medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (24. June) is the feast day of:
1) The Nativity of John the Baptist, Forerunner of the Lord (d. 1st cent.). Spanning our period, herewith a late antique portrait of J. and a late medieval and Renaissance church dedicated to him:
a) An icon (encaustic; sixth-century) of J. the Forerunner from St. Catherine's, Sinai, now in the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Arts in Kyiv/Kiev:
b) A French-language page, with expandable views, on the originally fifteenth-/sixteenth-century église Saint-Jean-Baptiste at Saint-Jean-de-Losne (Côte-d'Or) in Bourgogne:
Some depictions of J.'s nativity:
a) in the ninth-century Gospels of Louis the Pious (Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 9388, fol. 102r):
b) at bottom left in an eleventh -or twelfth-century menologium of undetermined origin (Paris, BnF, ms. Grec 1528, fol. 197r):
c) in a later twelfth-century (1178-1190) Coptic-language Gospels from Damietta (Paris, BnF, ms. Copte 13, fol. 138v):
d) in a late thirteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 65r); differently sized views are accessible from the top of this page:
e) in the earlier fourteenth-century vault frescoes (1330s) of the diaconicon in the church of the Hodegetria in the Patriarchate of Peć at Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:
f) in an earlier fourteenth-century (ca. 1326-1350) French-language collection of saint's Lives (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 185, fol. 72r):
g) in an earlier fourteenth-century copy (1348) of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 141r):
h) in a fourteenth-century gradual from an unidentified Dominican house (Karlsruhe, Badische Bibliothek, cod. St. Peter perg. 49, fol. 81v):
i) in a panel of Rogier van der Weyden's St. John Altarpiece (ca. 1455-1460) in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin:
The altarpiece's three panels (views greatly expandable):
j) in a late fifteenth-century copy (ca. 1480-1490) of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 244, fol. 174r):
And here's the naming of J. as depicted by Beato Angelico in a fresco (ca. 1434-1435) in the Museo nazionale di San Marco in Florence:
According to the later second-century infancy gospel generally known as the _Protevangelium Jacobi_ (22. 3), at the time of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents Herod sought to kill J. as well but was prevented by St. Elizabeth, who hid with her son in a mountain cave while an angel watched over them. Representations of this legendary event are called the Flight of Elizabeth. Some instances:
a) on a later sixth-century pyx in the Musée du Louvre in Paris:
b) in a wall painting neither whose location nor whose date are known to me:
I can guess but can anyone say with certainty where this painting is to be found?
c) in an earlier fourteenth-century mosaic (betw. 1315 and 1321) in the exonarthex of the Chora Church in Istanbul:
In recent years "saints of the day" has used the feast of J.'s decollation (29. August) as a collecting point for medievally pertinent visuals of J. But today too provides an opportunity for subscribers to this list to chip in with favorite images of J. or with views of buildings dedicated to him, as Marjorie Greene did two years ago with a French-language virtual tour of the primatiale Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Lyon:
Did you know that John the Forerunner T-shirts are available? Herewith some views:
2) John and Festus (?). J. and F. are poorly attested Roman martyrs mentioned in the legendary Passiones of Marcellus, Bibiana, Pigmenius, and John and Paul and whose first clearly datable testimonia appear in earlier seventh-century sources (the catalogue of lamp oils gathered for queen Theodolinda from the tombs of the martyrs; the itineraries prepared for pilgrims to Rome). At that time they had a martyrium on the Via Salaria vetus in a cemetery identified both as _ad Septem Palumbas_ and _in Clivum cucumeris_): this had a surface-level church called _ad caput s. Iohannis_ because it contained what was said to be J.'s head, whereas F.'s relics were in an underground chamber.
3) Simplicius of Autun (d. late 4th or early 5th cent.). A bishop of Autun of this name is recorded from 374 and again in 418. One of these is today's saint, recorded in St. Gregory of Tours' _In gloria confessorum_, cap. 75, where we learn that S. was living in complete chastity with his wife when he was elected bishop, that they continued thereafter to live together, and that he evangelized among pagans in his diocese. The seemingly very late seventh- or early eighth-century (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology gives today as the commemoration of S.'s laying to rest.
4) Rumold (d. ca. 775). According to his probably late eleventh-century Passio (BHL 7381) by Theodoric of Saint-Trond, R. (also Rombout) was an Irishman who was ordained priest at Rome and whom divine providence then sent to the vicinity of Mechelen/Malines, where he performed miracles, converted many to Christianity, and founded a monastery before being captured by barbarians and slain at Saint-Trond (where, says Theodoric, his relics truly are). Later legend made him the son of a Scottish king who before his arrival in Flanders had been an archbishop in Ireland. Modern opinion is divided between R.'s having been an insular missionary or simply a local hermit. When in 1775 the skull said to be his was examined it was found to have sustained what was considered a lethal blow to the cranium.
