medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (23. June) is the feast day of:
1) Agrippina of Rome (d. ca. 256, supposedly). Said legendarily to have been a virgin martyr of Rome put to death in the reign of Valerian (253-60), A. is unknown to the early medieval Latin-language martyrologies. Whereas her cult has traveled widely, she is essentially an Italo-Greek saint of Sicily principally venerated at today's Mineo (CT) on the northeastern edge of the Monti Iblei.
A.'s legend is attested to by a Latin-language Translation from Rome to Mineo (BHL 173; thought to be of the later eleventh or twelfth century and derived from a Greek-language predecessor) as well as by a Greek-language Office, Canon, and brief _menaion_ entry, all transmitted in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century printed sources drawing upon older Sicilian manuscripts. These together form a reasonably coherent dossier suggesting that her legend, as we now have it, goes back as least as far the eighth century (possibly earlier if a post-mortem miracle said to have occurred during a Muslim raid is a later accretion). For a popularly written English-language synopsis, see:
A. is said to have been brought to Mineo shortly after her death and to have been buried at a spot where a church was later erected in her honor. This will have been the Byzantine-period ancestor of Mineo's present chiesa di Santa Agrippina, an originally fourteenth-century structure severely damaged in the great earthquake of 1693 and extensively rebuilt in the following century (the three apses are medieval survivals). An illustrated, Italian-language page on this building is here:
Another Italian-language account (of which the adjacent English-language text is an inept and reductivist approximation):
Views showing medieval construction:
At some point in the central Middle Ages A.'s cult reached Constantinople; from there it spread as far as Russia. In the Latin West, an offshoot appears to have developed in Köln (Cologne; the Roman _Colonia Agrippina_), where the sequence _Gaude felix Agrippina_, reportedly addressed to the saint and not, in contradistinction to the hymn with this incipit in the archdiocese's modern propers, to the city, occurs in a combination gradual-antiphoner (Erzbischöfliche Diözesan- und Dombibliothek, Ms. 226) prepared in 1353-58 and presented in the latter year to that city's Stift Sancta Maria ad Gradus.
A. is a patron of both Köln and Mineo. Sicilian emigrants to the U.S. brought her cult to Boston (MA), where she is now the focus of a major festival every August (late August is also when her _patronale_ occurs at Mineo). A. was dropped from the RM in its revision of 2001. Today is her feast day in Sicilian dioceses of the Roman Catholic church and in Orthodox churches worldwide.
2) Etheldreda (d. 679). E. (Æthelthryth, Audrey, Ediltrudis) was the third daughter of a king of the East Angles. An apparently chaste first marriage to an Anglian ealdorman ended after three years with the husband's death. After another five years had passed E. was married in 660 to the fifteen-year-old son and heir apparent of the king of Northumbria. By the time he succeeded to the throne a decade later E., determined to remain a virgin, was being counseled spiritually by St. Wilfrid. In about 672 she became a nun at Coldingham, where her aunt St. Ebbe was abbess, and in the following year she founded a monastery of her own on her estates at Ely. Before 678, when her husband finally divorced her, she had given Wilfrid the estate on which he founded his monastery at Hexham.
When E. died (of plague) she had been abbess for only seven years. In 695 her sister St. Sexburga (Seaxburh), who had succeeded her as abbess, oversaw in Wilfrid's presence the translation of E.'s allegedly incorrupt remains from the nuns' cemetery to a sarcophagus near the high altar of the abbey church. E. is the first saint of England whose entire body was declared so to have been miraculously preserved, though St. Cuthbert would furnish another instance only a few years later (698). Not only her tomb but also her coffin and her original burial clothes were held to be wonder-working.
E.'s cult survived in fine style both the Norman Conquest and the short-lived revolt based on Ely that followed a few years after. In 1106 she was translated to a new shrine in the choir of the rebuilt abbey church, soon (1109) to be Ely Cathedral. New Vitae and miracle collections were written. E.'s shrine remained popular until its destruction during the Dissolution.
