medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Today (23. July) is the feast day of:
1) Severus, martyred at Bizya in Thrace (?). Prior to its revision of 2001 the RM commemorated on 20. August the martyrs Severus and Memnon the Centurion, put to death in a fiery furnace or oven and recorded in various Greek synaxary notices. According to the latter, S. was the son of a Roman prefect of Side in Pamphylia who had been born at Philippopolis in Thrace (now Plovdiv in Bulgaria) and of his wife Mygdonia (i.e. of the Mygdones, an ancient people of Thrace), both of whom had been baptized by a bishop Xenophon. The family having returned to Philippopolis during a persecution, S. was motivated by a vision to meet the centurion Memnon, whom he readily converted to Christianity. S. and Memnon were arrested and were conducted by a Roman proconsul first to Adrianople (now Edirne in Turkey) and then to Bizya (now Vize in Turkey). There Memnon met his death by fire and S. was first tortured and then decapitated.
The absence of any record of an ancient cult of a martyr Memnon, coupled with the knowledge that the converted centurion is a stock character in legendary Passiones, seems to have led to Memnon's recent ejection from the RM. S. remains but apart from his Thracian connection we know nothing about him. It has been proposed, not altogether convincingly, that he is identical with the S. who is one of the companions in martyrdom, at Adrianople, of St. Philip of Heraclea (22. October) in the latter's Passio (BHL 6834).
2) John Cassian (d. ca. 434). The Scyth C. is thought probably to have been born in what is now Dobruja, though whether in today's Romanian part or in its Bulgarian one is not ascertainable. After having received an excellent classical education he and his friend Germanus, intending to become monks, voyaged to Palestine where for some years they lived in a monastery at Bethlehem and whence they twice moved on to the Egyptian Thebaid, spending a total of eleven or twelve years there. In about 399 they moved to Constantinople, where St. John Chrysostom ordained C. deacon. After Chrysostom's exile in 404 C. and Germanus went to Rome. From there C., who somewhere along the line had been ordained priest, went to Gaul. In about 415 he founded a men's monastery at Marseille and later a women's house in the same city.
In Marseille, where he spent the remainder of his life, C. wrote his _De institutis coenobiorum_, a prescriptive adaptation to Western circumstances of Egyptian monastic practices, his _Collationes Patrum_ promoting Desert Fathers' ideals and ways of monastic perfection, and his _De incarnatione Domini_, an anti-Nestorian work undertaken at the behest of a Roman deacon who later was pope St. Leo I. The later fifth-century ecclesiastical biographer Gennadius of Marseille and pope St. Gregory the Great both characterize C. as _sanctus_.
It was once thought -- and the idea of course lives on in tourist literature -- that the men's monastery founded by C. at Marseille was the one since known as that of Saint Victor. Twentieth-century archeological investigation has disproved this: the monastery of Saint Victor goes back only to the late fifth century. But its church is built into a late antique necropolis, one of whose later fourth- or fifth-century sarcophagi, now used as an altar, continues to be described as once having been C.'s. Herewith two views of that object:
Upstairs, in one of the transepts, is displayed a partial skull identified as C.'s:
Expandable views of pages in illuminated manuscripts, some very attractively produced, of C.'s _Collationes_ are here:
The incipit of the _Collationes_ in a twelfth-century manuscript now in the Free Library of Philadelphia (Ms. Lewis E 63):
A later page in the same manuscript, showing the capitula and opening sentences of _Collationes_, 14:
For comparison, an English-language translation (with facing Latin text) of _Collationes_, 14. 1:
3) Valerian of Cimiez (d. ca. 462). We know about the classically educated Gallo-Roman aristocrat V. chiefly from his writings. It would appear that he was at one time married and that afterward he had lived for a while as a hermit, first on the Gallic mainland and then at Lérins, where he read theology. By 449 he was bishop of Cemenelum on the Via Aurelia between Italy and Arles, a town whose modern successor is Cimiez, once independent but now incorporated into Nice. V. was a signatory of pope St. Leo I's anti-Nestorian _Tomus ad Flavianum_ (the "Tome of Leo"), he introduced a daughter house of Lérins into his diocese, and he presided over a synod held at Arles in 457 to settle differences between the abbot of Lérins and the bishop of Fréjus. In 460 Leo named him bishop of the unified diocese of Cimiez and Nice.
V. is best known for his writings: a letter on virtues to the monks of Lérins, some pastoral sermons emphasizing communitarian values, and his surviving correspondence with Leo and with colleagues in what is now the south of France.
