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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  July 2016

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION July 2016

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Subject:

FEAST - Two Saints for the Day (July 12): Sts. Nabor and Felix

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Tue, 12 Jul 2016 19:04:59 +0000

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text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

In the late fourth century two martyrs called Nabor (also Navor, Namor, Nemor) and Felix were popularly venerated at Milan at _memoriae_ inside a cemeterial basilica usually referred to as that of St. Nabor.  The first clearly dated references to them come from the city's bishop since 374, St. Ambrose of Milan, the same worthy who, needing relics with which to hallow his newly built episcopal basilica (now the basilica di Sant'Ambrogio) and acting upon what he called a presentiment, discovered in 386 in their immediate vicinity the two skeletons whose human identities, hitherto known only to God, he then popularized as the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius.  According to Ambrose, who celebrated them in the hymn _Victor, Nabor, Felix pii_, the Milanese martyrs  Nabor, Felix, and Victor (the one now often called St. Victor Maurus) were soldiers of Moorish ancestry who had left the heat and blazing sands of Africa to be stationed in Milan or its vicinity, who laid down their arms during a persecution, and who were sent to Lodi where they were martyred, with their bodies later brought back triumphantly under (now Christian) imperial gaze.  How much of this is accurate is an open question.  Victor, whom Ambrose mentions along with Nabor and Felix both in the hymn and in a brief summary in his _Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam_ (7. 178), was buried separately.  His fourth-century martyr's chapel is now the sacello di San Vittore in Ciel d'Oro in Milan's basilica di Sant'Ambrogio; Nabor and Felix are included in its fifth-century mosaic decoration.

Further details about Nabor and Felix emerge from fifth-century sources.  In the mosaics of the sacello di San Vittore in Ciel d'Oro a panel depicting Milan's earlier fourth-century bishop St. Maternus (who probably had founded the basilica of St. Nabor and who was buried in it) comes between those of Nabor and Felix, thus either reflecting or stimulating the belief expressed in Maternus' legendary Acta that he had been bishop during the Great Persecution and that it was he who brought the bodies of Nabor and Felix back from Lodi (Victor goes unmentioned here).  Their probably also fifth-century brief, legendary Passio (BHL 6028-6029c), which likewise omits Victor, identifies the persecution as having been that of Maximian (thus placing the martyrs' deaths in the years 303-304), has them tried  before an official named Anulinus, specifies that the manner of their death was decapitation, and gives today as today as their _dies natalis_ while noting (BHL 6028) that their feast in Milan is 12. June.

In the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology Nabor and Felix are entered under 12. June without location, also under 30. April, along with Victor and Rusticus, as martyrs of Milan, and under 10. July,  where their presence stems from a misreading of VI Id. Jun. (12. June) as VI Id. Jul., in a list of martyrs of Africa.  Relics of Nabor were in Rome in the eighth century, when St. Chrodegang of Metz obtained some there along with those of a saint Nazarius, seemingly the Milanese martyr of that name.  Nabor's entombed relics at what is now Saint-Nabor (Bas-Rhin) in Alsace were said in the early modern period to have been brought there by Chrodegang.  The ninth-century martyrologies of St. Ado of Vienne and Usuard of St. Germain enter Nabor under 12. June, along with saints named Basilides and Cyrinus (this grouping, and with them the also originally Milanese martyrs Nazarius and Celsus, have a legendary Passio making them all martyrs of Rome).  Under today Ado and Usuard record the translation at Milan of Nabor and Felix.  The latter's major reputed translation came in the later twelfth century, when their relics were brought from Milan to Köln along with those of the Three Magi; they still repose there in the latter's famous shrine.  Milan seems to have retained cranial relics of Nabor and Felix (or -- perish the thought! -- to have found new ones); the reliquaries containing these, lost shortly after a translation in 1799, were discovered in Namur in 1959 and were returned to Milan in 1960.

In the Roman Rite Nabor and Felix are celebrated today in the archdiocese of Milan and are commemorated today in the Roman Martyrology.  Today is also their feast day in the Ambrosian Rite.


Some period-pertinent images of Nabor and/or Felix (not including Nabor in his secondary identity as a martyr of Rome with Basilides _et socc._):

a) as depicted in the fifth-century mosaics in the sacello di San Vittore in Ciel d'Oro in Milan's basilica di Sant'Ambrogio:
1) Nabor:
http://tinyurl.com/gppolx4
2) Felix:
http://tinyurl.com/pkrw4jv

b) as depicted (second and third from left) in the heavily restored later sixth-century mosaics (ca. 560) in the nave of Ravenna's basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo:
http://tinyurl.com/gqjqp4v

c) as portrayed in relief (first and fourth from left, guarded by soldiers; at right, a scene of St. Valeria of Milan) on their sixth- or seventh-century sarcophagus in Milan's basilica di Sant'Ambrogio:
http://tinyurl.com/jeult9p
http://tinyurl.com/zsdfdvt

d) as portrayed in relief (upper register, being blessed by Christ) by Nicholas of Verdun and workshop on the rear of the late twelfth- to earlier thirteenth-century shrine of the Three Magi (_Dreikönigenschrein_; ca. 1192-ca. 1220) in Köln's Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria:
http://www.koelner-dom.de/index.php?id=17819&L=1
http://tinyurl.com/jchplc9

e) as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century window (ca. 1330) in Köln's Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria:
http://tinyurl.com/j5xa7td

f) as depicted in a later fourteenth-century Roman missal of north Italian origin (ca. 1370; Avignon, Bibliothèque-Mediathèque Municipale Ceccano, ms. 136, fol. 254v):
http://www.culture.gouv.fr/Wave/savimage/enlumine/irht2/IRHT_055336-p.jpg

g) as depicted in the earlier fifteenth-century Breviary of Marie de Savoie (ca. 1430; Chambéry, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 4, fol. 535v):
http://www.culture.gouv.fr/Wave/savimage/enlumine/irht1/IRHT_035653-p.jpg

Best,
John Dillon
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