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FEAST - A Saint for the Day (Dec. 7): St. Ambrose of Milan


John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>


medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>


Mon, 7 Dec 2015 22:12:17 +0000





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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

In the Roman Calendar and in Ambrosian Calendar 7. December is the feast day of Ambrose of Milan (d. 397).  Not to be confused with the Blessed Ambrose of Milan (Franciscan; d. 1525), this Ambrose is a Saint and a Doctor of the Church.  A member of the imperial aristocracy, he was governor of Milan when he was elected bishop of that city in 374.  Ambrose became an extraordinarily influential preacher, theologian, and ecclesiastical administrator.  Along with St. Augustine of Hippo (whom he baptized) and St. Jerome he is one of the great western Christian churchmen of the fourth century.

Ambrose's _dies natalis_ is 4. April (his feast day in the ninth-century martyrologies of St. Ado of Vienne and Usuard of Saint-Germain) but today, the anniversary of his consecration as bishop, was his feast day in some places since at least the ninth century, though what it represented was not always perfectly understood (the earlier ninth-century Marble Calendar of Naples describes it as the day of Ambrose's laying to rest).  In the medieval Greek church today was Ambrose's feast day in both the later tenth-century Metaphrastic Menologion and the initially tenth- and eleventh-century Synaxary of Constantinople, as it also is now in some but not all Byzantine-Rite churches.  Today was also Ambrose's principal feast day in the late medieval breviary of the Roman curia and from there the commemoration was continued in the later sixteenth-century Tridentine Calendar (as well of course as in the late sixteenth-century Roman Martyrology that was built around it).

An English-language translation of Ambrose's Vita by his former secretary Paulinus of Milan, written in Roman Africa at the behest of St. Augustine of Hippo, is here:


Skeletal remains believed to be those of St. Ambrose repose between those of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius in the cripta di Sant'Ambrogio in Milan's basilica di Sant'Ambrogio (the martyrs in red, Ambrose in white):



Supplementing Gordon Plumb's post from earlier today, herewith some links to other period-pertinent images of St. Ambrose of Milan:

a) as depicted in a restored fifth-century mosaic portrait in the basilica di Sant'Ambrogio's sacello di San Vittore:



b) as portrayed in relief in three panels on the rear side of the earlier to mid-ninth-century Golden Altar ("Pala d'Oro"; betw. 824 and 859, restored in 1966) in Milan's basilica di Sant'Ambrogio:

1) the miracle of the bees:


2) journeying on horseback from Liguria to Emilia:


3) blessing the altar's maker, Magister Wolvinus (or Vuolvinus):


c) as depicted lower register) in an eleventh-century copy of his _De bono mortis_ from Fécamp (Paris: BnF, ms. Latin 2639, fol. 31v):


d) as depicted in an eleventh-century manuscript of writings of Church Fathers (Avranches, Bibliothèque d'Avranches, ms. 72, f. 182v):


e) as depicted in a twelfth-century copy of his _Hexaemeron_ (Charleville-Mézières, Médiathèque Voyelles, ms. 212, t. III, fols. 1-88v, fol. 1r):


f) as portrayed (at left) in a twelfth-century relief on Milan's Porta Romana:


g) as portrayed in a relief on the earlier twelfth-century west front of Milan's basilica di Sant'Ambrogio:


h) as depicted in the mid- or slightly later twelfth-century mosaics of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo:


i) as depicted in one of four panels of a full-page illumination in the late twelfth-century so-called Bible of Saint Bertin (ca. 1190-1200; Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 F 5, fol. fol. 38v, sc. 1A):


j)  as depicted in two late twelfth-century panels (ca. 1180) in a mostly early thirteenth-century composite window in the cathedral of St.-Étienne in Le Mans (photographs by Gordon Plumb):

1) St. Paul in a vision tells the sleeping Ambrose where to find the bodies of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius:


