medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (1. August) is the feast day of:
1) The Seven Holy Maccabees (and their Mother). One of the oldest feasts of the Roman sanctoral calendar, this celebration was once subsumed into that of St. Peter in Chains (see no. 2, below) and in the Roman church is now trumped by that of a modern saint of the Regno, Alphonso Liguori. It honors the seven brothers (and their mother) of 2 Macc. 7, gruesomely put to death in the second century BC by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and widely revered in the early church as martyrs for Judeo-Christian faith and thus as Christians before the letter. The feast appears in eastern and in western calendars from the fifth century onward. Their chief early cult center was at Antioch, the presumed venue of their martyrdom. In the sixth century remains said to be theirs were translated to Rome and placed in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, which had been dedicated on their day. Their present location is in a crypt behind and below the shrine containing Peter's chains.
The feast's popularity in the West in the early Middle Ages is attested to by its listings in the Gelasian Sacramentary and in the Marble Calendar of Naples. In the latter (which does not mention Peter in Chains) it occurs as that of the Passion of the Maccabees and of St. Felicity, thus giving the mother a name (taken, it would seem, from the Felicity of 23. November, also the mother of seven sainted sons).
An English-language translation of a letter from Bernard of Clairvaux explaining why this feast should be kept is here:
The Maccabees before Antiochus and being exhorted by their mother as depicted in an eleventh- or twelfth-century manuscript of the _Orations_ of St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Paris, BnF, ms. Coislin 239, fols. 40r, 41v, 43v):
An expandable view of the martyrdom of the Maccabees as depicted in a late thirteenth-century copy of French origin of the _Legenda aurea_ (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 88r):
The Maccabees as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century (ca. 1326-1350) collection of French-language saint's Lives (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 185, fol. 239r):
The Maccabees and their mother as depicted in a mid-fourteenth-century (1348) copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 183v):
A women's monastery dedicated to the Seven Holy Maccabees was founded at Köln in the twelfth century. See:
Its relics of the Maccabees were translated in 1808 to the same city's Dominican church of Sankt Andreas, where their heads remain today in a reliquary shrine made for them in the 1520s. A detailed German-language account of this work of art is here:
A less detailed German-language account (with a black-and-white photograph) is here:
A brief account in English is no. 20 here (reliquary shrine not illustrated):
Scrolling along this panorama of the interior of Sankt Andreas will bring one to a zoomable view of the shrine _in situ_:
2) St. Peter (d. 1st cent.) in Chains. This feast celebrates the dedication of the Roman church of San Pietro in Vincoli, founded in the first half of the fifth century to house the chains with which St. Peter had been secured when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem (Acts 12:6-7). At first called the _titulus Eudoxiae_ (perh. after Eudoxia, the wife of Valentinian III, thought by some to have helped pay for it), it was dedicated by Sixtus III both to Peter and to Paul and for centuries was also known as the _titulus Apostolorum_. Its present designation (also late antique in origin) when expressed in Latin usually occurs as _(Ecclesia) Sancti Petri ad vincula_; hence also the customary Latin name of the feast, _Sancti Petri ad vincula_. The poet Arator gave a public reading of his _De actibus Apostolorum_ here on four consecutive days in 544.
The church was restored by Adrian I (772-95) and rebuilt under Sixtus IV (1471-84) and Julius II (1503). At some point the chains thought to have held Peter when he was imprisoned at Rome prior to his execution were brought from the so-called Mamertine Prison (not attested as an ancient designation) and were added to those said to be from Jerusalem. According to legend, these fused of their own accord. They are now on display in the confessio before the high altar:
By the later Middle Ages St. Peter in Chains had become today's principal feast in the Roman church. It was removed from the general Roman Calendar in 1969 but is still permitted at churches so titled.
P. in prison and his delivery from prison as depicted in a late tenth- or early eleventh-century troper from Autun (Paris, BnF, ms. Arsenal 1169, fol. 44v):
An expandable view of P.'s delivery from prison as depicted in a late thirteenth-century copy of French origin of the _Legenda aurea_ (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 88v):
P.'s delivery from prison as depicted in a fourteenth-century copy of Guiard des Moulins' _Bible historiale_ (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 152, fol. 457v):
Rome's church of San Pietro in Vincoli houses a funerary monument well known to some on this list:
Oh, were you perhaps expecting this one?:
The first is of the philosopher and ecclesiastical administrator Nicholas of Cusa (d. 1464), appointed cardinal priest of this church by Nicholas V. The second is of course the tomb intended for Julius II with its statue of Moses by Michelangelo:
There are other dedications in Italy to St. Peter in Chains. Here are some views of Pisa's originally late eleventh-/early twelfth-century church of San Pietro in Vinculis (a.k.a. San Pierino):
and of the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (1363; later modifications) at Limone Piemonte (CN) in Piedmont:
Peter in Chains is Limone Piemonte's patron saint.
3) Felix of Gerona (?). We first hear of F. (in Catalan, Feliu) at Prudentius, _Peristephanon_, 4. 29-32: _Parua Felicis decus exhibebit / artubus sanctis locuples Gerunda_ ("Little Gerona, rich in holy limbs, will display the honor of Felix"). His cult traveled early: Narbonne's mid-fifth-century St. Rusticus erected an extramural basilica to him there. St. Gregory of Tours (_In gloria martyrum_, 91) after recounting a miracle of N. that had occurred at Gerona adds another in which the saint punished with blindness an advisor of king Alaric II (484-507) who had lowered the building's height in order to present the king with a better view from his palace. At Gerona (in Catalan, Girona), his church is again attested in the seventh century by St. Julian of Toledo (_Historia Wambae regis_, 26) and his tomb by records of visits up to the late ninth century.
