medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (16. August) is the feast day of:
1) Ambrose of Ferentino (d. 304 or 305, supposedly). A. (in Italian, Ambrogio) is the patron of today's Ferentino (FR) in southern Lazio, where he has been honored since at least the central Middle Ages. According to his legendary Passio (BHL 375; preserved as readings in a thirteenth-century Roman lectionary for the Daily Office [Paris, BnF, ms. Lat. 3278]), A. was a Christian centurion of Ligurian birth stationed at Ferentino who, imprisoned during the Great Persecution and under the same persecutor Dacianus who appears in numerous legendary Passiones of Hispanic saints, was tortured in various ways before being decapitated on 16. August of an unspecified year. An Italian-language translation of the Passio is here:
By the sixteenth century A. was also the subject of a miracle tale in which his persecutor imprisoned him for several days without food or water, after which he appeared stronger and healthier than before.
Evidence for an early cult of A. is lacking. An inscription on a stone placed in the facade of Ferentino's originally mid-twelfth-century chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore is interpreted as having identified the location of A.'s grave in the time of Pascal I (817-824) in an earlier church:
An inscription in Ferentino's early twelfth-century cathedral dedicated to Sts. John and Paul records the translation thither of his putative remains during the pontificate of Pascal II (1006-1110). In 1639 these were rediscovered there under a side altar. Formerly honored in a chapel of their own, they are now kept under the cathedral's main altar:
Some views of Ferentino's basilica cattedrale dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo:
The Italia nell'Arte Medievale page on this church is good for detail views (and especially for views of the cathedral's cosmatesque floor):
Ferentino's Santa Maria Maggiore too is an interesting church:
Beneath this church remnants have been found of an early Christian church built into a private house and destroyed in 303.
Also at Ferentino one may see, halfway up the hill on which the town's acropolis is situated, the remnants of a Roman-period quadrifrons arch called the Carcere di Sant’Ambrogio that still is sometimes popularly identified as the remains of the structure in which A. had been imprisoned:
A. was dropped from the RM in its revision of 2001. His feast today remains on the liturgical calendar of the diocese of Frosinone - Veroli - Ferentino. Ferentino celebrates him as its civic patron on 1. May.
2) Arsacius of Nicomedia (d. 358, supposedly). We know about A. (in his medieval Latin tradition, Ursacius) entirely from Sozomen, _Historia ecclesiastica_, 4. 16. Sozomen relates that A. had been a soldier of Persian origin who openly declared himself a Christian during the persecution of Licinius (a campaign of very dubious historicity), left the army, and became a solitary in the vicinity of Nicomedia. He performed many miracles including the casting out of demons and the slaying by prayer of a huge serpent that had terrified the locals, predicted an earthquake that destroyed Nicomedia (presumably the well attested one of 24. August 358), and himself perished in that event. Thus far Sozomen, whose account as translated into Latin in the _Historia tripartita_ formed the basis for A.'s/U.'s elogium in the earlier ninth-century martyrology of Florus of Lyon.
Florus entered U./A. under 8. August. The later ninth-century martyrologies of St. Ado of Vienne and Usuard used versions of Florus' elogium but transferred this saint's commemoration to today. Medieval Greek liturgical texts are said to be silent about A.
According to a legend of undetermined origin, in the twelfth century Templars brought the remains of A./U. from Nicomedia to their commandery at Mont-de-Soissons (Aisne). Herewith an illustrated, French-language page on that commandery's originally twelfth-/thirteenth-century church, which passed from the Templars to the Hospitalers of St. John:
Another illustrated, French-language account is here (scroll down to "Mont-de-Soissons"):
3) Stephen of Hungary (d. 1038). Vaik was the son of the first Christian ruler of Hungary, grand prince Géza, with whom he was baptized at perhaps the age of ten. At his baptism he received the Christian name of Stephen by which he is known (in Hungarian, István). Géza, who was an innovator in several important respects, saw to it that S. married into the ruling family of Bavaria; he also substituted male primogeniture for the seniorate as a principle of succession, thus making S. his heir apparent. After G.'s death in 997 S. won a succession struggle and proceeded to consolidate his rule over the Magyar clans, taking the title of king in about the year 1001. S. consolidated Christianity in Hungary, ordering the building of churches across the kingdom and the collection of tithes to support their priests, establishing a diocesan structure under an archbishop, and forbidding intermarriage between Christians and others. He was canonized in 1083.
Hungarians celebrate S. on 20. August (said to be the day of the translation of his remains to Buda). What is said to be S.'s right hand is preserved as a relic (the "Holy Right") in a chapel in his mostly nineteenth-century basilica in Budapest:
S. (at right, together with his queen, Bl. Gisela of Hungary) as depicted in fresco in the thirteenth-century Gisela chapel (Gizellakapolna) at Veszprém (the first image is expandable):
S. as depicted in a miniature in the Hungarian _Képes Krónika_ (_Chronicon Pictum_; before 1360):
S. as depicted by János Rozsnyai in the Crucifixion (1445) on the north wall of the sanctuary of the cathedral of Nagyszeben:
4) Ralph of la Fustaye (d. 1129). Little is known about R. (in Latin, Radulfus and Rodulphus; in French, Raoul de la Fustaye/Fûtaie), the hermit preacher who in ca. 1112 founded on what had been ducal land the double monastery dedicated to the BVM and to St. Sulpicius at a place called the Blackbird's Nest (Nid-de-Merle) in the forest of Rennes in eastern Brittany. No Vita of R. survives and much of our scanty information about him derives from local tradition of uncertain accuracy.
