medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (5. March) is the feast day of:
1) Conon the Gardener (d. 250 or 251, supposedly). According to the legendary, pre-metaphrastic Bios of St. Conon the Isaurian (BHG 2079) and to Byzantine synaxary accounts, today's C. (also C. of Palestine) was a gardener (vegetable farmer) on the imperial estate at Magydos in Pamphylia who suffered martyrdom during the Decian persecution. When brought before the examining magistrate, he is said to have identified himself as being of Nazareth in Galilee and of the family of Christ. Some interpret that statement as intended literally rather than metaphorically and identify today's C. with the Palestinian martyr of this name commemorated in the early (pre-Byzantine) liturgical calendar from Palestine preserved in a Georgian-language version in the tenth-century _Codex sinaiticus_ 34. In these sources C. is further said to have had nails driven into his feet and to have been forced to run ahead of a chariot until the torture killed him.
2) Lucius I, pope (d. 254). Perhaps a native of Rome (the _Liber Pontificalis_ says he was), L. succeeded St. Cornelius in June of 253. The ongoing persecution of the emperor Trebonianus Gallus forced him into an exile that was sufficiently severe for St. Cyprian of Carthage, in one of his letters to L., to call him a martyr. L. returned to the Eternal City upon the accession of the emperor Valerian in August of the same year. He seems to have followed his predecessor's policy of readmitting, after a penance, Christians who had apostasized during the recent persecution.
Despite the assertion of the _Liber Pontificalis_ that L. suffered martyrdom by beheading, his absence from the _Depositio martyrum_ of the Chronographer of 354 (which latter, lacunose though it is, does record martyred bishops of Rome), his entry in the same source's _Depositio episcoporum_ (confessor bishops), and the fact that the edicts underlying the Valerianic persecution postdate L.'s passing by several years conduce to the belief that this pope died a confessor.
L. was buried in the crypt of the popes in the Cemetery of Callistus. The portion of the brief identifying inscription at his resting place bearing his name (Loukis, in Greek as were all the burial inscriptions at this site) was found during de Rossi's excavation of this chamber in the later nineteenth century. An illustrated, English-language page on the site is here:
In 821 Paschal I translated L. to his newly renovated Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. His relics are still there except for his head, which is said to have been translated to Denmark in about 1100 and to have been placed in Roskilde's then wooden cathedral. L., who was believed to have died a martyr, became the diocese of Roskilde's patron saint; when the present (ex-)cathedral, the Roskilde Domkirke, was built starting in the late twelfth century it was dedicated to him. Here's L. as depicted on what is said to be the cathedral's oldest surviving seal:
An illustrated, English-language page on the Roskilde Domkirke:
An illustrated, Danish-language page on the same church:
What is believed to be L.'s head now reposes in this early twentieth-century (1910) reliquary bust in Roskilde's Roman Catholic cathedral of St. Ansgar:
Until the rearrangement of the Roman Calendar promulgated in 1969 L.'s feast day fell on 4. March, the day on which he occurs in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology. The present date of his commemoration is that of his laying to rest as given in the aforementioned _Depositio episcoporum_ and in the so-called Liberian Catalogue (another fourth-century list preserved by the Chronographer of 354).
3) Phocas the Gardener (?). P. is a famous early martyr of whom, like so many early martyrs, very little is actually known. Our first account of him, the fourth-century Asterius of Amasea's _Homily 9_, tells us that P. was born at Sinope in Pontus (today's Sinop, about halfway along Turkey's Black Sea coast), that he lived as a rustic gardener outside a gate of that city, and that, though poor, he was generous in his hospitality. During an unspecified persecution, agents of the Roman state arrived at P.'s house looking for P., whom they intended to slay as he was a known Christian. But they didn't know what he looked like. P. offered them hospitality and promised that on the following day he would point out to them the man they sought. The agents accepted this offer. While they slept P. dug his own grave.
On the next day P. revealed his identity to his guests and asked them to slay him quickly. Overcoming their initial amazement, the agents rapidly complied by decapitating him. Thus far Asterius, who adds that other places venerate P. and have sought some relics of him; further, that he is a patron of sailors, often seen by them at night when a storm has been expected.
The poor gardener or other small-farmer outside the city is familiar character in Hellenistic literature. And the association with sailors depends on the similarity of P.'s name with the Greek word for seal (the mammal), 'phokos'. All one can say about P. from Asterius' homily is that he was a martyr venerated at Sinope and elsewhere. According to Asterius, one of the elsewheres was Rome; according to John Chrysostom, another was Constantinople. Epigraphic and other evidence shows P.'s cult to have been widespread in the East from at least the fifth century onward. To judge from toponyms and other indicia from the Salentine Peninsula and from Calabria, it was also firmly rooted in Greek-speaking southern Italy. Symeon the Metaphrast adopted Asterius' account wholesale, thus reinforcing the megalomartyr P.'s popularity in the central and later medieval Greek and other Orthodox world.
