medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today, April 15,  is the feast of:


Basilissa and Anastasia (d. c65) Legend tells that these noble Roman ladies were converted by SS Peter and Paul. It was they (says the legend) who recovered Peter & Paul's bodies after their executions. But they were discovered and imprisoned, tortured, and finally beheaded by order of Nero.


Olympias and Maximus, martyrs (d251) The emperor Decius having made himself master of several provinces of Persia, persecuted the Christians therein. Of the numbers were Olympias and Maximus, nobles of Corduena, who were brought before the emperor and cudgelled.


Maro of Mons Aureus (and Eutyches & Victorinus) (?) is a poorly documented saint of Picenum recorded for today in the (pseudo-) Hieronymian Martyrology as having suffered at an unidentified Mons Aureus ('Golden Hill/Mountain', a not uncommon toponym in the ancient Latin-speaking world). He was venerated medievally in Picenum and in the Sabina to its west both as Maro and as Marotus. He was commemorated today not individually but rather as the first of a made-up group of three martyrs (Maro, Eutyches, and Victorinus) recorded individually in the (ps.-)HM from various towns in Italy but transformed on the basis of the legendary Passio of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus into Romans who suffered under Domitian towards the end of the first century. Victorinus was suspended in the suplphurous exhalations from Lake Cotylia, near Antrodoco in the Abruzzi. Maro was crushed under a heavy stone at Amiternum, or Teramo. Eutyches was killed with the sword. As Marotus, he gave his name to today's San Maroto di Pievebovigliana in the Marche.


Paternus of Vannes (Paterne; 5th century) AND Paternus of Wales (Padarn; 6th century) Our knowledge of these two saints, both commemorated today, derives from a single Vita seemingly written around 1120 at Llanbadarn Fawr near Aberystwyth, the site of the Welsh saint's major cult center. This is an account of the Welsh saint calqued upon one of his Breton homonym into which had flowed details relating to a third saint of this name, Paternus of Avranches (now celebrated on April 16). Being both late and composite, it doesn't tell us much that's reliable about either Paternus. The Breton one is the traditional first bishop of Vannes (Morbihan) and one of Brittany's seven founding saints.

   Paternus/Padarn of Wales (5th or 6th century)  Paternus was probably a native of SE Wales. He founded the monastery of Llanbadarn Fawr (which means "the great monastery of Padarn") near Aberystwyth, serving as abbot and probably also bishop. Legend tells that he was an avid missionary. His cult was very popular in the Middle Ages.


Abundius the sacristan (d. c565) He is often referred to as Abudius of Rome, a designation that does not adequately distinguish him from the seemingly also Roman Abundius of the martyr-group Abundius, Abundantius, Marcian, and John (September 16).  According to St. Gregory the Great, he was sacristan at Old St. Peter's on the Vatican. His merits were rewarded by the apostle himself, who gave him the grace of curing a paralytic girl who previously had been dragging herself by her hands across the floor of the church and imploring Peter's aid. Until recently he was entered in the RM under April 14, the day on which he is still commemorated by the cathedral clergy of St. Peter's. 


Ruadan (d584) The Irish Ruadan was a Leinsterman who became a disciple of Finian of Clonard. Little is known of his life except that he founded the monastery of Lothra in Co. Tipperary. The central event of his later legend is a quarrel between the saint and Diarmait mac Cerbaill, the last pre-Christian king to celebrate the feast of Tara. Ruadan sheltered a man who had killed a herald of King Dermot. The following interesting conversation ensued:

Dermot:  Your community will go to pieces, monk.

Ruadan:  I will see your kingdom at an end first, sire! And none of your sons to sit on your throne after you.

D:  May your place be vacant, and a sow root it up with its snout.

R:  May Temora, your city, be desolated many hundred years before that, and without an inhabitant forever.

D:  May your body be polluted, and one of your members perish, and your eye be blinded, that you see not the light.

R:  Sure, and may your enemies wring your neck for you, and pull off every leg and limb first.

D:  May a wild boar root your steeple up (pyramidem tuam perfodiet).

R:  May that leg of yours, stuck up in front of me never see the grave, and the like to all your body; and may a man spade sheep-dung over it.

D:  You are a protector and patron of lawlessness, but I endeavor to keep order in the country. You and the like of you are the confusion of my kingdom. However, as you are the elect of God, go your way, and take the man with you, but pay me his price.

