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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  January 2016

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION January 2016

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Subject:

FEAST - A Saint for the Day (Jan. 16): St. Fursey

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sat, 16 Jan 2016 09:07:41 +0000

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text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

The Irishman Fursey (also Fursa, Fursy; in Latin, Furseus) was a monastic founder in his homeland, in England, and in France.  According to his later seventh-century Vita of continental origin (different versions: BHL 3209, 3210, 3210a), he experienced two ecstatic visions while still in Ireland at his first foundation: a preliminary one in which he was instructed by angels on aspects of sin and virtue and a second in which angels contended successfully with demons and with Satan for his soul, with both sides employing not only weapons but also arguments as Fursey was put on trial before reaching what appears to be an anteroom to heaven.  St. Bede the Venerable summarizes this matter in his _Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum_ (3. 19; BHL 3212) in a way that both highlights Fursey's English context (on which see below) and is unclear as to whether the ecstatic visions were received in Ireland or in England.  Fursey's Irish Life _Betha Fursa_ is a version of Bede's account.  A large number of re-tellings, often in very abbreviated form, furthered the later medieval reception of these didactically charged imaginings of the afterlife.   

In about 639 Fursey traveled to East Anglia and founded a monastery at a place identified by some as today's Burgh Castle (Norfolk).  Leaving that house in charge of his brother St. Foillan (31. October), he spent some time as an hermit and then fled to Francia during an invasion of East Anglia by the pagan king Penda of Mercia.  In Francia Fursey was welcomed by the Austrasian mayor of the palace, Grimoald, and founded another monastery at today's Lagny-sur-Marne (Seine-et-Marne) where he died in  about 649.  His cult was immediate.  Grimoald had him interred not at Lagny but at a monastery at Péronne (Somme) whose foundation he was then completing.  Fursey is Péronne's patron saint.   A ninth-century collection of miracles (the _Virtutes Fursei_; BHL 3213) and an eleventh- or very early twelfth-century later Vita from Lagny (BHL 3215) bespeak the continued vitality of his veneration in parts of northern France.


Some period-pertinent images of St. Fursey:

a) as depicted (the second vision: his soul received by two angels whilst a third wards off attacking demons) in a late thirteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 133r), expandable image:
http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/ds/huntington/images//000902A.jpg 

b) as depicted (the second vision: his soul received by two angels whilst two demons attack from below) in a late thirteenth-century collection of saint's lives in French (1285; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 412, fol. 211r):
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b84259980/f431.item.zoom

c) as depicted (at left; at right, another monk) in an earlier fourteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (ca. 1326-1350; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 185, fol. 218r):
http://tinyurl.com/zyx2bgl

d) as depicted (bas-de-page scenes from a Vita) in a later fourteenth-century copy, of Neapolitan origin, of the _Vitae patrum_ (betw. 1350 and 1375; New York, J. Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum; Morgan Ms. M.626, fols. 123v-126v):
http://ica.themorgan.org/manuscript/page/245/122665
http://ica.themorgan.org/manuscript/page/246/122665
http://ica.themorgan.org/manuscript/page/247/122665
http://ica.themorgan.org/manuscript/page/248/122665
http://ica.themorgan.org/manuscript/page/249/122665
http://ica.themorgan.org/manuscript/page/250/122665
http://ica.themorgan.org/manuscript/page/250/122665

e) as depicted (the second vision: his soul received by two angels whilst a demon attacks it) 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. 269v):
http://tinyurl.com/jxuvkcl

f) as depicted (the second vision: his soul received by two angels whilst a third wards off two attacking demons) in an early fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 242, fol. 128v):
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8426005j/f452.item.zoom

g) as depicted (being taken aloft by four angels, one in armor) in an early fifteenth-century copy of the _Elsässische Legenda aurea_ (1419; Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Pal. germ. 144, fol. 133r):
http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/cpg144/0281

h) as depicted (between the two oxen that halted when the cart bearing his body had reached his divinely ordained resting place) in a late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century book of hours for the Use of Cluny (Amiens, Bibliothèques d'Amiens Métropole, ms. 2556, fol. 191v):
http://www.enluminures.culture.fr/Wave/savimage/enlumine/irht1/IRHT_043370-p.jpg

Best,
John Dillon 
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