medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today (3. January) is the feast day of:

1)  Anterus, pope (d. 236).  A. (less correctly, Antherus and Antheros) is said in the _Liber Pontificalis_ to have been of Greek origin.  He succeeded pope St. Pontian on 21. November 235 and died on this day less than two months later.  Of his brief pontificate nothing is known.  The _Liber Pontificalis_' assertion that A. was a martyr is probably no more than an inference from his having been bishop of Rome during the persecution of Maximinus Thrax.  A. is absent from the Roman _Depositio martyrum_ of the Chronographer of 354; the also fourth-century Liberian Catalogue, using language appropriate for a confessor, says that he "fell asleep" (_dormivit_).

A. was laid to rest in the so-called Crypt of the Popes in the cemetery of Callistus.  For a somewhat reduced photographic reproduction of his sepulchral inscription found there, see the Google books page here (Orazio Marucchi and Hubert Vecchiarello, _Manual of Christian Archeology_, 2003 reprint of 1935, p. 232):
Like all but one of these brief, identifying epitaphs of fourth-century popes, this one is in Greek (the exception is that of pope St. Cornelius [d. 253], who was buried in a different chamber).

2)  Daniel of Padua (?).  On 26. December 1075 in the suburban monastery of Santa Giustina at Padua an ancient marble sarcophagus was unearthed and declared to contain the remains of a hitherto unknown Daniel, deacon and martyr.  On 3. January of the following year the city's bishop effected a translation of the saint in his sarcophagus to Padua's then cathedral; within a week, he compensated Santa Giustina by commissioning and donating to the monastery an oratory dedicated to D.  Probably not long thereafter an account of this invention and translation was written (BHL 2090); surviving in shorter (late eleventh-century) and longer (after 1117) versions, this linked D. to Padua's legendary protobishop saint Prosdocimus and placed his martyrdom in the second century.  Modern scholars think it more likely that D., if he were indeed a martyr, was a victim of the Great Persecution.

Padua's basilica of Santa Giustina:
was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1117 and has since been rebuilt several times.  Its late antique Oratorio di San Prosdocimo contains a reconstructed pergola shown here:
and in several of the views here:
and discussed in Gillian Mackie, _Early Christian Chapels in the West: Decoration, Function and Patronage_ (University of Toronto Press, 2003).

The site of the oratory to D. granted in 1076 is now occupied by Padua's church of San Daniele:
A twelfth-century sequence belonging to D.'s cult is said to be Padua's oldest surviving example of religious poetry.

In 1592 D. was translated to Padua's present cathedral.  He is one of Padua's patron saints.  Probably his most famous monument is his statue by Donatello executed between 1445 and 1450 as part of the decor of the high altar of Padua's basilica of Sant'Antonio.  A view of the entire ensemble, with D. at upper right:
There's a full-length front view of this statue in the _Bibliotheca Sanctorum_, vol. 4, at col. 475; partial views are here:
D. is at upper left in Andrea Mantegna's St. Luke Polyptych (1453-54), formerly in Padua's Santa Giustina and now in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan:

3)  Gordius of Caesarea (d. 310?).  We know about G. principally from St. Basil the Great's Homily 18 commemorating him (BHG 703).  A lost Greek-language Passio of G. survives in an Armenian version and may underlie his notices in versions of the Synaxary of Constantinople.  According to Basil, G. was a centurion who retired from the Roman army and became an hermit in the wilderness rather than obey the emperor Galerius' edict requiring sacrifice to the deities of the Roman state.  After some years (but before the lifting of the persecution in 311) he returned ragged and sunburnt to Caesarea of Cappadocia, went out into the central part of its amphitheatre, and there, while a show was underway, publicly confessed his Christianity.

Taken to the provincial governor, who was presiding, G. was asked politely who he was and what was the purpose of his demonstration.  G. identified himself, recounted his reasons for leaving the army, and said that he had come back in order to defy the edicts and to show his complete reliance in Jesus Christ.  The governor, irked both by the interruption of the public entertainment he was giving and by the defiance of his authority, had G. taken outside the city, tortured, and then executed by decapitation.  In Basil's construction of this event, the entire populace (whose sympathies in the matter were divided) left the city to view G.'s punishment and so bore witness to a divinely instigated spectacle that effectively superseded the one put on by the governor.

Here's G. as depicted the earlier fourteenth-century (1335-1350) frescoes in the nave of the church of the Holy Ascension at the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija:

4)  Florentius of Vienne (d. later 4th cent.).  The saint of this name recorded for today in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology is presumed to be the homonymous bishop of Vienne who subscribed the acta of a synod at Valence in 374.  The ninth-century St. Ado of Vienne in his chronicle of that city's bishops placed F.'s _floruit_ in the middle years of the third century (naming emperors from Gordian [III] to Trebonius Gallus and Volusian) and asserted that F. had died in exile.  That assertion, which has not found much favor among recent scholars, was accepted by early modern editors of Usuard's martyrology and by the RM until the latter's revision of 2001.

5)  Genovefa of Paris (d. very early 6th cent.).  G. (Geneviève) is the patron saint of Paris.  According to her early Vitae (BHL 3334, etc.; first version composed ca. 520), she was born at Nanterre.  Early in life she was consecrated to God by St. Germanus of Auxerre; at the age of fifteen she renewed her vow of virginity before another bishop.  After the death of her parents G. went to Paris to live with her godmother and began to practice a strongly ascetic lifestyle.  She predicted that the Huns would spare Paris, got king Childeric to spare the lives of some prisoners he intended to have executed, and saved Paris from starvation during a siege by replenishing its grain supply.  G. died aged more than eighty and was laid to rest on this day.  A small oratory built over her tomb was replaced by king Clovis and his queen Clothild with a basilica dedicated to the Holy Apostles.  Thus far the Vitae.

The monastic community that Clovis and Clothild founded to serve G.'s church (in which latter they were also buried) later took G.'s name.  It became a canonry in the ninth century and erected a new church that was was largely complete in 1177 but that underwent several modifications and changes in function before being secularized for the last time in 1885 and then torn down.  Here are a couple of views of the church from old engravings:
Early modern depictions of the abbey in various maps of the city are shown here:

G.'s relics were credited with putting an end in 1129 to an outbreak in Paris of a disease now thought to have been ergotism.  They are reported to have been profaned and dispersed in 1793 and again in 1871.  G.'s empty tomb from the church of Sainte-Geneviève now reposes in the nearby church of Saint-Etienne:
The same church also preserves a relic of G. that was housed outside of Paris at the time of the Revolution:
Here's a view of a reliquary (for a contact relic?) of G. from ca. 1370 now in the Musée national du Moyen Âge (Musée de Cluny), showing a scene from the Vitae in which G. by a simple gesture relights a torch that had gone out, leaving her in darkness:

The Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris has a very nice online exhibit of illuminated manuscripts illustrating aspects of G.'s iconography (e.g. G. as shepherdess, said to be a development of the fourteenth century):

G.'s consecration as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century (1326-1350) collection of French-language saint's lives (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 185, fol. 191v):

St. Germanus presenting to the young G. a small coin that he had found marked with a cross and asking that she consecrate herself to Christ, as depicted in a later fifteenth-century (1463) copy of Vincent de Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Paris, BnF, ms. Français 51, fol. 378r):

John Dillon
(last year's post lightly revised)

To join the list, send the message: join medieval-religion YOUR NAME
to: [log in to unmask]
To send a message to the list, address it to:
[log in to unmask]
To leave the list, send the message: leave medieval-religion
to: [log in to unmask]
In order to report problems or to contact the list's owners, write to:
[log in to unmask]
For further information, visit our web site: