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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  July 2016

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION July 2016

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Subject:

FEAST - Two Saints for the Day (July 30): Sts. Abdon and Sennen

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sat, 30 Jul 2016 05:06:13 +0000

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text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Abdon and Sennen (also Abdus, Sennes, other spellings; d. 249 or 250,  supposedly) are martyrs of Rome entered under today (30. July) in the _Depositio martyrum_ of  the Chronographer of 354.  Reliable details about their lives and martyrdom are lacking.  They were buried in the cemetery of Pontianus on the Via Portuensis, where they were commemorated in a basilica that the author of _Notitia ecclesiarum urbis Romae_ thought of as large.  Linked by legend to the very prominent martyrs Sixtus (pope St. Sixtus II) and Lawrence, they have been fixtures in the Roman sanctoral calendar since late antiquity.

According to their legendary Passio (BHL 6 through 7b), Abdon and Sennen were Persian citizens of Christian faith who, brought to Rome as captives by the emperor Decius, were stripped of their vestments, beaten with lead, and exposed in an amphitheater to ferocious lions and bears.  When these protected the saints rather than mauling them the latter's execution was effectuated by gladiators.  A seemingly late sixth- or seventh-century fresco in the cemetery of Pontianus shows Abdon and Sennen wearing Phrygian caps and receiving martyr's crowns from Christ; flanking them are two other martyrs, Milix and Bicentius (i.e. Milex and Vincentius), who are not part of their story as we have it.  Some versions of the legend make them princes and give them a trial in which they appear manacled but in sumptuous clothing.

In the earlier ninth century pope Gregory IV (827-843) translated relics of Abdon and Sennen from the cemetery of Pontianus to his newly rebuilt church of St. Mark.  Medieval translations of relics said to be theirs are also recorded, with varying degrees of credibility, for Florence, Pavia, Parma, Modena, Soissons, and Arles sur Tech; at Rome they were also venerated in a church dedicated to them in the vicinity of the Flavian Amphitheater (a.k.a. the Colosseum) that seems to have lasted until the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century.  In 1474 relics believed to be those of these saints were translated in or into Rome's chiesa di San Marco al Campidoglio (today it's a minor basilica).  Those relics are still there; here's a view of their altar:
http://www.wikiwand.com/es/Abd%C3%B3n_y_Sen%C3%A9n  

Today (30. July) is the feast day of Abdon and Sennen in Rome's basilica di San Marco Evangelista al Campidoglio.  It is also their day of commemoration in the Roman Martyrology. 

Some period-pertinent images of Abdon and Sennen:

a) as depicted in the mid-twelfth-century mosaics of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo:
1) Abdon (lower roundel):
http://tinyurl.com/qdv7khf
2) Sennen (lower roundel):
http://tinyurl.com/pugpqrc

b) as portrayed in relief (scenes from their Passio) in two panels of the late twelfth- or very early thirteenth-century sarcophagus housing putative relics of them (along with those of other saints) and now used as the base of the main altar of Parma's cattedrale  di Santa Maria Assunta:
1)  exposure to wild beasts:
http://tinyurl.com/pqqxkxx
2) decapitation:
http://tinyurl.com/obckjet
http://catalogo.fondazionezeri.unibo.it/foto/160000/141200/140986.jpg
A distance view for scale:
http://www.piazzaduomoparma.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/B9bis-pag267.jpg

c) Abdon as depicted (martyrdom) in an earlier fourteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (betw. 1326 and 1350; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 185, fol. 237r):
http://tinyurl.com/23ycdhq

d) as depicted (martyrdom) in the mid- to later fourteenth-century Breviary of King Charles V (betw. 1347 and 1380; Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 1052, fol. 428v):
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b84525491/f886.item.zoom

e) as depicted in a later fourteenth-century Roman missal of north Italian origin (ca. 1370; Avignon, Bibliothèque-Médiathèque Municipale Ceccano, ms. 136, fol. 257v):
http://www.enluminures.culture.fr/Wave/savimage/enlumine/irht2/IRHT_055343-p.jpg

f) as depicted (between lions and bears) 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. 188r):
http://tinyurl.com/j7tjvxa

g) as depicted (between lions and bears) in an earlier fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay followed by the _Festes nouvelles_ attributed to Jean Golein (ca. 1401-1425; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 242, fols. 155r):
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8426005j/f325.item.zoom

h) as depicted in the early fifteenth-century Châteauroux Breviary (ca. 1414; Châteauroux, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 2, fol. 256v):
http://www.enluminures.culture.fr/Wave/savimage/enlumine/irht2/IRHT_054099-p.jpg

i) as depicted (roundel at lower right) in the margin of the August calendar in the mid-fifteenth-century Hours of Louis de Savoie (betw. 1445-1450 and 1460; Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 9473, fol. 9v):
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b105326055/f30.item.r=.zoom

j) as depicted (portraits and scenes from their Passio) by Jaume Huguet on a mid-fifteenth-century altarpiece (1459-1460) in the iglesia de Santa Maria de Tarrasa at Tarrasa (in Spanish, Terrassa) in Cataluña:
http://tinyurl.com/od3hcxs

k) 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. CXXr:
http://www.beloit.edu/nuremberg/book/6th_age/right_page/24%20%28Folio%20CXXr%29.pdf

l) as depicted (martyrdom) in an early sixteenth-century woodcut in Sebastian Brant, ed., _Der Heiligen Leben_ (Strassburg: Johann Grüninger, 1510) at fol. Qii recto (for the full image, click on the hotlink in the white space above the scan):
http://tinyurl.com/zksz34o

Best,
John Dillon
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