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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  July 2016

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION July 2016

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Subject:

FEAST - A Saint for the Day (July 1): St. Eparchius

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 1 Jul 2016 05:22:25 +0000

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

According to St. Gregory of Tours (_Historia Francorum_, 6. 8; _In gloria confessorum_, cap. 99), Eparchius (in French, Eparque, Ybar, Ybard; also Separchius, whence French Cybar, Cybard) was a cleric of the Périgord who later moved to Angoulême, where he founded a small monastery whose way of life was so simple that while he was yet alive no bread was baked there and when bread was needed it was brought in from outside.  Gifts of gold and silver were used to succor the poor and, together with his own persuasive eloquence, to ransom captives.  In another act of charity Eparchius is said to have freed and to have restored to health a condemned criminal who had been sentenced to death and who when he was rescued by Eparchius seemed already to have paid that penalty.  After forty-four years as a recluse he died of a brief fever; a great crowd of those he had liberated attended his funeral.  Thus far Gregory.  The year of Eparchius' death is unknown: two estimates are ca. 558 and 581.

Eparchius has a seemingly ninth-century Vita (BHL 2559) that makes him the grandson of a count whom he served as _cancellarius_ for fifteen years before entering a monastery at Sediacum (thought to be Seyssac), details numerous miracles, and has Angoulême's mid-sixth-century bishop St. Aphthonius grant him permission to become a recluse at a cave on the site of what would become the abbey of Saint Eparchius / Saint-Cybard, after which this earthly action was confirmed celestially by an angel who appeared before Eparchius and bade him remain there.  The same Vita has Aphthonius ordain Eparchius priest and reports the presence of a basilica over Eparchius' grave.  The latter is surely to be understood as the abbey's church.  Herewith some views of the remains of the abbey, situated in what is now a section of Angoulême:
http://tinyurl.com/5okrhv
Eparchius' grotto / chapelle there (the belief that this was Eparchius' cell is probably as old as the monastery, which latter is thought to have been founded in the early ninth century):
http://tinyurl.com/6aa7cf

Before moving to Saint-Martial in Limoges the inventive Adémar of Chabannes (d. 1034) was a monk of Saint Eparchius / Saint-Cybard in Angoulême.  While there he compiled a _libellus_ of praise in honor of his and the abbey's patron saint, starting with biographical matter from Gregory of Tours and going on from there to long poems intended to be sung and then to a body of shorter hymns in a variety of metres.  This survives in Adémar's own autograph on fols. 99-102 of Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 9784, a composite from St.-Martial consisting of fragments of five manuscripts.  At the outset of the matter on Eparchius Adémar has added a portrait of an enthroned _Eparchius pater_ in an historiated initial 'O' (shown here in grayscale; depicted at left is Adémar himself):
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b9066112c/f102.item.r=%22latin%203784%22.zoom

Eparchius is celebrated liturgically in local observances on 1. July.  This is also his day of commemoration in the Roman Martyrology. 

Best,
John Dillon

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