medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (7. August) is the feast day of:
1) Sixtus II and companions; also Agapitus and Felicissimus (d. 258). S. (more correctly Xystus) succeeded pope St. Stephen I as bishop of Rome late in August 257. During his brief pontificate he continued to uphold the Roman position of accepting the validity of baptisms performed by heretics or schismatics but managed to do this less confrontationally than had his predecessor (that at least, was the view in the church of Carthage after S.'s death and that of St. Cyprian; we lack contemporary opinion from the churches of Asia Minor). On 6. August 258, while S. was addressing the faithful at a service in one of the church's cemeteries (variously thought to be either that of Callistus or that of Praetextatus), he and a number of his deacons were seized by Roman authorities enforcing the emperor Valerian's persecution.
In accordance with an imperial edict, S. and four of the deacons were executed on the spot; their bodies were laid to rest in the cemetery of Callistus, with S. being placed in the papal crypt. S. later received a verse epitaph from pope St. Damasus I providing readers with particulars of his arrest and execution (_Epigrammata Damasiana_, ed. Ferrua, no. 17; the _comites Xysti_ are recorded in no. 16, a general elogium for the saints of the crypt). In the sixth century S.'s relics were translated to a church dedicated to him on the Via Appia (first recorded as such in 595, it replaced an earlier _titulus_ in the same vicinity). Frequently rebuilt, it and the monastery it serves are now known as San Sisto all'Appia (a.k.a. San Sisto Vecchio). This illustrated, Italian-language page has views of its medieval belltower and apse, survivors from an early thirteenth-century rebuilding under Innocent III:
In the later sixth-century procession of male martyrs in Ravenna's basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, S. is the second figure after St. Martin of Tours (to whom this church was re-dedicated in 561):
A. and F. were Roman deacons apprehended at the same time as S. and his companions and executed on the same day. Their place of burial and veneration was the cemetery of Praetextatus. They too received a verse epitaph from Damasus (_Epigrammata Damasiana_, ed. Ferrua, no. 25). In medieval calendars the form of this joint commemoration was usually given simply as that of Sixtus, Felicissimus, and Agapitus, e.g., in the August page of the liturgical calendar in the earlier twelfth-century St Albans Psalter (Hildesheim, Dombibliothek, MS St. Godehard 1):
Expandable views of three late medieval illuminations of S., F., and A., plus one of S. alone, are here:
S., F., and A. about to be executed as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century (ca. 1326-1350) collection of French-language saint's Lives (Paris, BnF, ms. Franšais 185, fol. 96v):
According to the foundation legend of the diocese of Auxerre, S. sent its protobishop the Roman priest Peregrinus there to evangelize among its pagan inhabitants. Here's S. in audience with St. Peregrinus of Auxerre and companions and, in the upper register, consecrating P. bishop as depicted in a later fifteenth-century (1463) copy of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Franšais 50, fol. 377v):
Curiously, the BnF identifies the pope in this illumination as (the early second-century) Sixtus I.
S. before Decius and Valerian as depicted in a late fifteenth-century (ca. 1480-1490) copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in the version by Jean de Vignay (Paris: BnF, ms. Franšais 245, fol. 31v):
2) Afra of Augsburg (d. ca. 304, supposedly). One of Augsburg's principal patron saints, A. (also Aphra) has been venerated there since at least 565, when Venantius Fortunatus visited her tomb. She has a legendary Passio in multiple versions (BHL 107b-f; originally of the seventh or eighth century) that makes her a prostitute who was converted to Christianity but was martyred before she was baptized. A competing early ninth-century _Conversio et Passio_ (BHL 108, 109) makes her a courtesan of higher status and has her baptized along with her mother and the latter's slaves (who also figure in the Passio and who were celebrated too when this was a feast of A. _et socc._) before they are all martyred.