R.'s putative relics were translated at some point in the central Middle Ages to Mechelen/Malines, where they were preserved at a collegiate church dedicated to him. This building, begun in the thirteenth century, became the city's cathedral in 1559. Herewith a few views:
A view of R.'s early nineteenth-century reliquary shrine behind the main altar:
An expandable view of a panel painting from the 1490s depicting R. baptizing his successor, St. Libertus:
5) Theodulf of Lobbes (d. 776). In about the year 750 T. became the fifth abbot-bishop of Lobbes in today's Belgian Hainaut. During his roughly a quarter century in office he greatly increased the abbey's possessions. It was at his behest that Anso of Lobbes (who succeeded him as abbot) wrote his Vitae of his recent predecessors the sainted abbots Ursmar and Ermin. T. was the last abbot of Lobbes to have been _chorepiscopus_ as well.
According to Folcwin's tenth-century _Gesta abbatum Laubiensium_, when at some later date the abbey was importuned to transfer to Laon its relics of St. Ermin it elected to send instead the body of abbot-bishop T., who was not yet recognized as a saint. At Laon T. was venerated as St. Ermin but when after a while the pseudo-Ermin had produced few or no miracles he was returned to Lobbes. On the return trip T. performed miracles at Valenciennes and so was finally recognized as a saint under his own name.
Today is T.'s _dies natalis_. Though he is entered for this date in some medieval martyrologies, competition from St. John the Baptist caused late medieval Lobbes to celebrate him on 25. June.
6) Gohard (d. 843). Several chronicles record the slaying of G. (in Latin, Gunhardus and Gohardus), bishop of Nantes, by Northmen who raided that city and the surrounding area on St. John's day in 843. Today, being his _dies natalis_, is his day of commemoration in the RM; at Nantes, competition from St. John the Baptist has caused him to be celebrated liturgically on 25. June. Here's an illustrated, French-language page on his chapel in a later fifteenth-century section of the cathedral of Nantes:
Links to the chapters of the cathedral's own illustrated guide to this mostly fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century building are here:
7) Theodgar (d. 11th cent.). T. (in Latin, Thugarus; in Danish, Thøger) is the saint of Vestervig Abbey and the fairly legendary apostle of North Jutland. Venerated in the former diocese of Vendsyssel (later, Børglum) from at least the twelfth century onward, he is first attested in the historical record by an incompletely preserved miracle collection from ca. 1200 (BHL 8069b). A legend making him a missionary from Thüringen who worked in Denmark and who built the first church in a town whose name is not provided occurs in the Vita (BHL 8068) in T.'s probably thirteenth-/fourteenth-century metrical Office. A Vita in a somewhat later Office (BHL 8069) has him go first to England and then to Norway, where he is said to have been chaplain to king (St.) Olaf, and localizes his settlement at Vestervig.
T.'s principal feast day is 30. October. This too is first attested from the thirteenth century, when it was kept in the diocese of Ribe (and, presumably, in that of Vendsyssel); by the end of the Middle Ages it was kept in all the dioceses of Denmark. It is a translation feast that seemingly commemorates an Elevatio at Vestervig, where according to a sixteenth-century chronicle T. underwent a translation in 1117. Today is T.'s day of commemoration in the RM and the anniversary of a medieval and early modern popular celebration associating him with healing springs.
The originally thirteenth-century Vestervig kirke in Thisted (Nordjylland) is a former abbey church (Canons Regular) and a former cathedral of the diocese of Vendsyssel. Here's a view:
Its late eleventh-/early twelfth-century predecessor (generally called T.'s church) lay some 200 meters to the west. The first view on this page is of that church's foundations:
The other two views on that page are of a holy well on the site associated with T. (there were once many of these in Jutland) and of his depiction, said to be his earliest surviving one, in an early sixteenth-century vault painting in Skive Gamle kirke (Skive Old Church -- but you knew that!!) at Skive (Midtjylland).
8) Bartholomew of Farne (d. 1193). B. was a Yorkshire lad of apparent Scandinavian descent whose parents lived in the vicinity of Whitby. Slow to grasp the onomastic implications of the Norman Conquest (or perhaps deeply unreconciled to the changes that were under way), they named their son Tostig. Later, prompted by not entirely friendly animadversions from members of T.'s peer group, they took to calling him William. W. seems still to have thought of himself as at least partly Scandinavian, for later still, after repeated visions in which Christ, the BVM, St. Peter, and St. John the Evangelist urged him as a young man to reform his dissolute life, he moved to Norway where over the course of three years he was ordained deacon and then priest. When William became Bartholomew is not clear from B.'s near-contemporary Vita (BHL 1015) by G., a monk of Durham.
Returning to England, B. served very briefly (_aliquot diebus_) as a priest in Northumbria before becoming a monk of Durham. He been there less than a year when in a vision St. Cuthbert brought him to Inner Farne, showed him his oratory there, and told him that this was his destined abode. B. was allowed to take up residence on the island as an hermit. He spent the remainder of his life in solitude there, joined only briefly by a retired prior who had been given like permission. B. lived very ascetically, fought with demons, experienced visions, fed a small bird from his table, and protected the eiders that nested on the island and whose kind had also been dear to St. Cuthbert.
B. was buried at the oratory in the sarcophagus he himself had carved. Miracles were reported at his grave. Thus far the Vita. Like that of his contemporary Godric of Finchale, his memory was preserved initially by Durham Priory. B. has yet to grace the pages of the RM.
(last year's post revised)
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