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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  December 2014

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION December 2014

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Subject:

Another Saint for the Day (December 12): Spyridon the Wonderworker

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sat, 13 Dec 2014 11:23:32 -0600

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

On the supposition that Matt's saints for 12. December will be Epimachus and Alexander, it may not be amiss to subjoin a notice of another commemorated on that day:

Spyridon the Wonderworker (Spyridon of Cyprus; d. 4th cent.). An initially shadowy figure who became the subject of edifying tales, this patron of shepherds and of seafarers was bishop of Tremithous on Cyprus. He is reliably reported as having subscribed the acts of the Council of Serdica (342/43) but whether he was actually present at its deliberations is unknown. At the beginning of the fifth century Rufinus of Aquileia, likening S. to the prophets of old, portrayed him as one of the outstanding figures at the Council of Nicaea in 325 (_HE_ 10. 5; a view seriously undercut by S.'s absence from the earliest lists of this council's participants). Averring that S. had been a shepherd both before and during his episcopate, Rufinus further recounts two miracles attributed to him, one involving sheep of the actual rather than the metaphorical kind, and observes that many other marvelous doings are told about him. Reworked by the slightly later church historians Socrates of Constantinople and Sozomen (the latter adding further anecdotes emphasizing S.'s charity and drawn from a now lost poem on S. ascribed to his disciple St. Triphyllius), Rufinus' sketch established for future generations S.'s prominence as a champion of the faith and worker of wonders.

Two early Bioi of S. are extant, one by Theodore of Paphos (BHG 1647, 1647b; completed by 665) and the other anonymous (BHG 1648a). Drawing on Theodore and normative for readers of Greek in the central and later Middle Ages was S.'s tenth-century expanded Bios by St. Symeon Metaphrastes (BHG 1648). This includes such dubiously authentic matter as S.'s converting a philosopher to Christianity at the Council of Nicaea and the collapse of an idol at Alexandria at the very moment of S.'s arrival in that city. In the Latin West, where S. was known both through Rufinus' account and through that of Sozomen as translated by Cassiodorus in the _Historia tripartita_, his cult is first recorded from the ninth century, when he was entered under 14. December on the Marble Calendar of Naples and in the martyrologies of Florus of Lyon, St. Ado of Vienne, and Usuard of Saint-Germain. Usuard's placing S. under that day was followed in editions of the Roman Martyrology prior to 2001, when S. was moved to 12. December, his principal day of commemoration in the Synaxary of Constantinople. 

In Theodore of Paphos' time S.'s remains were still on Cyprus. An incorrupt body believed to be his was venerated in Constantinople from at least the twelfth century to at least the 1420s, when it was in the church of the Holy Apostles. This relic (or -- perish the thought! -- a substitute) seems to have been brought to Corfu in the later fifteenth century, after which time S. quickly replaced Athanasius of Alexandria as that island's patron saint.

In his cathedral on Corfu S. ordinarily reposes in the nineteenth-century reliquary shown here:
http://www.apologitis.com/gr/ancient/eik/agios_Spyridon_larnaka3.jpg
But four times a year (12. December not being one of them) he is carried in public procession as the island's protector. On those occasions he travels in this modified sedan chair (okay, it's really a kouvouklion and they're not all shaped like telephone booths):
http://tinyurl.com/m5eg7kz
http://photogreece.orthodoxfaith.net.au/index_files/image858.jpg
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3105/2861568099_9c351c84b0_b.jpg
Detail views (Spyridon):
http://tinyurl.com/n2u8d9h
http://www.omhksea.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/spyridon-relics.jpg
http://tinyurl.com/jvvamj2

Herewith some medieval images of Spyridon the Wonderworker. Note the brownish woven hat that along with the omophorion identifying him as a bishop is a standard constituent of his iconography (but it's not unique to him: the differently attired desert father Paul of Thebes sometimes sports similar headgear).