According to the monastery's necrology, which gives us both the year and the day (today) of his passing, R. had previously been a monk of the Poitevin abbey of Saint-Jouin de Marnes. A priory church of _sancta Marie de Fusteia_, situated in today's Saint-Mars-sur-la-Fûtaie (Mayenne), that in 1179 was a possession of Saint-Jouin may well have begun as the hermitage whence R. received his localizing sobriquet. That locale will have been in the forest of Craon where in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries are said to have dwelt such other reforming hermits as Bl. Robert of Arbrissel (the founder of the double monastery of Fontevraud) and St. Vitalis of Savigny (or of Mortain; the founder of the abbey of Saint-Evroul at Mortain and a co-founder near to it of a women's monastery, the Abbaye Blanche).
Charter evidence shows R. and the nuns of Saint-Sulpice receiving other monasteries in Brittany or under Breton jurisdiction, notably the women's abbeys of Locamaria in Quimper and of the Madeleine at today's Saint-Maurice-la-Fougereuse (Deux-Sèvres). In the thirteenth century St. Albertus Magnus saw R.'s tomb in a chapel of the abbey church. The men's monastery was probably always intended to provide clerical support for the nuns, whose abbess was in charge of the entire community, and it was as a female community that this Saint-Sulpice survived until the Revolution. French-language accounts of the monastery are here:
And here are some views of what survives of it at today's Saint-Sulpice-la-Forêt (Ille-et-Villaine), esp. of its chapelle Notre-Dame sur l'Eau and its église Saint-Sulpice:
For something a bit more spectacular, herewith a French-language account of, and some views of, the abbey church of Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes (Deux-Sèvres):
5) Lawrence "Loricatus" (Bl.; d. 1243). Today's less well known holy person of the Regno was an Apulian who in remorse for accidentally killing a man undertook a pilgrimage to Compostela. When that did not satisfy him L. (in Italian, Lorenzo Loricato) became an hermit in a cave near the Benedictine complex at Subiaco in the Anio valley south of Tivoli in today's Lazio. There he engaged in constant acts of self-denial and self-torture including the wearing next to his skin of the suit of ringed mail that has given him the sobriquet "Loricatus" ("Wearing Body Armor"). L. attracted disciples and received numerous visitors. At least one of the latter (we are told) was a cardinal, while another may have been St. Francis of Assisi. We know about L. from the record of his canonization trial begun in 1244 and apparently never concluded (BHL 4792). On that are based two anonymous Vitae (BHL 4793 and 4794). L.'s cult was confirmed papally in 1778.
L.'s body armor appears to have been a hauberk. It is (at any rate, it used to be) on display at the monastery of San Benedetto at Subiaco; there's a photograph of it in the _Bibliotheca Sanctorum_, vol. 8, cols. 139-40. L. is said to have worn lots of other ironmongery as well. Also in San Benedetto is a manuscript, alleged to be autograph, of L.'s _Liber orationum_ ("Book of Prayers"). L.'s bodily relics are preserved in the same monastery's Cappella della Madonna. An illustrated, English-language page on the monastery is here:
6) Roch (d. 14th cent., supposedly). R. (in Latin and German, Rochus; in Italian, Rocco; in Spanish, Roqué) is a popular plague saint of the Early Modern period whose cult arose in the fifteenth century and who, according to recent scholarship, is altogether fictional. The basic outlines of his tale are as follows. R. was a young man of Montpellier who after the death of his parents undertook a pilgrimage to Rome and on the way operated marvelous cures of persons who were suffering from plague. At Rome he cured a cardinal and was presented to the pope. At Piacenza R. himself contracted the disease. Retreating to a wood, he was daily sustained by bread that a dog miraculously brought to him until he finally recovered his health. Continuing his journey, he was arrested as a spy on lands belonging to a relative who did not recognize him. R. was sentenced to prison, where after five years he died.
For R.'s essentially fictional nature and for the early spread of his cult, see Antonio Rigon and André Vauchez, eds., _San Rocco: Genesi e prima espansione di un culto. Incontro di studio—Padova, 12–13 febbraio 2004 _ (Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 2006; Subsidia hagiographica, 87).
R. in a panel painting of ca. 1493 by Carlo Crivelli (now in the Wallace Collection, London):
R. in an illumination of 1506 in a Book of Hours for the Use of Châlons-en-Champagne (Châlons-en-Champagne, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 337, fol. 144v):
R. (at left, with his fellow plague-saint Sebastian at right) in a fresco of 1513 in the chiesetta di Sant'Andrea at Concesio (BS) in Lombardy:
Views of the originally early sixteenth-century Kirche zum Hl. Rochus / chiesa di San Rocco in Pfuß / Pozzo, a Fraktion / frazione of Kaltern / Caldaro (BZ) in the South Tirol:
Views of the Rochuskapelle (1520-1521) in Nürnberg, a chapel in a new cemetery laid out during the plague years 1517 and 1518 and Nürnberg's last Gothic church:
(last year's post revised and with the addition of Arsacius of Nicomedia)
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