medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (14. August) is the feast day of:
1) Eusebius of Rome (d. mid-4th cent., supposedly). Hard on the heels of Susanna of Rome (11. August) comes another saint of one of Rome's early titular churches. In this case the church is the _titulus Eusebii_ on the Esquiline, attested from inscriptions of the fourth and fifth centuries. During the sixth century the personal names associated with this and several other churches of similar nomenclature came to be interpreted as those of saints. At the Roman synod of 595 their priests signed themselves accordingly, e.g. _Bonus [the priest's name] sancti Eusebii_. A brief, legendary Passio (BHL 2740; thought to be of the early seventh century) provides E. with a narrative in which he is a Roman priest who reproaches pope Liberius for accepting Arianism and who then by order of the emperor Constantius (II) is shut up in a tiny room in the palace where after six months of suffering he dies on this day.
Curiously, this Passio doesn't connect E. with his church. Instead, it has him buried in the cemetery of Callistus. Perhaps at the time of writing it was no longer widely known that the St. Eusebius buried there was really the early fourth-century pope of this name, though anyone visiting that chamber of the cemetery with sufficient illumination could see the copy set up by pope Vigilius (537-59) of pope E.'s Damasan epitaph identifying him explicitly as a bishop and implicitly as a pope. E.'s feast today is in the Gelasian and Gregorian sacramentaries, in the earlier ninth-century Marble Calendar of Naples, in the martyrology of St. Ado of Vienne (with an epitome of the Passio), and in those of Usuard and of Wandalbert of Prüm.
An expandable image of E. as depicted in an early fifteenth-century breviary for the Use of Paris is here:
2) Marcellus of Apamea (d. ca. 390). M. was bishop of Apamea in Syria in the late fourth century. According to the church historians Theodoret of Cyrus (_Historia ecclesiastica_ 5. 21) and Sozomen (_Historia ecclesiastica_ 7. 15), he vigorously enforced Theodosius' edict calling for the destruction of pagan temples. Theodoret adds that at the temple of Jupiter M. encountered demonic resistance but overcame it, driving off the demon with holy water and the sign of the cross and using fire to bring down the structure. Shortly thereafter, Theodoret says, M. was martyred. According to M.'s Passiones (BHG 1026-1027b; these add the detail that he came from Cyprus), pagans resisting his efforts seized him and threw him into such a temple fire, causing his death.
3) Arnulf of Soissons (d. 1087). We know about the monastic founder A. chiefly from his Vita by his younger contemporary Lisiard of Crépy, bishop of Soissons (d. 1126) and the historian and hagiographer Hariulf, abbot of A.'s monastery at Odenburg in Flanders (r., 1105-1143). This exists in shorter and longer forms (BHL 703 and 704, respectively), of which the somewhat later longer version is a revision and expansion written during the years 1119-1121.
According to the latter text, A. was a Flemish noble who gave up a career of secular military service to become a monk of the abbey of Saint-Médard at Soissons and who rose to become abbot of that house and, in 1081, bishop of Soissons. Most of his time as bishop was spent in exile and in 1083 he founded in his native Flanders the abbey of St. Peter in today's Oudenburg (West-Vlaanderen). Lifetime and post-mortem miracles were attributed to A., whose sanctity was officially established at a synod in Beauvais in 1120. He received an Elevatio at Oudenburg in the following year.
4) The martyrs of Otranto (Bl.; d. 1480). In late July 1480 the little port city of Otranto on the Salentine peninsula (the heel of Italy's boot) was besieged by a Turkish invasion force that had crossed the Adriatic from Valona in today's Albania. Only lightly garrisoned and poorly provisioned for a siege (an expected invasion in the vicinity of Brindisi had drawn northward most of the Kingdom of Sicily's defense forces in the region), the city held out behind its walls for about two weeks before being taken on 11. August. Most of Otranto's civic and religious leadership perished either in the final assault or during the sack that followed.
Three days later, the captors took the bulk of the city's surviving adult males (perhaps 600 in all; unreliable accounts from long afterward put the number at ca. 800 or 900 and make it include virtually the entire population regardless of sex or age) to a hill outside of town and there executed all of them, supposedly by decapitation, one by one, all day long. A few wealthy people had been allowed to convert to Islam and were therefore spared. The remainder, said to have been martyred for their faith (though whether they were really offered a choice remains an open question), are today's less well known holy persons of the Regno.
A martyrs' cult sprang up as soon as circumstances permitted. When in the following year the city was recaptured by forces of the kingdom and its allies (chiefly anti-Islamic confrontation states from Portugal to Hungary), bones of the victims were collected on the order of the victorious commander, the duke of Calabria and future king Alfonso II. These were brought to the capital, Naples; other bones were tended reverently by the population of Otranto, whose residents clearly had not all perished.
Alfonso ordered a huge reliquary in the form of a transparent glass cylinder to be made at Crown expense for the bones that been brought back to Naples; this is visible today in Naples' church of Santa Caterina a Formiello, designed for Alfonso as a memorial to his triumph. After several years of failed attempts to get a subvention from the Crown, the citizens of Otranto had a virtually identical reliquary made for them at their expense and installed it in their cathedral, where it can be seen today in exactly the same position within the building as that occupied by Alfonso's reliquary in Naples.
Civic authorities at Otranto proclaimed the martyrs patrons of their city as early as 1539. Despite promotion of the martyrs' cause by several of the city's bishops, it was not until 1771 that they were officially beatified.
A few views, etc. of Otranto's originally late eleventh-century cathedral:
Italian-language site, multi-page, text and image:
Facade views (facade restored after 1481):
Interior, showing mosaic floor:
The floor as seen from above:
Detail (REX ARTVRVS):
Barely visible at the end of the right aisle here is a chapel containing the city's late fifteenth-century reliquary of the victims:
But the big collection is in the eighteenth-century Cappella dei Martiri at the end of the left aisle:
Views, plan, etc. of the crypt:
Fresco of the BVM in the crypt (main apse), spared by the Turks in 1480/81:
Also in Otranto is the originally ninth-/tenth-century Greek church of San Pietro, a small jewel with extensive frescoing:
(last year's post very lightly revised and with the addition of Arnulf of Soissons)
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