medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

On Thursday, February 3, 2005, at 10:16 am, Phyllis wrote:

> Today (3. February) is the feast day of:
> Blaise (d. c. 316)

3. February is now B.'s day in Latin-rite churches.  He is said (I
haven't checked) to appear in Carolingian martyrologies under 15.
February; whether his feast were moved up under the influence of the
candles part of the legend in order to bring it close to Candlemas or
whether, instead, that aspect of the legend is a later addition
reflecting B.'s repositioning in the Roman calendar is something that
would be worth investigating.  And probably has been investigated.  Can
anyone shed light on this?

Greek-rite churches celebrate the hieromartyr Blasios on 11. February.
One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of the later Middle Ages, he has been
venerated extensively in the West since at least the ninth century.  His
relics are widely distributed.

Within the territories of the former Regno, B. (Biagio, Biase, etc.) has
also long been popular.  But here his cult is especially linked to two
places: Maratea (PZ) in Basilicata and Ostuni (BR) in Puglia.  Local
traditions place his arrival here in the eighth century and ascribe it
to eastern-rite monks fleeing westward to avoid iconoclastic
persecution.  Whereas the latter motivation is no longer thought to have
been such a major factor in the spread of Greek culture in early
medieval Italy, it remains true that in some parts of the Italian south
monastic settlement by Greek-speakers did significantly antedate
reassertion of territorial control by the empire of the Romans and was
also widespread in others that remained under Lombard administration
until the Norman conquest.

At Maratea, the sanctuary of San Biagio occupies the crest of a mountain
of the same name overlooking the Gulf of Policastro.  In the year 732
Armenian refugees are said, on what authority I do not know, to have
brought here urns containing B.'s relics and those of saint Macarius and
to have installed these in a tiny chapel that previously had been
dedicated to Minerva.  Be that as it may, the settlement here appears
not to be documented prior to 1079.  The central part of the present
sanctuary church dates only to the later Middle Ages; rebuilt and added
to in the Early Modern period, this shrine now enjoys the status of a
papal basilica.

A distance view of the site:
TinyURL for this:

Exterior view:
TinyURL for this:

Exterior view showing elevated roadway up to site and, at left, the
statue of the Redeemer (the world's second tallest statue of JC,
surpassed only by that at Rio de Janeiro):
TinyURL for this:

More views of the site are here:

According to diocese of Tursi-Lagonegro's description of the sanctuary
the church retains a single, damaged fresco from the fifteenth century;
others disappeared during the restoration of 1963-70. It is said to
preserve relics of B., of St. Macarius, and of St. Restituta.

B. is Maratea's patron saint and is so celebrated in a festival in early
May, at which time a large silver bust of B.-as-bishop is paraded around
all wrapped in a red cloth except for a brief ceremony in which the bust
is unwrapped and adorned with rings and other votive objects.  An
Italian-language page describing and illustrating these festivities is here:

This offers two reasons of differing plausibility for bust's covering
(concealment of the bust from passing pirates; non-liturgical use of the
object).  One possible reason not mentioned is suggested by these two
in which the resemblance to a pair of tonsils (one inflamed, the other
not) may be readily apparent.

Thus far B. at Maratea; B. at Ostuni (and perhaps elswhere) will
follow in a second installment.

John Dillon

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