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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  October 2016

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION October 2016

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Subject:

FEAST - A Saint for the Day (October 5): Sts. Maurus and Placidus, disciples of St. Benedict

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 5 Oct 2016 06:13:49 +0000

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text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

In the Roman Martyrology today (5. October) is the day of commemoration of Sts. Maurus and Placidus, disciples of St. Benedict (d. 6th cent.). Medievally, this observance focused on the Placidus who appears twice in St. Gregory the Great's _Dialogues_, once when as a little boy he is said to have accompanied Benedict when the latter by prayer obtained sources of water for three of his monasteries that had been built in a very rocky part of Subiaco and once when, in a fairly well known miracle story (2. 7), Placidus had fallen into the lake at Subiaco and was in danger of drowning when Benedict miraculously became aware of this in his cell and called out to Maurus to effect a rescue, which latter Maurus then performed by walking across the lake to save Placidus. There is no indication in Gregory that Placidus is a saint.

Starting in the ninth century Placidus begins to appear in Cassinese liturgies as a confessor along with Maurus. Abbot Desiderius II (as pope, Bl. Victor III; d. 1087) in his epitaph at Montecassino for the tomb of that abbey's St. Apollinaris (one of whose miracles was that he went by foot across the river Liri in flood without so much as getting his sandals wet) seems to treat Placidus and Maurus as interchangeable when, addressing Apollinaris, he says, _Petrum, Placidum quoque sic imitatus..._ ("Having thus imitated Peter and Placidus too... ").

At the end of the eleventh century or the beginning of the twelfth the abbey's chronicler Leo Marsicanus (later, Leo of Ostia) recorded the existence of an opinion according to which St. Benedict had sent Placidus to Sicily where he was martyred. The basis for this will have been the entry under 5. October in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology for the otherwise unrecorded Placidus, Eutychius, and companions, martyrs of Sicily.

In the earlier twelfth century the Cassinese historian and forger Peter the Deacon wrote no fewer than three separate Vitae of Placidus (two with invented authors) elaborating this opinion into a detailed biographical account whereby Placidus and others of his family were martyred at Messina. This exercise in flummery, seemingly intended both to match on behalf of Montecassino Odo of Glanfeuil's very legendary Vita of Maurus (who as abbot of Glanfeuil is in the Roman Martyrology under 15. January) and to reinforce Cassinese claims to specific landed properties, gradually became the standard discursive treatment of Placidus, the martyr in Sicily. From at least the later twelfth century onward, first at Montecassino and later more broadly, Placidus the disciple of St. Benedict was celebrated on 5. October. In the later sixteenth century Joannes Molanus' widely used annotated edition of Usuard's martyrology (Louvain, 1568) inserted into the latter's entry for Placidus, Eutychius, _et socc._ language affirming that Placidus' identity with his Benedictine homonym: _Apud Siciliam, natalis sanctorum martyrum Placidi_ monachi beatissimi Benedicti abbatis _, Eutychii & aliorum triginta_. To make clear what he was doing and why, Molanus had the insertion printed in italics and added a footnote showing his source to be what we now know as one of the Cassinese forgeries. The identification was accepted by Bl. Cesare Baronio in his pioneering late sixteenth-century editions of the Roman Martyrology; it remained in the RM until almost a century after any rational ground for crediting it had been removed by Erich Caspar in his _Petrus Diaconus und die Monte Cassineser Fälschungen. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des italienischen Geisteslebens im Mittelalter_ (Berlin, 1909).

In the revision of the Roman Calendar promulgated in 1969 5. October is a feria. In the Roman Martyrology's revision of 2001 its commemoration of Placidus on 5. October was converted to one of both Maurus and Placidus, disciples of St. Benedict, dispensing at the same time with this Placidus' supposed companions in martyrdom at Messina. In the Benedictine propers confirmed by the Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship on 18. October 1975 Maurus and Placidus have a joint Memorial on 15. January.


Some period-pertinent images of Maurus and Placidus, disciples of St. Benedict:

a) At St. Benedict's direction Maurus saves Placidus from drowning, as depicted in a late eleventh- or early twelfth-century _Vita et miracula sancti Mauri_ (Troyes: Médiathèques de l'Agglomération Troyenne, ms. 2273, fol. 47v):
http://www.enluminures.culture.fr/Wave/savimage/enlumine/irht7/IRHT_109765-p.jpg
Detail view (the rescue):
http://www.enluminures.culture.fr/Wave/savimage/enlumine/irht7/IRHT_109766-p.jpg

b) Maurus as depicted (at right; left, St. Benedict explains the Rule to him) in a full-page illumination at the beginning of a twelfth-century copy of the _Regula Sancti Benedicti_ (Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 829, fol. 54v):
http://www.enluminures.culture.fr/Wave/savimage/enlumine/irht7/IRHT_105654-p.jpg
A clearer view (grayscale):
http://tinyurl.com/mt5eryk

c) Maurus (at left) and Placidus flanking St. Benedict, as depicted in a twelfth-century Benedictine miscellany from the Stift Sankt Lambrecht in the Steiermark (Graz, Universitätsbibliothek, cod. 325, fol. 9r):
http://tarvos.imareal.oeaw.ac.at/server/images/7009653.JPG

