medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today (31. March) is the feast day of:

1)  Balbina (d. early 2d cent., supposedly).  A church on the Aventine is dedicated to B.  It is first documented either from the end of the fifth century or else from the later sixth century (the former dating depends upon the church's identification with a _titulus Tigridae_).   The original honoree may have been either the B. of the cemetery of Balbina in the Catacombs of St. Calixtus or the B. whose burial in the cemetery of Praetextatus is recorded in the legendary and synthesizing Passio of pope St. Alexander I.  The latter makes her the virgin daughter of St. Quirinus, tribune of Rome, martyred under Hadrian, and in some form was the source for Usuard's entry for B. in his martyrology.

Rome's titular church of Santa Balbina has been restored to an approximation of its late antique self (with some later decor, including an early thirteenth-century floor by Giovanni Cosmati).  An English-language page on it is here (expandable views):
Individual views:
Cosmatesque chair:

2)  Agilolf of Köln (d. 752?).  A. (Agilulf, Agilolph) became bishop of Köln in 745 or 746.  He is documented in a letter from pope St. Zachary as a participant in St. Boniface's synod of 747.  In 1062 archbishop Anno II (St. Anno of Köln) translated from Malmédy the relics of a sainted abbot of Stavelot (Stablo)-Malmédy said to have been assassinated for having opposed the succession of Charles Martel, who had been born out of wedlock.  The _Passio s. Agilolfi_ (BHL 145) and other eleventh-century writings (_Translatio s. Quirini_; _Triumphus s. Remacli_) consider this saint identical with A.  Henceforth Köln had a martyr-bishop.  From the twelfth-century onward Köln has celebrated A. on the date of this translation, 9. July.  Different dates have been given as his _dies natalis_.  Today, the date used in late medieval expanded versions of Usuard, is A.'s day of commemoration in the RM.

In Köln A.'s putative relics were housed in the church of Sankt Maria ad Gradus; it was from a lectionary of this church that A.'s Passio was printed in the _Acta Sanctorum_.  The same church's Agilolph altar, created at Antwerp ca. 1520 and since disassembled, passed much later into the possession of the cathedral chapter of Köln.  The cathedral's English-language description of it is here:
and here, courtesy of Chris Laning, is a view of a predella panel showing depicting sufferers seeking relief at A.'s late medieval shrine:
An expandable view of another panel from this altar is here:

3)  Stephen the Sabaite (d. 794).  S. arrived at the famous lavra of Mar Saba near Bethlehem as a ten-year-old boy, having been brought there by his uncle St. John Damascene.  According to his Bios by his disciple Leontius (BHG 1670), he spent fifteen years being trained by J. before entering into the ordinary life of the monastery.  After occupying various roles in his community S. was granted permission to adopt an eremitical lifestyle, with the limitation that he was to make himself available to counsel others on Saturdays and Sundays.  When the hegumen died a miraculous light flooding S.'s cell made it clear that S., who had been ordained priest, was to succeed him.  As hegumen S. continued to live eremitically.

A forerunner of St. Francis of Assisi, S. loved all of God's creation and was kind not only to people but also to many forms of animate nature, including earthworms which he would attempt to remove from places where people might tread on them.  Leontius credits him with various miracles.  S. died two years before Arabs massacred the monks of his community.

A Wikipedia page with several expandable views of Mar Saba is here:

4)  Guy of Pomposa (d. 1046).  According to his eleventh-century Vita (BHL 8876) by a monk of Pomposa, G. was the first-born son of well-to-do parents near Ravenna who gave him a good education.  Offered two possible brides, he chose neither and instead changed from rich garb to poor and slipped away to Rome, where he entered Holy Orders.  G. returned to Ravenna, lived for three years as a hermit, and then moved on to the great abbey of Pomposa in the Po Delta in Emilia, where he rose through all the important offices to become abbot.  One of his monks there was the musicologist Guide of Arezzo.  The Vita credits G. with being an able administrator and with the operation of several miracles.  Today is his _dies natalis_.

G.'s tenure is regarded as the high point in the history of the abbey at Pomposa, founded in 523.  In his time the abbey, which then was located on an island in the delta, was an independent state within the empire, controlling a large territory stretching back from the Adriatic between the Po and the Gauro and endowed with numerous dependencies elsewhere.  It went into a decline in the later Middle Ages, was suppressed in 1663, and in 1802 what was then left of it was secularized.  In the the late nineteenth century it became an Italian national monument and in the 1920s restoration began on the surviving buildings.  That work continues today.  A recent aerial view of the site, showing the abbey church and its adjoining structures, is here:

The abbey's church, dedicated to the BVM, dates from the eighth and ninth centuries.  An interior view is here:
Detail views of part of the church's eleventh-century _opus sectile_ floor:
The extensive interior frescoing is of the fourteenth century:
Some detail views of the frescoing:
The refectory is similarly decorated.  Here's a view of G. transforming water into wine right there at Pomposa:
A Last Supper:
Likewise the chapter house:
Here's G. again:

The atrium of the church dates from Guido's abbacy:
The belltower is likewise from G.'s time:

Situated apart from the remains of the cloister is the Palazzo della Ragione, the judicial center of the abbey's territorial state:

Some pages on the site with multiple views:

John Dillon
(last year's post lightly revised)

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