The excavated portions of Roman Cemenelum include, built into the West (or Women's) Baths, the remains of a fifth-century basilican church and of an adjacent baptistery. In the aerial view shown here, the West Baths complex is at lower left (the red building behind it is the Musée Matisse) and the choir of the basilica is toward the complex's right end:
A view of the remains of the baptistery:
A reconstruction of the baptistery:
4) Vanna of Orvieto (Bl.; d. 1306). According to her anonymous, earlier fourteenth-century _Legenda_ (BHL 4289; traditionally ascribed to Giacomo Scalza), the penitent and mystic V. (more formally, Giovanna; in English also Jane) was a native of today's Carnaiola, a _frazione_ of Fabro (TR) in Umbria. V. was orphaned early and was raised by relatives who in time arranged a marriage for her, which latter she refused. Instead, she joined a group of loosely Dominican-affiliated, habit-wearing women (_vestitae_) at Orvieto, where she spent the rest of her life doing kindnesses to others (especially to those who had in some way offended her), praying, and -- relatively late in life (she died at about the age of fifty) -- engaging at times in trance-like behavior and at other times in ecstasies. Both bilocation and levitation are reported of her.
V.'s postmortem cult was immediate but was limited at first to Orvieto, where she was buried in the Dominican convent church of San Domenico (built, 1233-64):
and where, during an early translation, her body was found both to be incorrupt and to exude a balsamous fluid. Tommaso Caffarini's late fourteenth-century Italian-language version of the _Legenda_ anachronistically made V. a Dominican tertiary in a formal sense. Her cult was confirmed papally in 1754. After resting for centuries in Orvieto's San Domenico V. was returned in 2000 to her native Carnaiola, where she reposes in the chiesa di San Salvatore e Severo and where a modern chapel dedicated to her has been built on the putative site of her place of birth. An English-language translation of V.'s _Legenda_ appears on pp. 59-86 of Maiju Lehmijoki-Gardner, ed., _Dominican Penitent Women_ (NY: Paulist Press, 2004).
5) Bridget of Sweden (d. 1373). B. (Birgitta) was the daughter of an important Swedish family. She was married when she was about the age of fourteen. One of her eight children was St. Catherine of Sweden (or of Vadstena; 24. March). After her husband's death in 1344 B. lived as a penitent near the Cistercian monastery at Alvastra and in 1346 she entered the newly founded double monastery at Vadstena (endowed for her by king Magnus II, whose queen she had once served at court as a lady in waiting). There B. established her Order of the Most Holy Savior (a.k.a. the Brigittine Sisters), whose rule was confirmed in 1370. In 1349 she moved to Rome, where she continued to record the visions and revelations that she had been receiving since childhood and where she worked tirelessly for the improvement of the Church and for the return of the papacy from Avignon.
B.'s daughter St. Catherine brought her body back to Vadstena in 1374. B. was canonized in 1391. She is the patron saint of Sweden and a patron saint of Europe. Herewith two views of her putative relics, preserved together at Vadstena with those of Catherine:
B.'s supposed cranium there is apparently not hers:
Expandable views of an earlier fifteenth-century manuscript of B.'s _Opera_, the _codex Falkenberghianus_ (Lund University Library, Medeltidshandskrift 21) are accessible from here:
B.'s earliest surviving portrait, a sculpture from ca. 1425 in the abbey church in Vadstena:
A late medieval cult statue of B. (ca. 1475) from an altarpiece formerly in Sollentuna kyrka (Stockholms län), now in the Historiska Museet in Stockholm:
This page of expandable views of fifteenth-century statues in Borgs kyrka in Norrköpings kommun (Östergötlands län) includes several views of one of B.:
The first image on this illustrated, Swedish-language page on B. is a view of a fifteenth-century statue of B. formerly in Törnevalla kyrka in Törnevalla (Östergötlands län) and now in the Historiska Museet in Stockholm:
A detail view of the upper part of that statue:
B. in an altar painting of ca. 1485 said to be in Salems kyrka (Stockholms län):
I haven't seen that painting in recent photos of the altar area and wonder if it is not now in a museum.
B. at left (Catherine at right) in an altar painting of ca. 1500 said to be in Högsby kyrka (Kalmar län):
B. at right (St. Hemming at left) in an altar frontal of ca. 1500 said to be at Urjala (Swedish: Urdiala) in southern Finland:
A view of Vadstena abbey church, consecrated in 1430, in today's Vadstena kommun (Östergötlands län):
A couple of views of the originally mid-thirteenth-century King's Palace at Vadstena, given to the monastery in 1346, remodeled for the nuns' use, used for other purposes after the monastery's abandonment at the end of the sixteenth century, and restored in the 1950s (the site is now a museum):
An illustrated, Swedish-language page on the history of the abbey:
An embroidered fifteenth-century reliquary from the abbey church, now in the Historiska Museet in Stockholm:
A Vadstena pilgrim's badge:
After her canonization B.'s childhood church at Skederid in Norrtälje kommun (Stockholms län) became a pilgrimage site. It was expanded in the fifteenth century and has since been greatly modified. Here's an expandable view showing its fifteenth-century portal:
The monastery at Alvastra in today's Ödeshögs kommun (Östergötlands län) in whose vicinity B. lived just prior to her going to Vadstena was founded in 1143. It is now a ruin. Herewith illustrated, English-language and Swedish-language pages on the site:
More of the church was still standing in ca. 1700 (the engraving is from Erik Dahlberg's _Svecia Antiqua et Hodierna_):
(last year's post revised)
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