medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

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

1)  Sixtus I, pope (d. ca. 125).  The seventh pope, S. (also Xystus) was in office for a little over ten years.  Questionable testimony to his having been a martyr gave him his former place in the general Roman Calendar (6. April).  He is still celebrated liturgically at Alatri (FR) in southern Lazio, the traditional resting place of his putative remains, and at Alatri's sister-city city of Alife (CE) in Campania, which has putative relics of S. translated in early modern times from Alatri.  According to a fourteenth-century Translation account (BHL 7800), in 1132 citizens of Alife were bringing S.'s relics from Rome, where supposedly they had been newly discovered, to their own town so that their presence might help to suppress a pestilence.  But when the relics arrived in Alatri they could not be moved any further.  Thus far this account.

TAN (mostly): In Alatri, where a confraternity devoted to S. was founded in 1429, he is celebrated on 11. January and (patronal feast) on the Wednesday immediately after Easter.  Here he is on procession there:
S. goes on procession in Alife too:
A closer view of S.'s reliquary bust in Alife:

2)  Chrestus and Pappus (d. 304?).  C. and P. are martyrs of Tomis on the Black Sea (today's Constanţa in Romania) entered for today in the later fourth-century Syriac Martyrology.  The latter's failure to annotate them as older martyrs gives rise to the belief that they suffered in the Great Persecution.  C. also occurs under today in a textually troubled entry for martyrs of Tomis in the (pseudo-)Hieronymian Martyrology.  The usual guess for the year in which C. and P. will have suffered is 304.  But conjectures run as late as 308, under Licinius (for those who find the Licinian Persecution a construct worthy of credence).

3)  Ulpianus (d. 306).  We know about U. from Eusebius, _De martyribus Palaestinae_, 5. 1.  He is said to have been a young man who in the Great Persecution suffered at about the same time as yesterday's St. Apphianus.  U.'s place of suffering was Tyre; he was tortured, scourged, and finally thrown into the sea in a sack also containing a dog and an asp.  Thus far Eusebius. 

4)  John I of Naples (d. 432).  Today's less well known saint of the Regno was bishop of the Parthenopean city from 413 to 432.  He is credited with the translation of the relics of St. Januarius from their resting place at the Solfatara near Pozzuoli to the catacombs now known as those of San Gennaro.  According to fourteenth-century legend, J. received from the serving woman Eusebia the ampules of Januarius' blood that she had collected from the sands at his place of martyrdom just after his execution.  Modern versions of the story, recognizing the chronological difficulty (Januarius is believed to be a martyr of the Great Persecution), have J. receive the blood from Eusebia's heirs.  The earlier ninth-century Marble Calendar of Naples gives today as the feast of J.'s laying to rest.

Some views of the upper level of the Catacombe di San Gennaro:

Views of the ampules believed to contain the blood of St. Januarius (the last two with princes of the church for scale):

5)  Nicetas of Medicion (d. 824).  An iconophile saint of the period of Byzantine second iconoclasm, N. was hegumen of the monastery of Medicion on the Bithynian Mt. Olympus and the recipient of at least five surviving letters from St. Theodore the Stoudite.  He has an admiring -- and partly defensive -- closely posthumous Epitaphios by disciple named Theosterict (BHG 1341; written between 829 and 845) and a tenth-century Bios by Johannes Hagiolites (BHG 1342); other Bioi have been reported but remain unedited.

According to these sources, N. was a native of Caesarea in Bithynia whose mother died shortly after giving birth to him and whose father then became a monk.  He had a pious upbringing under the care of his grandfather, attended church regularly as a child, and was early influenced by an hermit named Stephen.  He entered the monastery of Medicion under its hegumen St. Nicephorus, was ordained priest after seven years, exemplified various monastic virtues, greatly increased the number of monks under his care, operated miracles, and on Nicephorus' death (in 813) succeeded him as hegumen.

When iconoclasm was renewed under Leo V (813-820) N., an iconophile by conviction, was briefly imprisoned, was kept under a form of house arrest in Constantinople, and then was imprisoned once more.  He allowed himself to be persuaded that accepting communion from the newly installed, iconoclast patriarch Theodotus was a matter of ecclesiology rather than dogma but soon repented and publicly defended the icons (a brief florilegium of statements from the Fathers supportive of the iconophile position compiled by N. presumably dates from this period).  For this he was relegated to the tiny island monastery of St. Glykeria in the Propontis near the capital, where for six years (816-821) he was harrassed by the monastic exarch and operated further miracles.

After Leo's assassination N. was released from his insular confinement but did not return to his monastery: either he was not allowed to -- the new emperor, Michael II, continued his predecessor's iconoclast policies -- or else he was persuaded that after the passage of so much time the monastery was doing well enough without him.  Instead, he spent the brief remainder of his life in the Propontid islands and, finally, at a small church on the Bosporus near Constantinople.  Today is his _dies natalis_.

