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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  June 2016

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION June 2016

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Subject:

FEAST - Six Saints for the Day (June 17): Isaurus, Innocentius, Felix, Hermias, Peregrinus, and Basil (the Martyrs of Apollonia)

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 17 Jun 2016 21:12:36 +0000

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Dear All:
This is the previous post-re-sent to correct a significant typo in the feast's date in the Subject line.  Apologies for the duplication.

According to Greek synaxary notices (BHG 2208m, 2208mb) that seemingly are based on a now lost legendary Passio, the deacon Isaurus and his companions Basil and Innocentius left Athens for Apollonia, where they established themselves in a cave and where Isaurus persuaded the locals Felix, Hermias, and Peregrinus to donate their possessions to the poor and to join him and the others in religious life. This action did not sit well with the new disciples' families who after failing to induce them to return denounced the whole group to the governor, the otherwise unattested Tripontius, during the persecution of Numerian (emperor, 283-284; this particular persecution is a construct of dubious historicity occurring in several legendary Passiones). After a hearing in which they refused to deny their faith they were condemned to death by decapitation. Isaurus and at least some of the others were first handed over to Tripontius' son Apollonius, who in an attempt to get them to apostasize put them to various tortures from which miraculously they emerged unscathed, causing many who were present to convert. Whereupon the sentences were carried out. Thus far the legend, which also speaks of major miracles occurring at their (or at Isaurus') tomb.

Although our texts do not specify which Apollonia is meant (in the ancient Greek-speaking world there were over thirty of these), the existence of the anciently important port of this name on the Adriatic in what is now Albania probably informed the medieval construction of Isaurus and his companions as regional saints of the southwestern Balkans (it certainly informs their modern one) and their consequent presence in later medieval iconographic programs in that area.  Isaurus in particular has been associated with the cathedral of Durrės / Durazzo since at least the eleventh century, when he is figured on a seal of its metropolitan Laurentius; from at least the early thirteenth century until the city's conquest by Turks in 1501 he was also the local civic patron.  In the originally tenth-century Synaxary of Constantinople and in some of their successors in modern Byzantine-rite churches Isaurus and companions have the second entry under 7. July.  Today (17. June) is their day of commemoration in the Roman Martyrology.


Some period-pertinent images of St. Isaurus the deacon:

a) as depicted an earlier eleventh-century fresco in the monastery church of St. Leontius at Vodoča (Strumica municipality) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
http://www.mpc.org.mk/_images/MPC/SE/Vodoca/TIM31821.jpg
Detail view:
http://tinyurl.com/j55gsyp

b) as portrayed in relief on the obverse of a seal of an earlier eleventh-century metropolitan of Durrės / Durazzo (Laurentius; prob. 1030s):
http://doaks.org/resources/seals/byzantine-seals/BZS.1955.1.4819

c) as depicted (lower register; upper register, St. Astius of Durrės / Durazzo) as depicted in a later thirteenth-century fresco (ca. 1260-1263) in the altar area of the church of the Holy Apostles in the Patriarchate of Peę in, depending upon one's view of the matter, either Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija or the Republic of Kosovo:
http://tinyurl.com/6jc5eda
https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/handle/1811/40995
Detail view (Isaurus):
http://tinyurl.com/zlac7p6

d) as depicted by Michael Astrapas and Eutychios in the earlier fourteenth-century frescoes (betw. 1313 and ca. 1320) in the King's Church (dedicated to Sts. Joachim and Anne) in the Studenica monastery near Kraljevo (Ra¹ka dist.) in Serbia:
http://tinyurl.com/hl3upy2

Best,
John Dillon

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