medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
Gerasimus of Palestine (d. 475). According to his probably later sixth-century early Bios (BHG 693), Gerasimus (also known as Gerasimus of the Jordan and Gerasimus of Lycia) was born in Lycia, became a monk and then an hermit, and in about 451 settled down in Palestine at a location near the Dead Sea. He initially opposed the Christological formula of the Council of Chalcedon but came to accept it under the influence of St. Euthymius the Great. In about 475 Gerasimus moved to a place about a mile from the Jordan where he founded a cenobitic monastery with hermitages as well for those who wished to live apart (but who had to partake in the life of the community from Saturday to Monday). During Lent he would break his fast only with the Eucharist. Thus far Gerasimus' early Bios, which is thought to have been a product of someone at his monastery.
In chapter 107 of his _Leimon_ (in English usually called _The Spiritual Meadow_) John Moschus relates how Gerasimus removed a thorn from the paw of a lion, how the lion lived with his benefactor for five years until the latter's death, and how the beast then died of grief at Gerasimus' tomb. This tale of Gerasimus and the lion (BHG 696e) is so similar in its details to the rather later-appearing story of St. Jerome and the lion that it is generally considered ancestral to it. On the other hand, John Moschus' narrative could itself be a development from an earlier story about St. Sabas of Jerusalem (Sabas the Sanctified) recounted in that saint's Bios by Cyril of Scythopolis (BHG 1608). For details see e.g. Luisi Spina, 'MEMENTO TE ESSE LEONEM', _I Quaderni del Ramo d'Oro on-line_ 1 (2008), 217-237, esp. pp. 230ff. <http://www.qro.unisi.it/frontend/sites/default/files/Memento_te_esse_leonem.pdf>.
In the Synaxary of Constantinople and in its descendants in Orthodox and other Eastern-rite churches Gerasimus of Palestine's feast falls on 4. March.
Some medieval images of Gerasimus of Palestine:
a) Gerasimus (at far left, with Sts. Theodore the Sanctified and Pachomius) as depicted in the late twelfth- or early thirteenth-century frescoes of the Palaia Enkleistra ('Old Hermitage') in the St. Neophytus monastery at Tala near Paphos in the Republic of Cyprus (for a slightly better view, click on the image):
b) Gerasimus (at left) as depicted in the earlier thirteenth-century frescoes (1230s) in the narthex of the church of the Holy Ascension in in the Mileševa monastery near Prijepolje (Zlatibor dist.) in Serbia:
c) Gerasimus scenes in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. ca. 1311 and ca. 1322) in the church of St. Nicholas Orphanos in Thessaloniki:
Gerasimus (at left) tending the lion's paw (for a better view click on the image):
In brighter light:
Gerasimus (at left) as the lion leads Gerasimus' ass and a young monk on a trip to gather water for the monastery (for a better view click on the image):
Detail view (the ass and a young monk):
http://tinyurl.com/qfd43fa [at right, two merchants steal the ass]
Detail view (Gerasimus):
Two merchants riding camels make off with the ass:
The ensemble (lower register):
Matching these scenes with our written texts is a bit difficult. Gerasimus had been riding the ass to a river to get water when he first became aware of the injured lion; the ass was regularly used to transport water back to the monastery. In his early Bios when the ass is stolen by a passing merchant only the lion had charge of it and no young monk is present; when the merchant returns with the ass and is forced to yield it to the lion he has with him two camels that after he runs off follow the returned ass to the monastery. The two heads below the lion could well be part of a later scene or scenes dealing with the return of the ass.
d) Gerasimus (at left; at right, St. Chariton, abbot in Palestine) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1313 and 1318; conservation work in 1968) by Michael Astrapas and Eutychios in the church of St. George at Staro Nagoričane in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
e) Gerasimus as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (1330s) in the church of the Hodegetria in the Patriarchate of Peć at Peć in, depending upon one's view of the matter, either Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija or the Republic of Kosovo:
f) Gerasimus (at left; at right, St. Athanasius the Athonite) as depicted in the late fourteenth-century frescoes (1389; restored in the early 1970s) of the monastery church of St. Andrew at Matka in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
g) Gerasimus with his lion (the latter only partly preserved) as depicted by Dionisy and sons in the early sixteenth-century frescoes (1502) of the Virgin Nativity cathedral of the St. Ferapont Belozero (Ferapontov Belozersky) monastery at Ferapontovo in Russia's Vologda oblast:
(matter from older posts lightly revised)
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