medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today (11. April) is the feast day of:

Isaac of Spoleto (d. 6th cent.).  What little we know of I. comes from
the _Dialogues_ of Gregory the Great (3. 14): I. was a Syrian who, late
in the fifth century, arrived one day at Spoleto, entered a church, and
stayed there praying for three days.  A custodian, put out by I.'s
obvious unwillingness to leave the premises, called him a fraud and beat
him.  Whereupon the custodian immediately succumbed to diabolic
possession but was cured by his charitable victim (or perhaps he just
calmed down a bit and regained his composure).  Locals, hearing of this
miracle, offered land and money to the holy man that he might build a
monastery in the vicinity.  I., whose absolute dedication to the ideal
of monastic poverty Gregory emphasizes, refused all these offers and,
going out into adjacent uninhabited territory, built for himself a hovel
in which he lived as a hermit.  In time, adherents collected around him,
forming a monastic community which recognized I. as its leader.  I.
continued to live very austerely; he also performed several miracles by
which he confounded people who wished to take advantage of him in one
way or another.

Although Gregory gives us no reason to conclude that I.'s hermitage must
have been located on the nearby height of Monteluco, a later Benedictine
monastery there claimed him as its founder and honored his presumed
remains at its church of Santa Giulia.  Papebroch's _Praefatio_ to the
account of I. in the _Acta Sanctorum_ managed to poke all sorts of holes
in the versions of this story known to him.  Nonetheless, today's RM
continues to commemorate I. as the founder of the monastery at Monteluco
and I. is widely known, in the church of Rome at least, as Isaac of

In 1143 a church in Spoleto proper that had been built over the remains
of an ancient temple and adjacent space in what had been the city's
Roman-period forum was dedicated to saints Ansanus and Isaac.  Its crypt
(now called that of saint Isaac), which seems to be of eleventh-century
origin and whose floor consists of paving stones from the forum,
contained a twelfth-century sarcophagus enclosing I.'s presumed remains
said to have been translated from Santa Giulia.  The sarcophagus is now
located in a museum in Cardinal Albornoz' great fortress above the city
(1359-1370); the crypt, which survived when the original church was
first reworked in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and then
replaced by the present Sant'Ansano at the end of the eighteenth, houses
a copy.

A view of Sant'Ansano's Cripta di Sant'Isacco is here:
A different view will be found on this page, which also lists the
subjects (insofar as these are identifiable) of the recently restored
late eleventh- and/or early twelfth-century frescoes which adorn the crypt:
I have not been able to find Web-based views of details of these or of
I.'s sarcophagus.

John Dillon

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