E. (at left) as depicted on fol. 90v of the so-called Benedictional of St Æthelwold (ca. 973; London, BL, Add MS 49598), with a benediction commencing on fol. 91r:
The benediction continues on fols. 91v-92r:
Mural painting of E. (mid-thirteenth-century), St Mary and All Saints Church, Willingham (Cambs):
Four scenes from E.'s life (panel paintings, ca. 1455; image expandable), courtesy of the Society of Antiquaries of London:
Exterior and interior views (expandable) of Ely Cathedral are here:
More views (also expandable) here, starting about one third of the way down the page:
Capital with scenes from E.'s first marriage:
The Sacred Destinations page on Ely Cathedral and that page's accompanying photo gallery:
Some views of St Etheldreda's Church in London, built in the later thirteenth century as the chapel of the London residence of the bishops of Ely:
Two other dedications to E.:
a) Her originally eleventh- to fifteenth-century church at White Notley (Essex). Description:
b) Her originally eleventh-/twelfth- to fourteenth-century church at Horley (Oxon). Views:
3) Lietbert of Cambrai (d. 1076). L. (also Liébert, Liebert, Libert) is Lietbert I in the numeration of the bishops of Cambrai-Arras. In 1051 he succeeded his uncle, bishop Gerhard I, who had educated him and later promoted him through various offices to the provostship of the cathedral chapter and archdeacon of Cambrai. Late in life L. led a difficult pilgrimage to the Holy Land that got as far as Laodicea in Syria before having to turn back because Muslim authorities were said to be denying Christians access to the shrines in Jerusalem. His probably very late eleventh-century Vita (BHL 4929) by Raoul of Saint-Sépulchre (a monastery at Cambrai founded by L.) details this disappointing journey at considerable length. L. promoted monastic reform in his diocese. He has yet to grace the pages of the RM.
A recent study on L. as bishop and as count of Cambrai: John S. Ott, "'Both Mary and Martha': Bishop Lietbert of Cambrai and the Construction of Episcopal Sanctity in a Border Diocese around 1100," in _The Bishop Reformed: Studies of Episcopal Power and Culture in the Central Middle Ages_, ed. John S. Ott and Anna Trumbore Jones (London: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 137-60. Excerpts from Raoul's Vita are here in an English-language translation by the same scholar:
4) Lanfranc of Pavia (Bl.; d. 1194). Unlike his better known homonym of about a century earlier, this L. of Pavia was a theologian who never went to Bec or to Canterbury but who instead became bishop in his home town of Pavia. According to his Vita et Miracula by his successor, the jurist Bernard of Pavia (BHL 4723-4724), he was charitable to the poor, a protector of widows and orphans, assiduous and effective in recovering church property that had been alienated, a prudent defender of the faith, and a scourge of heretics; his enemies thought him proud and cruel. He fought continuously with with Pavia's communal government over ecclesiastical property and ecclesiastical rights, was exiled, took refuge in the Vallombrosan monastery of San Sepolcro within the city, later fled to Rome, and was restored by the diplomacy of Clement III.
When later a new government renewed its struggle with the bishop, L. attempted to resign. He moved from his palace to San Sepolcro but died before he could fulfil his intention of becoming a Vallombrosan monk. Today is L.'s _dies natalis_. Miracles followed his burial at San Sepolcro and a cult arose. When in the first half of the thirteenth century the monks of San Sepolcro built a new church (utilizing some of the previous structure) it was dedicated to L. and consecrated by the local bishop. L. has never been papally canonized. In the RM he's a Beatus.
Illustrated, Italian-language accounts of Pavia's chiesa di San Lanfranco:
L. now reposes there in a tomb sculpted by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo commissioned in 1498 and completed after February 1508:
L. as depicted (enthroned, between St. John the Baptist
and St. Liberius) by Giovanni Battista Cima (a.k.a. Cima da Conegliano) in a panel painting of ca. 1515-1516 now in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge:
The Fitzwilliam's page on this painting:
5) Mary of Oignies (Bl.; d. 1213). M. was the daughter of wealthy parents at Nivelles in the diocese of Liège. Forced to marry at the age of fourteen, she persuaded her husband to accept a chaste marriage and to join her in service to local lepers. In time M. became an hermit and a visionary. She attracted disciples and in 1207 she and her fellow beguines moved to Oignies in what is now Belgian Hainaut, where they continued their work with lepers under the spiritual guidance of the canons of the Augustinian priory of St. Nicholas. Links to Latin texts of her Vitae by Jacques de Vitry and by Thomas de Cantimpré are here:
While we're on the subject of Oignies, herewith two illustrated accounts, one in French and one in English, of the Trésor d'Hugo d'Oignies (made for a prior of St. Nicholas of Oignies within twenty years of Marie's death):
(last year's post revised)
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