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The cult of saint Michael would seem to have been very popular in the
monasteries of the Low Countries and Lorraine during the late Carolingian
period and into the 11th century. I've seen liturgical, exegetical and
visionary texts that assign to him the following roles, in addition to those
already mentioned of psychopomp, protector of the chosen people, weigher of
1. Slayer of the dragon. This was interpreted by some (following, perhaps,
Cassiodorus) as a reference to Michael's role at the Creation; most often it
stood in reference to the victory over the devil that occured with the Passion
and Resurrection; very commonly, too, it was held to refer to Michael's role of
slaying the dragon (and/or the Antichrist in some texts) at the End of the
world. Interestingly, some antiphons conflate the silence in heaven of Apoc.
8:1 with the defeat of the dragon in Apoc. 12:7-10 (i.e., "factum est
silentium in coelo dum committeret bellum draco cum Michael archangelo, et
audita est vox milia milium decentium Salus honor et virtus omnipotenti Deo").
2. Some liturgical texts seem to build upon Bede's exegesis of the
Apoc. so as to insinuate for Michael a role in the Incarnation; even as Gabriel
passes on the glad news to Mary, Michael stands before the temple and pours out
the censer which is full of Christ's humanity (Apoc. 8:3-4).
3. One monk, Christian of Stavelot, built upon the fact that most of the
dates for #1 and #2 fell on March 25th to conclude that the world would also
end on a March 25th which falls on Easter Sunday.
4. Michael is not to be an impassioned and "honest" weigher of souls on the
Final Judgement, according to some texts. One family of antiphons distinctly
asks Michael to save the souls in the Great Judgement, and some visionary texts
claim that after the weighing and judging, Michael is to team up with Mary and
some other saints to "snatch" some of the souls from the ranks of damned, and
return them to the ranks of the saved. Aren't there some tympana that have
Michael cheating during the weighing of souls by pushing up on the pans from
below? or am I thinking of that old Rockwell painting of the sweet old lady and
the kindly butcher cheating each the other over a chicken?
5. Michael, again in cooperation with Mary and the Apostles, has also saved
the world from destruction with his prayers on several times that a very angry
God had scheduled the Final Judgement (usually for a day in November or
September), according to the Carta Dominica as well as several visionary texts.
Dave Van Meter