d) Maurus and other monks receive the Rule from St. Benedict, as depicted in an earlier twelfth-century copy, formerly in the abbey of Saint-Gilles at today's Saint-Gilles-du-Gard (Gard), of the _Regula Sancti Benedicti_ (1129; London, BL, MS Add. 16979, fol. 21v:
http://tinyurl.com/mquj2f4

e) At St. Benedict's direction Maurus saves Placidus from drowning, as depicted in fragments of mid-twelfth-century stained glass (ca. 1145) from the abbey of Saint-Denis outside of Paris mounted in 1840 in the east window of the Church of St James in Twycross (Leics) (photograph courtesy of Gordon Plumb):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/22274117@N08/2366178841/

f) Maurus and Placidus with St. Benedict as depicted in three thirteenth-century frescoes in the lower church of the monastero di San Benedetto at Subiaco:
1) Benedict receives poisoned bread:
http://farm9.static.flickr.com/8516/8592692992_aa11974006.jpg
2) Benedict instructs a crow to take the bread away:
http://abtei-uznach.ch/de/media/bilder/benedikt3.jpg
3) Maurus is instructed by St. Benedict to save Placidus from drowning:
http://tinyurl.com/p6hdbej

g) Maurus and Placidus with St. Benedict as depicted in a late thirteenth-century fresco (ca. 1280-1300) from Rome's basilica di Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura, now in the Musei Vaticani:
http://vaticanexhibit.com/images/frescos/25/hi_25.jpg

h) The martyrdom of Placidus and companions as depicted in a late thirteenth-century collection of saint's lives in French (1285; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 412, fol. 207r):
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b84259980/f423.item.zoom

i) Maurus (lower register at left; at center, St. Romuald of Ravenna) and Placidus (lower register, at right) as depicted by Silvestro dei Gherarducci in an historiated initial "O" detached from an unfinished later-fourteenth-century gradual now mostly Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Cod. Cor. 2 (ca. 1375; London, BL, Add. MS 37472, fol. 3):
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7377/13935138058_ab8bc764a3_b.jpg

j) Maurus and Placidus as depicted by Spinello Aretino in his late fourteenth-century frescoes (1388) in the sacristy of Florence's chiesa di San Miniato al Monte:
1) Maurus and Placidus are received by St. Benedict (panel at right; at left: Benedict's departure from Vicovaro):
http://tinyurl.com/nwh247k
2) Maurus is directed by St. Benedict to save Placidus from drowning and does so:
http://tinyurl.com/q82339m

k) The martyrdom of Placidus and companions as depicted by the Master of the Badia Morronese in an earlier fifteenth-century fresco (1401-1450) in the upper church of the monastero di San Benedetto at Subiaco:
http://tinyurl.com/nthx8k8

l) Maurus and Placidus as depicted by Lorenzo Monaco in two early fifteenth-century panel paintings (ca. 1407-1409), seemingly from a predella, in the National Gallery in London:
1) Maurus and Placidus are received by St. Benedict:
http://tinyurl.com/oc93dgs
2) Maurus is instructed by St. Benedict to save Placidus from drowning and does does so (at right, Benedict in conversation with St. Scolastica):
http://tinyurl.com/pzr5cvj

m) At St. Benedict's direction Maurus saves Placidus from drowning, as depicted (at left; at right, Benedict in conversation with St. Scolastica) by Lorenzo Monaco in a predella panel of his earlier fifteenth-century altarpiece of the Coronation of the Virgin (1413 or 1414) in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence:
http://tinyurl.com/pkg3wva

n) Maurus is directed by St. Benedict to save Placidus from drowning, as depicted by Giovanni di Consalvo in the earlier fifteenth-century frescoes (later 1430s) of the Chiostro degli Aranci in the Badia di Firenze in Florence:
http://tinyurl.com/klqsug9

o) At St. Benedict's direction Maurus saves Placidus from drowning, as depicted by Filippo Lippi in a mid-fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1440-1445) in the National Gallery of Art in Washington:
http://tinyurl.com/nwzjyln
http://www.briggl.com/galleries/nationalgallery/natgal0050.jpg

p) At St. Benedict's direction Maurus saves Placidus from drowning, as depicted in the mid-fifteenth-century Hours of Simon de Varie (ca. 1455; from Paris; Den Haag, KB, Ms. 74 G 37, fol. 83r):
http://manuscripts.kb.nl/zoom/BYVANCKB%3Amimi_74g37%3A083r_min

q) At St. Benedict's direction Maurus saves Placidus from drowning, as depicted in a later fifteenth-century panel painting of French origin (ca. 1480) in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC:
http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.41658.html

r) Maurus as depicted (left margin, second image from top) in a hand-colored woodcut in the Beloit College copy of Hartmann Schedel's late fifteenth-century _Weltchronik_ (1493; _Nuremberg Chronicle_), fol. CXLVIr:
https://www.beloit.edu/nuremberg/book/6th_age/right_page/49%20(Folio%20CXLVIr).pdf

s) Maurus and Placidus are received by St. Benedict, as depicted by Sodoma in an early sixteenth-century fresco (ca. 1505-1508) in the Abbazia di Monteoliveto Maggiore outside of Chiusure, a locality of the _comune_ of Asciano (SI) in southern Tuscany:
http://www.wga.hu/art/s/sodoma/monteoli/scene12.jpg

Best,
John Dillon
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