An undated Greek Passio (BHG 1536, 1536c), later than Asterius, makes P. a bishop of Sinope martyred under Trajan. This highly legendary account spawned both a Latin Passio (BHL 6838) as well as matter in the historical martyrologies of Bede, Florus, and Ado, all entered under 14. July, the date provided by one of the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology's less informative entries, _alibi s. Focae episcopi_ ('elsewhere, St. Phocas the bishop'). P. was commemorated on that date in the RM until its revision of 2001, when his elogium was moved to today to replace another, also deriving from the (ps.-)HM, of a P. said to have suffered at Antioch. P. is the patron saint of today's Francavilla Angitola (VV) in Calabria, one of whose medievally attested forerunners was a San Foca. He is figured in mosaic (thirteenth-century) in the atrium of Venice's basilica di San Marco. A greatly reduced reproduction is here:
and a larger one (in black and white) is in the _Bibliotheca Sanctorum_ at vol. 5, col. 947.
In the 1990s the appearance of mosaic fragments along the shore near Sinop led to the discovery on a nearby sea cliff of what were pronounced to be the remains of P.'s fourth-century major cult site. A follow-up announcement from January 2003 will be found on this page:
4) Adrian of Caesarea (d. 309). A. is a martyr of Caesarea in Palestine. According to Eusebius (_De martyribus Palaestinae_, 11. 29-31), he and St. Eubulus (7. March) had come from Manganea to aid their fellow Christians. Caesarea's last victims of the Great Persecution, they were sentenced to suffer _ad bestias_. A., whose _dies natalis_ is today, was thrown to a lion and later was put to death with a sword (whether untouched by the lion or horribly mutilated, Eusebius fails to say). Still according to Eusebius, E. was martyred two days later.
Both A. and E. are entered under today in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology. The RM now commemorates E. on his _dies natalis_.
5) Gerasimus of Palestine (d. 475). According to his probably later sixth-century early Bios (BHG 693), G. (also G. of the Jordan, G. of Lycia) was born in Lycia, became a monk and then an hermit, and in about 451 settled down in Palestine at a location near the Dead Sea. In about 475 he moved to a place about a mile from the Jordan and founded there a cenobitic monastery with hermitages as well for those who wished to live apart (but who had to partake in the life of the community from Saturday to Monday). During Lent G. would break his fast only with the Eucharist. Thus far G.'s Vita, which is thought to have been a product of someone at his monastery.
In chapter 107 of his _Leimon_ (in English usually called _The Spiritual Meadow_) John Moschus relates how G. removed a thorn from the paw of a lion, how the lion lived with his benefactor for five years until G.'s death, and how the beast then died of grief at G.'s tomb. This tale is widely considered ancestral to the story of St. Jerome and his lion.
G. (at left) as depicted in the earlier thirteenth-century (1230s) frescoes in the narthex of the church of the Ascension of Our Lord in the Mileševa monastery near Prijepolje (Zlatibor dist.) in southern Serbia:
G. at left, with his lion, as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century (ca. 1311-ca. 1322) frescoes of the church of St. Nicholas Orphanos in Thessaloniki:
G. with his lion (the latter only partly preserved) as depicted in the early sixteenth-century (1502) frescoes by Dionisy and sons in the Virgin Nativity cathedral of the St. Ferapont Belozero (Ferapontov Belozersky) monastery at Ferapontovo in Russia's Vologda oblast:
6) Ciaran the elder (d. ca. 530?). C. (also Kieran). In legend (which is really all we have), C. either was already active as a missionary in Ireland before the arrival of St. Patrick or else was one of the twelve bishops whom P. consecrated in Ireland to assist him in his work. He is said to have been born in Ossory and to have retired to an hermitage, where he lived in the company of a boar, a fox, a badger, a wolf, a hind, and a fawn. This Peaceable Kingdom furnished the _dramatis personae_ for various instructive stories transmitted in C.'s Vitae. In time, C. attracted human followers to his retreat, which then developed into the monastery of Saighir (Seir Kieran).
Some views of the remains of the round tower at Seir Keiran (County Offaly) are here:
7) Piran (d. 6th cent., supposedly). P. (also Peran, Perran) is the patron saint of Cornwall. His cult is first attested from 960. The Domesday Book records a large minster dedicated to him at Perranzabuloe in Penhallow, staffed by canons. This came into the possession of Exeter Cathedral, for whom P.'s surviving Vita seems to have been written in the thirteenth century. His relics at Perranzabuloe were the object of pilgrimage as late as 1558. Since the Vita was calqued on that of Ciaran the elder (no. 6, above), we really know very little about the historical P.
In the late eighteenth century the remains of an early medieval oratory dedicated to P. were uncovered near the shore at Perranzabuloe. Fragments of it are in the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. Here's an account with a view of the site:
A second church dedicated to P. was built, also near the coast, in the twelfth century and was enlarged in 1462. Encroaching sands caused it too to be abandoned (the present church, also dedicated to P., dates from the early nineteenth century). An account and some views:
Another Cornish dedication to P. is the modern church of St(s. Michael and) Piran at Perranuthnoe, with various carved stones from a twelfth-century predecessor:
P. has yet to grace the pages of the RM.
(last year's post revised and with the addition of Gerasimus of Palestine)
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