A.'s putative relics are in Augsburg's Basilika St. Ulrich und Afra, an originally late fifteenth-century (with baroque overlay) former monastery church. Some distance views (those at the second location are expandable):
An illustrated, German-language page with expandable interior and exterior views:
A.'s late antique sarcophagus in the lower church:
A. with fellow prostitutes in a scene from the _Conversio_ and A. and companions beings martyred as depicted in a later fifteenth-century (1463) copy of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Franšais 51, fol. 91r):
3) Donatus of Arezzo (d. 4th cent. ?). An early bishop of Arezzo, D. is recorded under today in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian martyrology as a confessor. His quite legendary Passio (BHL 2289) makes him a martyr under the emperor Julian (in accounts of western saints, a good indicator of fiction). This text or another like it appears to have been known to pope St. Gregory the Great; it was certainly used by St. Peter Damian for his writings on D. (Sermo 38; Hymni 119, 120). The ninth-century historical martyrologies provide notices also deriving from the Passio. D. is one of the saints of the Gelasian Sacramentary and of the earler ninth-century Marble Calendar of Naples; in the latter, though, his martyrdom is commemorated on 8. August along with the Cyriac of that day. He is Arezzo's patron saint.
Arezzo's late thirteenth- / early sixteenth-century cathedral of San Donato is situated at the city's highest point. Its belltower is a twentieth-century addition. Exterior views:
Interior views, including artistic highlights:
Slightly better views of the historiated glass windows by Guillaume de Marcillat (early sixteenth-cent.):
D.'s fourteenth-century shrine (1369-75) rises above the main altar of his cathedral:
D.'s fourteenth-century reliquary bust of in Arezzo's chiesa della Pieve:
Back in the cathedral, another Aretine depiction of D.:
There are many other images of D., whose cult became widespread in Tuscany. Here's Andrea del Verrocchio's Madonna with John the Baptist and D. (1475-83) at Pistoia:
Across the Alps, D. is the co-titular (with St. John the Evangelist) of the thirteenth-/fifteenth-century ex-cathedral of Mei▀en in Saxony. Two aerial views:
The west front collapsed after a lightning strike in 1413. This is how it looked at the beginning of the twentieth century:
And this is how it looks now after Neo-Gothic construction begun in 1904:
4) Victricius of Rouen (d. early 5th cent.). Our principal sources for this early evangelist of Flanders are his own sermon on relics, the _De laude sanctorum_ (written in 396), and two letters by his friend St. Paulinus of Nola (_Epp._ 18 and 37). Like the somewhat older St. Martin of Tours, with who he had a meeting in the 380s witnessed by Paulinus, he had been a soldier who publicly chose to leave military service in order to serve the religion of peace; according to Paulinus, when V. asked to be absolved of his military oath he was severely beaten and narrowly escaped being executed. Thereafter he engaged in missionary work in what is now northern France and Belgium (probably his native region, though Britain is also a possibility). He was already bishop of Rouen at the time of his aforementioned meeting with Martin. According to Sulpicius Severus (_Dial._, 3. 2) they met again in Chartres in 395.
In 404 V. traveled to Rome to defend himself against suspicion of Apollinarianism. In this he was successful, returning armed with a letter from pope St. Innocent I charging him with promoting Roman views on celibacy and continence among both clergy and professed virgins. V. is thought to have been already dead at the time of Paulinus' _Ep._ 123, which notes disasters to Christian populations in northern areas where V. had worked but which does not mention him. V. had a cult in Rouen first attested from the ninth or tenth century, when the threat of raids by Northmen caused relics said to be his to be translated to Braine in the diocese of Soissons. Cardinal Baronio entered him in the RM under today's date.
5) Albert of Trapani, O. Carm. (d. 1307, probably). A. is also known as Alberto degli Abati and, among the Carmelites, as Albert of Sicily. Our information about him comes both from documents of his order and from an originally later fourteenth-century Vita (BHL 228, 229) that survives in fifteenth-century reworkings. Said to have been oblated as a youth to the Carmelites of Trapani in western Sicily, A. spent his career in different parts of the island. A famous preacher, he was the order's provincial for Sicily in 1296. At Messina he gained a reputation for converting Jews to Christianity.
A.'s cult among the Carmelites developed over the course of the fourteenth century. In 1346 their house at Palermo already had a chapel dedicated to him, by 1375 they were attempting to obtain papal confirmation of the cult (this is said to have come, _viva voce_, in 1457), in 1411 A. received his own Office, and in 1420 all Carmelite houses were directed to display an image of him portrayed as a saint.
Written papal confirmation of his cult came in 1476.
Here's A. in an early fifteenth-century painting (less muddy in the enlargement) from Empoli (FI) in Tuscany by Filippo Lippi:
And here he is again in a fresco from 1471 at the Carmelite sanctuary at San Felice del Benaco (BS) in Lombardy:
6) Albert of Sassoferrato (Bl.; d. 1350, traditionally). A native of of today's Sassoferrato (AN) in the Marche, A. entered religion at the nearby Benedictine monastery of Santa Croce dei Conti. Our sources for him are all scanty and early modern, reflecting what by the later fifteenth century were well established local cults of A. and of the somewhat younger Bl. Gerard of Sassoferrato. Said to have been notably austere in his personal life and an exceptionally unswerving follower of the Rule, A. was traditionally invoked for relief of afflictions of the head and of the stomach. His cult was adopted by the Camaldolese, who assumed control of Santa Croce dei Conti in 1612 and was confirmed papally in 1837. Today is his _dies natalis_. In a bit of a stretch, the RM (revision of 2001) calls him a monk of the Camaldolese Order.
As one enters Sassoferrato from the east along the viale B. Buozzi (coming, say, from Genga or from Arcevia), Santa Croce dei Conti is plainly visible on a rise above the Sentino opposite the medieval town. Its originally twelfth-century church, perhaps the least impressive externally of four in the Marche with very similar ground plans, is worth a look. Some brief, Italian-language accounts:
Its Italia nell'Arte Medievale page:
Views of capitals and other carved stones (but the text here is more than a bit doubtful):
The four churches referred to above have been studied by Hildegard Sahler of the Bayerisches Amt fŘr Denkmalschutz. Her 1998 book on them, _San Claudio al Chienti und die romanischen Kirchen des VierstŘtzentyps in den Marken_, is advertised here:
San Claudio al Chienti is located in Corridonia (MC). More views, etc.:
The other two are Santa Maria alle Moje, located at Moie di Maiolati Spontini (AN):
The abbey of San Vittore alle Chiuse is first documented from 1007 (the church, which is just about all that's left of the monastery, is probably late eleventh-century in origin).
7) Vincent of L'Aquila (Bl.; d. 1504). Our information about this less well known holy person of the Regno comes from the sixteenth-century Franciscan historian Mark of Lisbon and from other Franciscan writers. A native of L'Aquila, he entered its extramural convent of San Giuliano as a novice at the age of fourteen. Later, after he had made his profession, he became a solitary in a cabin in the convent's wood, leaving only to perform tasks required of him, particularly those of a shoemaker. After service at houses in Penne and in Sulmona he returned to San Giuliano and spent the rest of his life there.
V. was famously ascetic; levitation and trance-like states are reported of him at prayer. Members of the royal family, most notably Ferrando I's second wife, Queen Giovanna (III), and the future Ferrando II when he was still prince of Capua, are said to have consulted him. In advancing years V. suffered from gout as well as from self-induced privation. He was sixty-nine when he died. V. was buried at his convent; fourteen years later, when his body was found to be still incorrupt, it was translated to a reliquary in the convent's church. His cult was confirmed papally in 1787.
The church of the much rebuilt convento di San Giuliano at L'Aquila was severely damaged by the great earthquake of 6. April 2009. Here's its data sheet from the L'AquilaNuova website, which has these for forty-five monuments in great need of repair:
But the wood is still there, though perhaps smaller in extent now than in the fifteenth century. Here's an autumn view:
There's more mature growth as well (seemingly the result of re-forestation), seen in these views of a forest fire there in 2007:
(an older post revised and with the additions of Victricius of Rouen and Bl. Vincent of L'Aquila)
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