Kleine Vismijn.
Reliefs from the church, now in G(h)ent's Sint-Niklaaskerk, are shown in the view at lower right here (text in Flemish):
and in the upper right here (text in English):
The first two coins whose designs are reproduced here are church pennies from the Sint-Veerlekerk. The first is from the early fifteenth century and the second from 1585, perhaps the last year of the church's existence as a place of worship:
P. was widely venerated in late medieval and early modern Flanders. At Bruay-sur-l'Escaut (Nord), France, where she is said to have caused a spring to appear miraculously, the modern church of Sainte-Pharaïlde preserves a twelfth-century sculpted image of her discovered in the early 1890s when its predecessor was being demolished and generally referred to as her cenotaph:
as well as this fifteenth-century reliquary containing what are said to be relics of P.:
The village of Oostkerke in Diksmuide (West-Vlaanderen), Belgium, was destroyed in World War I. Photographs of its chiefly fifteenth-century Sint-Pharaïldiskerk or Sint-Veerlekerk taken during the war may be seen here (note the progressive deterioration of the belltower):
4) Rigobert (d. ca. 743). We know about R. principally from his late ninth-century Vita (BHL 7253) and from matter in Flodoard of Reims' _Historia Remensis ecclesiae_ not deriving from that Vita (both writers were cathedral canons at Reims; the Vita was certainly known to F.). According to these sources, R. was an abbot of Orbais who became bishop of Reims in 689 or 690, reformed the cathedral chapter, renovated the cathedral's buildings, and obtained from king Dagobert III an immunity from royal exactions. He ruled for thirty years before being removed from his see by Charles Martel for failure to support his campaign against the Neustrian army that had invaded Austrasia after the death of Pepin of Héristal.
After spending some time in Aquitaine R. was allowed to retire to the royal residence at today's Gernicourt (Aisne) in Picardy, not far removed from Reims. His successor treated the elderly bishop with respect and occasionally allowed him to conduct services in the cathedral. In 864 archbishop Hincmar translated R.'s relics from a church at Gernicourt to Reims, in effect instituting his cult.
Herewith an expandable view of a later fifteenth-century Flemish miniature (ca. 1470), in a French-language version of the _Legenda aurea_, depicting R.'s consecration as bishop (Mâcon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 3, fol. 207r):
5) Theoctist of Sicily (?). Byzantine synaxaries record T. as the hegumen of a monastery at an otherwise unrecorded Koukoumos (vel sim.) in Sicily. We have no other information about him. In Orthodox churches, where T. is widely commemorated on this day, he and his fellow monks are often said to have been refugees from iconoclastic persecution at Constantinople or, at least, somewhere in the East and are usually dated to ca. 800. But this is early modern and later conjecture, unaccompanied by documentary or archaeological evidence, as is also the view advanced by Ottavio Gaetani (d. 1620) that the monastery was located at today's Caccamo in Palermo province. T. has yet to grace the pages of the RM.
6) Libentius (d. 1013). We know about this archbishop of Bremen-Hamburg chiefly from Adam of Bremen's __Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum_ (written, 1072-1076). Adam calls him Lievizo (in German-language accounts this frequently encountered OHG name is sometimes given as Liawizo); in the list of archbishops of Bremen-Hamburg he is Libentius I (in early modern sources also spelled Lubentius). L.'s immediate predecessor, archbishop St. Adaldag (d. 988), who had been in Italy with Otto I, brought him from Rome in 965. As Otto had about this time also entrusted to Adaldag the deposed pope Benedict V, who died in Hamburg in 966, it has been surmised that L. was Benedict's companion in exile and that, like B., he came originally from Graubünden. Later Adaldag promoted L. to head of the diocesan hospice in Bremen where he served with distinction.
L. was the first archbishop of Bremen-Hamburg to be consecrated by his suffragans. He is said to have been highly educated and very upright, to have been so chaste that he avoided the company of women, to have been pale from fasting, and to have lived monastically as though one of the brothers. L. actively visited communities in his huge diocese, holding them strictly to the Rule. He continued his work in the hospice (which in addition to serving travelers fed twenty-four paupers daily), though its administration was handed over to a nephew also named Lievizo. He continued to support the archdiocese's missionary work in Denmark and, until this was rolled back by pagan uprisings, in Slavic territories to the east.
In L.'s time raids by Danish and Swedish pirates were frequent in the Saxon coastlands. According to Adam, not only was Bremen fortified by a very stout wall (this is thought to have defended the cathedral precinct rather than the town as a whole) but L. also smote the pirates with the sword of anathema. Whether these defended themselves with the buckler of indifference is not recorded. L. has yet to grace the pages of the RM. Benedictines commemorate him on this day, his _dies natalis_.
7) Angela of Foligno (Bl.; d. 1309). The Umbrian ascetic and mystic A. (in Latin, Angela de Fulgineo) was a literate, well-to-do married woman with several sons when in 1285 she began a spiritual conversion under Franciscan guidance. In 1291, with everyone in her immediate family now dead, she became a Franciscan tertiary and began to experience a series of intense visions communicated to her confessor, Brother A., and recorded by him in his _Memorial_ completed in 1296. Other companions/disciples recorded further utterances which, posthumously collected and edited under the title of _Instructions_, joined the _Memorial_ in what we now know as the _Book of Angela of Foligno_. This was quickly approved by her Order; at least twenty-eight manuscripts testify to its diffusion, which was not limited to Franciscan houses.
Here's A. as depicted in a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century copy if this work (Milan, Biblioteca Trivulziana, cod. 150, fol. 17):
There's a larger reproduction on the upper cover of Giulia Barone and Jacques Dalarun, eds., Angèle de Foligno: le dossier (Rome: Ecole franç̧aise de Rome, 1999; Collection de l’Ecole française de Rome, 255).
A.'s relics reside in Foligno's chiesa di San Francesco. Until 1856 they were kept in a compartment in the sixteenth-century wooden statue shown here:
Now they're in an effigy reliquary:
Foligno was celebrating A.'s feast by 1535; in 1701 an Office for her was granted to the clergy of Foligno and to the Conventual Franciscans.
(last year's post revised and with the additions of Ferreolus of Uzès and Libentius -- apropos those additions, your correspondent wishes to disclose that he once owned property in the Uzège and that his mother-in-law was Bremisch by birth and upbringing)
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