   Here follows a piece of true Celtic folklore. From out of the sea rose thirty sea-green horses, and Ruadan presented them to the king who gained a race with one of them. And Tara (Temora) was indeed abandoned on the death of Dermot. (Or maybe a couple of hundred years later.)

Ruadan is regarded as one of the 12 "apostles" (actually founding monastic figures) of Ireland.


Ortaire/Ortarius of Landelles (d. late 6th, 7th, or 8th century?) is the patron saint of today's Landelles-et-Coupigny in Normandy. According to his brief and rather late Vita, after an early childhood in which he was acculturated to the church he entered a monastery at Landelles at the age of twelve. As a monk he was humble, attentive, and given to fasts and vigils. He would secretly hide some his own portion of food and later distribute this to the needy, whose nakedness he often clothed with the vestment he was wearing. He stoutly resisted diabolic temptation, even when the Enemy beat him physically or appeared to him in frightening, monstrous shapes. A divine premonition alerted him to the imminent death of his abbot; hastening to the latter's cell, Ortarius had the joy of seeing the abbot's soul received by an angelic choir.

   At the age of fifty Ortarius was elected abbot and, against his wishes, was compelled to serve in the capacity. He had a special devotion to the BVM, in whose honor he erected an oratory, converted many to Christianity, and was renowned for miracles.  Today is his dies natalis. He was buried in the aforementioned oratory, where many (especially sufferers from gout) found healing through him. His dates, which are pure guesswork, rely on the assumption that his converts were previously pagan. 


Huna/Hunna/Hune of Hunawihr (d. 7th century) is the very legendary saint of today's Hunawihr (Haut-Rhin) in Upper Alsace. We first hear of her in the probably eleventh-century Vita of St. Deodatus. Here we are told that Huno, a member of the higher nobility of the kingdom of Burgundy, founded Hunawihr (Hunaweier) and resided there with his wife Huna, erecting a church, which he gave to his friend Deodatus. According to the vita, at the time of its writing Huno along with his holy wife were shown buried in the church and miracles proved that both were in heaven. Apart from the Vita, Hunawihr is variously said to be first recorded either from 1114, when it is listed as a possession of the canons of Saint-Dié, or from 1279.

   Later medieval legend, dispensing with Huno, tells that the noble Huna, neglected as a child, associated with the servants in her castle and even did the washing with them. She is further said to have been married to a brutal husband when she came of age, to have entered a convent to preserve her virginity, and to have spent her life humbly assisting the sisters in their work. She is sometimes called “the Holy Washerwoman” as a result. In 1520 the duke of Württemberg (to whom Hunawihr then belonged), the bishop of Basel, and the canons of Saint-Dié got the latter's former provost, now Leo X, to permit a formal elevation of Huna's relics at Hunawihr (again, no mention of Huno), thus effectively canonizing her.


Nidgar/Nidker of Augsburg (d. after 829) Nidgar is documented as bishop of Augsburg in 822 and in 829. His dies natalis is either today (so a funerary inscription) or else September 27. His relics in Sts. Ulrich and Afra in Augsburg are said to have been the subject of a formal elevation in 1064 and to have been venerated in the All Saints' Chapel there until well into the seventeenth century. The Roman Catholic site cautiously calls him "Seliger (Heiliger)", i.e. "Blessed (Saint)". He is credited with laying the first stone of the then monastic church of St. Magnus (St. Mang) in Füssen in today's Landkreis Ostallgäu in southwestern Bavaria.


Mundus of Argyle (d. c. 962) Mundus was a Scot, founder of several monasteries at Argyle. He was once the primary patron saint of Scotland.


Waltmann (d. 1138) (blessed) Waltmann was a disciple of Norbert of Xanten, the founder of the Praemonstratensian order. In 1124 Waltmann became first abbot of the Praemonstratensian monastery of Antwerp. He was known for his great learning and piety.


Laurentinus Sossius (d1485) was a five-year-old boy, allegedly killed by Jews on Good Friday near Vicenza. His cult was approved in 1867.




Happy reading,

Terri Morgan


From the Book of Kerric:

"It requires great strength to be kind, whereas even the very weak can be brutal. Likewise, to speak hard truths fearlessly is often the hallmark of greatness. Bring me one who is both gentle and truthful, ...and I will show you an iron oak among hawthorns, a blessing on all who know them."

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