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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  November 2016

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION November 2016

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Subject:

FEAST - A Saint for the Day (November 27): St. Jacob of Beth Lapat / James the Persian

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:34:22 +0000

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture 
 
The Persian martyr Jacob of Beth Lapat (d. 421 or 422, supposedly) is usually known outside of Syriac studies either as James the Persian, his traditional designation in Greek (though this hardly differentiates him from either Jacob / James the Notary or the James of the pair John and James commemorated in the Roman Martyrology under 1. November), or, from the nature of his reported martyrdom, as James the Mutilated or James the Hewn-Apart or James the Sawn-Asunder or James the Mangled or James the Sliced.  The latter's Latin equivalent Jacobus Intercisus is often used even in vernacular accounts.  Denys Pringle, apparently not concerned that some might take this saint for a practical joker, calls him "James the Persian (or the Cut-up)" (_The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem_, Vol. 3: _The City of Jerusalem_, p. 321).  Jacob's seemingly  originally early medieval legendary Passio has versions in at least Syriac, Coptic, Greek, Georgian, and Latin. 
 
According to this tale, Jacob was a general in the Persian army and a Christian from a Christian family.  Despite his upbringing and despite his having married another Christian, he was seduced into Zoroastrianism by the flattery and the gifts of the king.  When Jacob's mother and his wife learned of this, they sent him a letter expelling him from the family and depriving him of any expectation of inheritance.  Jacob then repented and, at a time of official persecution of Christians, confessed his faith.  The king attempted to intimidate him into recanting; when that failed, he ordered Jacob's execution.  After suffering a lengthy, gruesome torment in which his extremities and sections of his limbs were sliced off _seriatim_, Jacob was executed by decapitation on this day.  Thus far Jacob's Passio.  Some who view it as the relation of an actual occurrence identify the king who brought about Jacob's conversion to Zoroastrianism as Yazdegerd I (399-420) and the king under whom he suffered as the latter's successor, the known persecutor Bahram V (420-ca. 439). 
 
The tradition of the Coptic Orthodox Church holds that the originally Syrian St. Peter the Iberian (Peter of Edessa) brought Jacob's relics with him to Egypt when he withdrew thither from Maiuma in the 450s.  Jacob's monastery at Qâra in Syria is said to go back to the sixth century (its much rebuilt present church is originally later tenth- or eleventh-century).  According to a narrative written soon after 1103 (BHL 4102), Jacob's head was brought to the abbey of Cormery near Tours by a monk of that house who had been in Constantinople, Nicomedia, and Jerusalem in 1190 (this seems to be the head of Jacob that's now in St. Peter's on the Vatican).  Like other great saints, Jacob seems to have been polycephalous.  BHL 4101d records a translation of a different head to Braga in Portugal, the Permanent Exhibition of Religious Art in Zadar has an earlier twelfth-century silver-on-wood head reliquary of him, and in the late thirteenth century the Russian Anonymus reported the presence of yet another head of this saint in Constantinople's Pantrocrator monastery.  Here's a view of Jacob's earlier twelfth-century head reliquary in Zadar: 
http://tinyurl.com/j7erz3f 
And here's one of his head reliquary in Braga: 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/25727578@N04/3120027467/ 
 
In the earlier ninth-century Marble Calendar of Naples and in the tenth-century Metaphrastic Menologion Jacob is the saint of the day for 27. November; in the originally tenth-century Synaxary of Constantinople he has the day's first entry.  27. November is also his feast day in modern churches using the Byzantine Rite and his day of commemoration in the Roman Martyrology. 
 