6)  Joseph the Hymnographer (d. 886, perhaps).  J. (also J. the Poet) was a Greek-speaking Sicilian who was still a child when his parents, fleeing the Muslim invasion of Sicily, brought him to the Peloponnese.  At the age of 15 he had moved on to Thessaloniki, where he entered religion at the monastery of the Holy Savior and later became a priest.  St. Gregory the Decapolite brought him to Constantinople and later sent him to Rome on a mission to the pope.  J. was captured by Muslim pirates and held on Crete for over a year.  He then returned to Constantinople, where he founded a monastery dedicated to St. Bartholomew the Apostle.

A partisan of the patriarch Ignatius I, J. was exiled after the latter was deposed in 858 and probably did not return to the city before Ignatius' restoration in 867.  After his return he was appointed to the diplomatically important office of scevophylax of Hagia Sophia.  J.'s date of death is now usually given as 886 (formerly, 883).  If the hymn to St. Theodora of Thessaloniki (d. 892) that goes under J.'s name is really his, this is surely too early.

As his epithets indicate, J. is noted for his hymns.  This is so both for their quantity (over 250 are reasonably certain to be his) and for their familiarity in Eastern-rite churches.  J. is the chief contributor of hymns to the Parakletike and some 200 of his canons exist in various menaia.  Some years ago a version of J. M. Neale's translation of his _Phosteres tes ausias_ ("Stars of the Morning") was proffered to this list.  See:
A slightly different version will be found on the Web in various places, e.g.:

An English-language  translation of J.'s canon of the Akathist will be found here:
Though not as great a work as the Akathistos hymn itself, this canon is by no means unworthy of it.

J. as depicted in a later twelfth-century fresco (ca. 1164) in the north chapel of the church of St. Panteleimon (Pantaleon) at Nerezi Lartëm (Skopje municipality) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

J. as depicted in a probably earlier thirteenth-century fresco (1201-1225; restored in a campaign lasting from 1969 to early 1972) in the church of the Panagia Amasgou at Monagri (Limassol prefecture) in Cyprus:

J. as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century fresco (1317-1318; conservation work in 1968) by the court painters Michael and Eutychius in the church of St. George in Staro Nagoričane in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

J. at right (on the pilaster; at center of the whole view; at left, St. Theodore the Stoudite) in an earlier fourteenth-century fresco (ca. 1313-ca. 1320) in the King's Church (dedicated to Sts. Joachim and Anne) in the Studenica monastery near Kraljevo (Raška dist.) in southern Serbia:

J. as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century fresco (betw. 1315 and 1321) on a pendentive of the dome in the parecclesion of the Chora Church (Kariye Camii), Istanbul:
The pendentives here depict four Holy Hymnographers (St. John of Damascus, St. Theophanes Graptos, J., and St. Cosmas the Poet).  This view captures the portraits of three of them (J. at right):

7)  Richard of Chichester (d. 1253).  A former chancellor to the archbishop of Canterbury St. Edmund of Abingdon, R. was a reforming bishop of Chichester.  Miracles were reported shortly after his death.  A commission of inquiry was established in 1256 and in 1262 R. was canonized by Urban IV.  He has two thirteenth-century Vitae (BHL 7208, 7209), of which the second, by the Dominican hagiographer Ralph Bocking, is full of anecdotes about his solicitude for the poor and the sick.

Two brief, illustrated, English-language accounts of Chichester cathedral:
More views here:
An account (with view) of St Edmunds Chapel, Dover, consecrated by R.:
Another view of St Edmunds Chapel, Dover:
A black-and-white reproduction of a wall painting of R., provided to Wikimedia by the Chichester Museum:

8)  Gandulf of Binasco (d. 1260).  The Franciscan  G., a native of Lombardy, preached in Sicily and then became a hermit, though on occasion he would still preach.  He died at today's Polizzi Generosa (PA).  Only a few days before, he had preached his final sermon in Polizzi's principal church of Santa Maria Assunta.  Tradition has it that he was interred outside the church in bare earth.

A cult arose almost immediately.  In 1320 G.'s remains were accorded a formal Elevatio and were re-interred in a more honorable location.  Again according to tradition, jasmine flowers sprang up spontaneously both at his former gravesite and in the wine with which his bones had been cleansed (i.e., in the ground where the wine had been discarded?).  The citizens of Polizzi asked the bishop of Cefalù to declare G. their town's patron and to grant them two new liturgical feasts, one on the anniversary of his death and the other on that of the elevation of his remains (the source for all this seems to be G.'s beatification process of 1632, which recorded the existence of both feasts). 

In 1482 G.'s remains were laid in a marble tomb said to be the work of the distinguished sculptor Domenico Gagini.  The upper portion of this remains in the church's Cappella di San Gandolfo:
, whereas G. himself is in the same chapel in a silver sarcophagus fashioned in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries:

Polizzi's Santa Maria Assunta also houses this fifteenth-century triptych usually ascribed to a follower of Rogier van der Weyden known as the Master of the Embroidered Foliage (or of the Leafy Embroidery) but recently attributed to Rogier himself:
There are some detail views of the triptych at the top of this page announcing this as a Jubilee year for G. (2010 is the seven hundred fiftieth anniversary of his death):

John Dillon
(last year's post revised and with the additions of Chrestus and Pappus, Ulpianus, and Nicetas of Medicion)

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