medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (7. March) is the feast day of:
1) Perpetua and Felicity (d. 203 ?). P. and F., those now famous martyrs of Roman Africa, have an early dossier consisting of 1) a Passio that exists in Latin and in Greek versions (BHL 6633; BHG 1482) whose relation one to another is still a little controversial and 2) a separate set of Acta that exist in Latin only but in two versions of which the first has multiple forms: the A-Acta (form 1: BHL 6634; form 2: BHL 6635) and the B-Acta (BHL 6636). Neither the Passio nor the briefer Acta are precisely dated, though the Passio, at least, is of the third century.
Because the Passio is longer and, for a variety of reasons, more interesting than the Acta, scholars have tended to act as though it were for historical purposes the primary text, more reliable than the Acta in cases of disagreement but capable of supplementation from that source when it itself is silent. Thus modern summaries of the events in question follow the Passio in assigning the martyrdom of P. and F. to the early third century, late in the reign of Septimius Severus, and sometimes do not even bother to mention that the Acta instead place these events under Valerian and Gallienus in the middle of that century. On the other hand, they are perfectly willing to accept from the Acta the datum that the town -- unnamed in the Passio -- in which P., F., and the others arrested with them was Thuburbo Minus (in the view of some, "Thuburbo" -- both Maius and Minus -- should really be spelled "Thuburdo").
Be that as it may, it would appear from these texts that P. and F. and several male companions were executed in the amphitheatre of an unnamed city (presumed to be Carthage) where they were thrown to beasts and the survivors were finished off by the sword. The Passio highlights P. by including and by placing in a prominent position what would seem to be an authentic and fairly lengthy first-person narrative of her travails and and visions. From P.'s narrative it is clear that she is is relatively well born (probably of the decurial class). P. never mentions F., who is both a slave and pregnant until just before her martyrdom, which latter in the Passio is recounted by the nameless "editor" who frames accounts by two of the victims within other matter of his own composition.
These texts constitute perhaps the first instance of a martyr narration focusing on one or more victims who are women (Blandina of Lyon's martyrdom is earlier but the letter describing it preserved by Eusebius could be later than P. and F.'s Passio and Acta). And its first-person account by a woman victim is extraordinary.
By the 430s, relics said to be those of P. and F. were venerated at Carthage's great Basilica Maiorum. We have commemorative sermons on them from St. Augustine, from an unnamed bishop of Carthage in the early fifth century, and from St. Quodvultdeus. Though their Passio survives in only a very few medieval copies, their Acta were extremely popular. Jacopo da Varazze's account in the _Legenda aurea_ is based upon one of the Acta-texts. Hence in bishop Jacopo's telling P. and F. face not the mad cow of the _Passio_ but, instead and separately, a lion (P.) and a leopard (F.).
Late fifth- or early sixth-century portraits of P. and F., looking very severe, occur in arch roundels in the cappella arcivescovile di San Andrea at Ravenna. Although clearly identifiable views of these appear not to be available on the free Web, the lettering of the accompanying inscription and its placing are so similar to what's shown in other views of these arch roundels that this image is almost certainly a reduced reproduction of P.'s portrait there:
Herewith the originally sixth-century portraits of P. and F. in the soffit of the triumphal arch of the Basilica Eufrasiana at Poreè (Parenzo) in Croatia, restored during the period 1890-1900:
A hospice dedicated to P. at today's Tirano (SO) in Lombardy's Valtellina near its border with Switzerland is attested from the twelfth century to at least the earlier thirteenth, when it was unified with the nearby house of San Remigio. An online edition of these houses' surviving charters through 1200 is here:
An illustrated, Italian-language page on the former hospice's chiesa/chiesetta di Santa Perpetua (which has twelfth-century frescoes in its apse) is here:
Other views (all exterior):
Expandable views of a late fourteenth-century portrait of P. and F. and of an early fifteenth-century portrait of F., both from illuminated French liturgical books, are here:
2) Satyrus, Saturninus, Revocatus, and Secundinus (d. 203 ?). S., S., the slave R., and S. (the last also transmitted as Secundulus) were companions in martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity. Satyrus, the group's cathechist, was the first to be arrested; his comforting vision of their reception in heaven is a noteworthy part of the Passio of P. and F. He, Saturninus, and Revocatus survived exposure to beasts and were decapitated. We are not informed as to Secundinus' end. It is usually inferred from this silence that he died in prison.