 
Some period-pertinent images of St. Jacob of Beth Lapat / James the Persian: 
 
a) as portrayed in relief (at left in the lower left-hand panel; at right in that panel, St. Gregory the Thaumaturge) on the reverse of the mid-tenth-century Harbaville Triptych in the Musée du Louvre, Paris: 
http://tinyurl.com/2f463kh 
 
b) as depicted (martyrdom) in the late tenth- or very early eleventh-century so-called Menologion of Basil II (Città del Vaticano, BAV, cod. Vat. gr. 1613, p. 209): 
http://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Vat.gr.1613/0231 
http://tinyurl.com/hzw8hbx 
 
c) as depicted (bottom register, third from left) in a mid-eleventh-century menologion for the month of November (1055 or 1056; Paris, ms. Grec 580, fol. 2v; reduced, grayscale view): 
http://tinyurl.com/kllhaol 
 
d) as depicted in a late twelfth-century icon of Cypriot origin in the Byzantine Museum in Paphos: 
http://tinyurl.com/j2ug5n8 
 
e) as depicted in a  later thirteenth-century fresco (betw. 1260 and 1263) on an arch in the church of the Holy Apostles in the Patriarchate of Peć at Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija: 
http://www.pravenc.ru/data/567/504/1234/i400.jpg 
 
f) as depicted (martyrdom) in an historiated initial "J" in a fourteenth-century copy, from the diocese of Girona, of a Catalan-language version of the _Legenda aurea_ (Paris, BnF, ms. Espagnol 44, fol. 242v [continue clicking on the image for increasingly higher resolution]): 
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b52506309k/f491.item.zoom 
 
g) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. ca. 1312 and 1321/1322) of the nave in the monastery church of the Theotokos at Gračanica in, depending upon one's view of the matter, Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija or the Republic of Kosovo: 
http://tinyurl.com/glf8plt 
Detail view: 
http://tinyurl.com/csvgzkw 
 
h) as depicted by Michael Astrapas and Eutychios in their earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1313 and 1318; conservation work in 1968) in the church of St. George at Staro Nagoričane in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: 
http://tinyurl.com/jae7lam 
Detail view: 
http://tinyurl.com/c2gubnv 
 
i) as depicted (lower register in panel at lower left; martyrdom) in an earlier fourteenth-century pictorial menologion from Thessaloniki (betw. 1322 and 1340; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Gr. th. f. 1, fol. 18v): 
http://image.ox.ac.uk/images/bodleian/msgrthf1/18v.jpg 
 
j) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (1330s) in the nave of the church of the Hodegetria in the Patriarchate of Peć: 
http://tinyurl.com/bn8rdpz 
Detail views: 
http://tinyurl.com/3bozwj4 
http://tinyurl.com/btzv7ja 
 
k) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Manuel of Manuel, Sabel, and Ismael) in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1335 and 1350) in the nave of the church of the Holy Ascension in the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending upon one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija: 
http://tinyurl.com/2gywgpd 
 
l) as depicted (at center; martyrdom) in a November calendar scene in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1335 and 1350) in the narthex of the church of the Holy Ascension in the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija: 
http://tinyurl.com/ygfqe4e 
 
m) as depicted (before the king) in a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ (Rennes, Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole, ms. 266, fol. 330v): 
http://tinyurl.com/z5gfenc 
 
n) as depicted (before the king) in an early 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, fol. 268v): 
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8426005j/f552.item.zoom 
 
o) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Artemius the Great Martyr) in the earlier fifteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1406 and 1418) in the church of the Holy Trinity in the former Manasija monastery near Despotovac (Pomoravlje dist.) in Serbia: 
http://tinyurl.com/2agehmz 
 
p) as depicted in an earlier sixteenth-century painted glass roundel from Leiden (ca. 1520) in The Cloisters Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: 
http://tinyurl.com/2bo6yrs 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/maulleigh/4395940825/ 
 
q) as depicted by Theofanis Strelitzas-Bathas (a.k.a. Theophanes the Cretan) in an earlier sixteenth-century fresco (1527) in the katholikon of the monastery of St. Nicholas Anapafsas in Kalambaka (Trikala regional unit) in northern Greece: 
http://tinyurl.com/zc2j5zt 
Detail view: 
http://tinyurl.com/24f976q 
 
Best, 
John Dillon 
 
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