a) Spyridon (at left; at right, pope St. Silvester) as depicted in the earlier eleventh-century mosaics (restored between 1953 and 1962) in the katholikon of the monastery of Hosios Loukas near Distomo in Phokis (grayscale image; this pair of images is in the building's seemingly less often photographed diakonikon):
https://phaidra.univie.ac.at/detail_object/o:191570

b) Spyridon (upper register) as depicted in a poorly preserved later twelfth-century fresco (betw. ca. 1160 and ca. 1180) in the altar area of the church of the Holy Apostles at Pera Chorio (Nicosia prefecture) in the Republic of Cyprus:
http://tinyurl.com/27a78pg

c) Spyridon as depicted in the late thirteenth-century frescoes (ca. 1295) by Michael Astrapas and Eutychios in the church of the Peribleptos (now Sv. Climent Novi) in Ohrid:
http://tinyurl.com/6j7wp6w
Detail view:
http://tinyurl.com/67qby75

d) Spyridon as depicted in the late thirteenth- or very early fourteenth-century frescoes attributed to Manuel Panselinos in the Protaton church on Mount Athos:
http://tinyurl.com/m229nwc
Detail view:
http://tinyurl.com/mqb8gkv

e) Spyridon as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. ca. 1308 and ca. 1320) by Michael Astrapas and Eutychios in the church of St. Nicetas the Goth (Sv. Nikita) at Čučer in today's Čučer-Sandevo in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
http://tinyurl.com/3u6hpok

f) Spyridon as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. ca. 1311 and ca. 1322) in the church of St. Nicholas Orphanos in Thessaloniki:
http://tinyurl.com/cag2t3o

g) Spyridon as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1313 and 1318; conservation work in 1968) by Michael Astrapas and Eutychios in the church of St. George at Staro Nagoričane in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
http://tinyurl.com/ocw73ox
http://tinyurl.com/q3yjo7m

h) Spyridon as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. ca. 1313 and 1320) by Michael Astrapas and Eutychios in the King's Church (dedicated to Sts. Joachim and Anne) in the Studenica monastery near Kraljevo (Raška dist.) in Serbia:
http://tinyurl.com/43bopoc

i) Spyridon as depicted at lower left in an earlier fourteenth-century set of miniatures from Thessaloniki (betw. 1322 and 1340) for the Great Feasts (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Gr. th. f. 1, fol. 20r):
http://tinyurl.com/lm7jbg6

j) Spyridon as depicted (somewhat atypically) in an earlier fourteenth-century fresco (1330s) in the altar area of the church of the Hodegetria in the Patriarchate of Peć at 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/ctqw3sr

k) Spyridon (at left; at right, St. Polycarp) as depicted in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1335 and 1350) in the altar area of the church of the Holy Ascension at 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/b6kyvk4
Detail views (Spyridon):
http://pemptousia.com/files/2012/12/spyridon-in-1.jpg
http://tinyurl.com/oj4vsaz

l) Spyridon as depicted in the fourteenth-century frescoes of the monastery of St. John the Theologian (Sv. Ioan Bogoslov) at Zemen in western Bulgaria:
http://tinyurl.com/5kc2eq

m) Spyridon (at left; at right, Sts. Clement of Ohrid and Blasius / Blaise of Sebaste) as depicted in the later fourteenth-century frescoes (1360s and 1370s; restored in 1968-1970) in the church of St. Demetrius in Marko's Monastery at Markova Sušica (near Skopje) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
http://tinyurl.com/3vvktdw
Detail view (Spyridon):
http://tinyurl.com/6x9eaj5

n) Spyridon (at right; at left, St. Blasius / Blaise of Sebaste) as depicted in an early fifteenth-century Novgorod School icon (ca. 1407) in the State Historical Museum in Moscow:
http://www.icon-art.info/hires.php?lng=en&type=1&id=562

o) Spyridon as depicted by Dionisy and sons in the early sixteenth-century frescoes (1502) of the Virgin Nativity cathedral of the St. Ferapont Belozero (Ferapontov Belozersky) monastery at Ferapontovo in Russia's Vologda oblast:
http://www.dionisy.com/img/266/frag_lg.jpg

p) Spyridon (upper register, just right of center) at the First Ecumenical Council as depicted by Simeon Axenti in the early sixteenth-century frescoes (1513) of the church of Ayios Sozomenos in Galata (Nicosia prefecture) in the Republic of Cyprus:
https://thepocketscroll.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/cropped-nicaea.jpg
Detail view (Spyridon above; below, the pope of Rome):
https://thepocketscroll.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/spyridon.jpg

q) Spyridon as depicted by Theofanis Strelitzas-Bathas (a.k.a. Theophanes the Cretan) in the earlier sixteenth-century frescoes (1545 and 1546) of the katholikon of the Stavronikita monastery on Mt. Athos:
http://pemptousia.com/files/2012/12/spyridon-in-3.jpg

Best,
John Dillon

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