3) Eubulus of Caesarea (d. 309). According to Eusebius (_De martyribus Palaestinae_, 11. 29-31), E. (also Eubulius) and the recently celebrated St. Adrian of Caesarea had come from Manganea to aid their fellow Christians. Caesarea in Palestine's last victims of the Great Persecution, they were sentenced to suffer _ad bestias_. A. was first thrown to a lion and later finished off with a sword; E. suffered a similar fate two days later. Both E. and A. are entered under 5. March in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology. The RM now commemorates them separately on their respective _dies natales_.
4) Paul the Simple (d. ca. 339). We know about the desert father P. from accounts in the _Historia monachorum_ (cap. 24) and in Palladius' _Historia Lausiaca_ (cap. 22; summarized by Sozomen at _HEistoria ecclesiastica_, 1. 13); anecdotes attributed to him in the _Apophthegmata patrum_ contribute to an understanding of how this figure was perceived in late antique Egyptian monasticism. He is said to have been a small farmer or herdsman who after observing his wife commit adultery abandoned his former life and wandered into the desert. After a while he met St. Anthony of Egypt and through a combination of persistence and absolute obedience was accepted by the latter as his disciple. He ultimately attained to such a degree of perfection that he was blessed with visions and with the power of thaumaturgy.
Stories about P. treat him as an extraordinarily literal-minded holy fool and use his eccentric behaviors to highlight spiritual lessons. In some respects, then, he is an early monastic version of the Franciscans' Brother Juniper. A convenient example occurs at the end of this English-language translation of the chapter on P. in the _Historia monachorum_ in its Latin version by Rufinus of Aquileia, where P.'s seemingly petulant outcry to the Lord and its reward point to the lesson of Mark 9:29 (some exorcisms are possible only through prayer and fasting):
P. (at right, going off into the wilderness; his wife and her lover at left) as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century (1326-1350) copy of a French-language collection of saint's lives (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 185, fol. 177v):
5) Gaudiosus of Brescia (d. ca. 445). According to the Brescian episcopal catalogue in the sermon attributed to that city's bishop Rampertus on the occasion of the translation of bishop St. Philastrius in 834, G. was Brescia's twelfth bishop. We know nothing else about him. His successor St. Optatianus is first recorded from 451 when he signed a doctrinal letter from the synod of Milan to pope St. Leo I. In 1454 G.'s remains were discovered in a rude stone coffin in Brescia's since greatly rebuilt chiesa di Sant'Alessandro. The relics were promptly accorded a solemn recognition and G.'s cult was renewed.
Here's G. as depicted in about 1524 by Girolamo Romanino in the upper left-hand panel of his altarpiece for Sant'Alessandro (now in the National Gallery, London):
The altarpiece as a whole:
6) Ardo of Aniane (d. 843). A monk of the reformed Benedictine abbey at today's Aniane (Hérault) in Languedoc, A. succeeded its founder, St. Benedict of Aniane, in 821 as abbot of that house. In the following year, at the request of the monks of Benedict's monastery on the Inde near Aachen, A. wrote an important Vita of B. (BHL 1096).
7) Reinhard of Reinhausen (Bl.; d. after 1168). R. (also Reginhard) was a monk of Helmarshausen in today's Bad Karlshafen (Lkr. Kassel) in northern Hessen who transferred to Stablo/Stavelot in today's Belgium and who was there made head of the abbey school. In about 1130 he became the first abbot of the monastery of Reinhausen in what is now Niedersachsen.
A view of Reinhausen's former abbey church of St. Christopher, now a parish church in Gleichen, an _Ortsteil_ of Reinhausen (Lkr. Göttingen):
(last year's post revised and with the addition of Gaudiosus of Brescia)
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