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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  May 2016

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION May 2016

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Subject:

FEAST - Three Saints for the Day (May 29): Sts. Sisinnius, Martyrius, and Alexander

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sun, 29 May 2016 19:27:51 +0000

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text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Sisinnius (also Sisinius), Martyrius, and Alexander (d. 397) are known collectively as the Martyrs of the Val(le) di Non, a subalpine valley in the far north of the Trentino.  According to their bishop, St. Vigilius of Trent, from whom we have two letters announcing their suffering, Sisinnius was an elderly deacon of Greek or Cappadocian heritage, Martyrius was a lector, and Alexander (Martyrius' brother) was a porter.  Going up into the Val(le) di Non to evangelize the inhabitants, they built a church a there and made converts.  After a few years had passed, they refused to permit a member of their congregation to take part in a spring lustration for the fertility of the fields.  This enraged the apparently still largely non-Christian locals, some of whom that evening attacked and severely beat Sisinnius and on the following day returned with others and hauled all three off to their deaths in front of an image of Saturn, the ancient Italian god of agriculture.

Vigilius' two letters are addressed to St. Simplicianus in Milan and to St. John Chrysostom in Constantinople, the metropolitans of the western and the eastern capitals of the Roman Empire.  That to Chrysostom was accompanied by relics of these new martyrs.  That to Simplicianus, which does not mention relics, provides a fuller narration and may have been preceded by a briefer report that was so accompanied.  Milan's basilica di San Simpliciano has long had relics of them.  In that city's legends the martyrs are said to have flown in the form of doves from the church of San Simpliciano to Legnano just before the battle there between troops of the Lombard League and those of Friedrich Barbarossa on 29. May 1176 and to have perched on the city's great war cart at throughout the entire affray, guaranteeing victory to the Milanese and to their league-fellows.  There have been annual commemorations at San Simpliciano since at least 1393.

Successive cathedrals of Trent have housed relics of these diocesan protomartyrs since at least the eleventh century. The center of their late medieval and modern cult is the basilica dei Santi Martiri Anauniensi at Sanzeno (TN), a church built over the remains of its predecessors by prince-bishops of Trent from 1480 until 1552 at the reputed site of the martyrs' suffering.  A later fifteenth-century tomb (1472) in its chapel devoted to them houses what are said to be relics of the wood from their funeral pyre (in 1895 these were described as coals and ashes) that had been preserved beneath the altar of the previous church:
http://www.santimartiri.org/immagini/cappella1.jpg


Some period-pertinent images of Sts. Sisinnius, Martyrius, and Alexander, the Martyrs of the Val(le) di Non:

Sisinnius, Martyrius, and Alexander as depicted (their souls received in heaven) in an originally twelfth-century fresco (discovered in 1918 and probably touched up in subsequent "cleaning") in the cappella dei Martiri in the basilica dei Santi Martiri Anauniensi in Sanzeno (TN) in Trentino - Alto Adige:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/martin-m-miles/21275357843

Sisinnius, Martyrius, and Alexander as depicted (disapproving worship of Saturn; being burned on a pyre, with their souls received into heaven) in a late fourteenth-century embroidery panel of Bohemian manufacture for a parament of some sort (ca. 1390-1391; one of five illustrating the legend of St. Vigilius) in the Museo Diocesano Tridentino in Trent:
http://tinyurl.com/gu7cmwc

Sisinnius as depicted (at right, flanking the BVM and Christ Child; at left, St. Vigilius) by Cecchino da Verona in a mid-fifteenth-century triptych (1454) in the Museo Diocesano Tridentino in Trent:
Grayscale view:
http://catalogo.fondazionezeri.unibo.it/foto/40000/32800/32638.jpg
Smaller view in color:
http://www.muronico.it/I_tre_santi.jpg

Sisinnius, Alexander, and Martyrius as depicted (second, third, and fourth from left; at left, St. Romedius; all attired as pilgrims) in a late fifteenth-century fresco in the chiesa di San Tommaso in Dres, a _frazione_ of Cles (TN) in Trentino - Alto Adige:
http://pierocomai.altervista.org/storie/images/san_Romedio_e.jpg

Sisinnius, Martyrius, and Alexander as depicted (scenes) by Bernardino Luini in a set of panel paintings from an earlier sixteenth-century altarpiece (1525) in the chiesa di San Sisinio in Mendrisio (canton Ticino) in Switzerland and now in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena (CA):
http://tinyurl.com/z2bkw5b
http://tinyurl.com/26stqaj
http://tinyurl.com/2bj8y87
http://tinyurl.com/26fqjlv 
http://tinyurl.com/gryehcc

Best,
John Dillon

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