F. has a seemingly mid-seventh-century legendary Passio (principal versions: BHL 2865 and 2864) based, it is thought, on a now lost later sixth- or early seventh-century martyr text underlying the existing early medieval Passiones of numerous Hispanic saints who are said to have suffered during the Great Persecution under an official named Dacianus. This makes him an African from Scili who had been educated at Caesarea in Mauretania and who, having traveled to Barcelona, evangelized first in Ampurias and then in Gerona. Word of his success reached the ears of Dacianus' minion Rufinus, who had F. arrested and tortured and finally slain somewhere near the sea after an attempt to drown him had failed. A holy matron brought F.'s body back to Gerona.
Thus far F.'s Passio, which survives in numerous witnesses and which in the early ninth century was used at Saint-Denis for the Passio of St. Cucufas written there (BHL 1997, 1998). F.'s Mozarabic Office, one of whose hymns has been thought to go back to the seventh century, is likewise based on the Passio. F. is entered under this date in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology and in the historical martyrologies of St. Ado and Usuard, whose elogia of him draw on the Passio.
In Augsburg's early ninth-century _Conversio sanctae Afrae_ (BHL 108, 109) Gerona's fairly legendary bishop Narcissus and his deacon F., having traveled to Augsburg, effect the conversion of St. Afra before returning to Gerona to be martyred. By the following century word of this had reached Gerona, where the F. of this story was identified with today's F. (now they are usually considered distinct) and where in the late tenth or early eleventh century N. and F. were the subjects of an Invention and Translation at Gerona recounted in BHL 2868. From this point onward our F. was often conceived of as a deacon (e.g. in his statue in the altarpiece at Játiva/Xàtiva noted below).
Gerona's present fortified iglesia de San Félix / esglesia de Sant Feliu is an originally fourteenth-century rebuilding of a late eleventh- or early twelfth-century predecessor. Herewith an illustrated, Spanish-language page on it (focusing, insofar as things medieval are concerned, on the exterior):
A YouTube video of the interior:
F.'s late medieval sarcophagus in this church:
Some dedications to F. elsewhere:
a) His originally eleventh(?)-century church at Savassona (Barcelona):
b) The originally eleventh(?)-century iglesia de San Félix/ esglesia de Sant Feliu at Barruera (Lérida/Leida):
c) The originally later thirteenth-century iglesia de Sant Feliu at Játiva/Xàtiva (Valencia):
This church's late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century altarpiece, recently restored:
The altarpiece's statue of F.:
An informative site on the altarpiece and its restoration:
4) Justa (?), virgin martyr. This less well known saint of the Regno is one of a family of saints (Justin, Florentius, Felix, and Giusta) venerated in parts of Abruzzo since at least the central Middle Ages. These have a legendary Passio (BHL 4586) making them members of a family from Siponto in northern Apulia active in the late third and/or early fourth century in today's Abruzzo in the area of ancient Forconium (today's Forcona, though it has also been thought to be today's Furci in Chieti province). They also have a fourteenth-century Inventio and Translatio (BHL 4587) to L'Aquila, the thirteenth-century diocesan successor to Forconium, and appear as well in smaller liturgical texts of various sorts.
These sources present J. as a young woman who chastely spurns the advances of a Roman magistrate, who then survives attempted execution first in a fiery furnace and then by drowning in a river, and who is finally put to death either with arrows or by a spear. Whereas the whole group was once celebrated on 25. July, its members, who no longer grace the pages of the RM, have had individual feasts as well. J.'s feast is still observed today (the traditional date) at Tufillo (CH), whereas in and around L'Aquila, where her cult has been said to go back to at least the ninth century, her commemoration occurs on 31. March.
Architectural monuments to J.'s cult include her originally thirteenth-century church (over a twelfth-century crypt) at Bazzano (AQ), just outside of L'Aquila:
Those views were taken before the massive earthquake in the Aquilano of 6. April 2009. This page has numerous post-earthquake views showing damage to Bazzano's chiesa di Santa Giusta:
Only slightly later is her church in L'Aquila itself, built (by ca. 1254) in a quarter settled from Bazzano and named accordingly:
The facade is said to date from 1439.
Those views too were taken before the earthquake of 2009. Here's a page of views showing damage to this church:
Also from the thirteenth century (1279 with later reworkings) is the parish church of Santa Giusta and the BVM at Tufillo (CH):
A detailed, illustrated Italian-language account of the church's restored late medieval portal (it had been damaged by Allied bombing in 1943):
Literary monuments to J. include two fragmentary hymns from an Office for her at L'Aquila, printed in the _Acta Sanctorum_ (Aug. tomus primus) after her Translatio mentioned above (BHL 4587).
5) Æthelwold of Winchester (d. 984). The nobly born English ecclesiastical reformer Æ., a native of Winchester, served at the court of king Æthelstan before entering the church. Ordained at Winchester on the same day as St. Dunstan, he then studied Winchester and at Glastonbury before being put in charge of a community of secular priests at Abingdon whom he converted into Benedictine monks with himself as their abbot. In 963 king Edgar, whose tutor Æ. had been, made him bishop of Winchester. This gave him the opportunity to introduce reform on a large scale and he took full advantage of it. Hand in hand with his replacement of secular clergy with monks performing diocesan service went the commission of a number of new or enlarged churches suitable for the daily observance of the full Benedictine liturgy.
Æ. personally taught students at Winchester and at least some of his disciples remembered him fondly. Among them were Ælfric and Æ.'s future biographer Wulfstan (whose Vita of Æ. is BHL 2647). In 996 a miracle was credited to him; shortly thereafter he was accorded an Elevatio with a new burial in the choir of the Old Minster.
(last year's post revised and with the addition of Felix of Gerona)
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