2) Ambrose (nimbed) and a brother bishop unearth the bodies of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius:


k) as depicted as depicted in a panel of a mid-thirteenth-century glass window (ca. 1245-1250; w. 207) in Strasbourg's cathédrale Notre-Dame:


l) as portrayed in relief on a later thirteenth- or early fourteenth-century grosso of eight denari issued by the first Ambrosian Republic (i.e. communal Milan; 1250-1310):


m) as depicted (at right, barring the emperor Theodosius from the cathedral of Milan) in a late thirteenth-century copy of French origin of the _Legenda aurea_ (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 47r):


n) as portrayed (flanked by Sts. Gervasius and Protasius) in a fourteenth-century statue on Milan's Pusterla di Sant'Ambrogio:


o) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (ca. 1312-1321) in one of the little domes of the monastery church of the Theotokos at Gračanica in, depending on one's view of the matter, either Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija or the Republic of Kosovo:


p) as depicted (upper roundel) in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (1330s) of the church of the Hodegetria in the Patriarchate of Peć at Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:


q) as depicted (at left; at right, St. Patapius) in a December calendar composition in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1335 and 1350) in the narthex of the church of the Holy Ascension at the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:


r) as depicted in a mid-fourteenth-century glass window panel (ca. 1340-1350) from Kärnten, now in The Cloisters collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:


s) as depicted (the miracle of the bees) in a mid-fourteenth-century copy, from the workshop of Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston, of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1348; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 98r):


t) as depicted by Vitale da Bologna in a mid-fourteenth-century panel painting (betw. 1350 and 1353) in the Pinacoteca of the Musei Civici in Pesaro:


u) as depicted in the mid- to slightly later twelfth-century mosaics of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo:


v) as portrayed in a statuette and in two panels  on St. Augustine's later fourteenth-century tomb in Pavia's basilica di San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro:

1) statuette (second from left; photograph by Genevra Kornbluth):


Detail (bust):


2) panel (upper register at right, preaching; Augustine among the listeners):


3) panel (at left, officiating at at Augustine's vesting):


Views of these objects in stronger light will be found at Genevra Kornbluth's Archive page on the Arca di Sant'Agostino:


w) as depicted (at right, barring the emperor Theodosius from the cathedral of Milan) in a later fourteenth-century copy (ca. 1370-1380) of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition française 15943, fol. 58r):


x) as depicted (at far left) by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini in one of four late fourteenth-century panel paintings of the Doctors of the Church (ca. 1380) used for the altarpiece in the cappella maggiore of Florence's basilica della Santa Croce: 


y) as portrayed (in the lower right-hand corner) by Pietro di Puccio in his late fourteenth-century mosaic (1388; heavily restored) on the facade of Orvieto's basilica cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta:


z) as depicted (reading) in a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Rennes, Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole, ms. 266, fol. 105r):


aa) as portrayed in high relief (in his study) by Lorenzo Ghiberti in a panel of his early fifteenth-century north doors for the baptistery in Florence:


bb) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Augustine of Hippo) as depicted by Filippo Lippi in an earlier fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1440) in the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti, Turin:


cc) as portrayed in relief on a mid-fifteenth-century grosso agontano issued by the second Ambrosian Republic (1447-1450):


dd) as depicted (at right, baptizing St. Augustine) in a mid-fifteenth-century copy of Giovanni Colonna's _Mare historiarum_ (betw. 1447 and 1455; Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 4915, fol. 277v):


ee) as depicted by Giovanni di Paolo in a later fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1465-1470) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:


ff) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Jerome) on the late fifteenth-century rood screen in the church of St Thomas, Foxley (Norfolk):


gg) as depicted (at far right) by Michael Pacher on his late fifteenth-century Fathers of the Church altarpiece (ca. 1483) in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich:


hh) as depicted (at left; at right, St. Augustine) by Giovanni Masone in a late fifteenth-century panel painting (Genoa, 1491) in the Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris:


ii) as depicted (left margin at top) in a hand-colored woodcut in the Beloit College copy of Hartmann Schedel's late fifteenth-century _Weltchronik_ (_Nuremberg Chronicle_; 1493) at fol. CXXXIIIIv:


jj) as depicted (second from left) by Carlo Bracceso in a late fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1495) in the Galleria Franchetti, Ca' d'Oro, Venice:


kk) as portrayed (in his study) in a late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century wooden statue (ca. 1500) from Palencia in The Cloisters collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:



John Dillon


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