medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Yesterday, May 1,  was the feast of:


One week after Easter: At issue is the very unusual sainthood of Fruminius and Piniolo, twin brothers from Valencia who were martyred in 842. The brothers were apparently jointly assigned a single sainthood, in an unprecedented decision that remains unique in the annals of the Catholic Church. “The problem was that while Fruminius and Piniolo were popular local figures, their behavior was questionable," said Junsho Furushi, professor of religious studies at Loyola College. "Similar to Saint Francis in his youth. It was unclear whether either was quite worthy of canonization on his own, so this compromise was arrived at by Pope Gregory IV."  Under the terms of the joint sainthood, the brothers take turns holding the mantle of sanctity. Each year, a week after Easter, in the church where their relics are interred in Valencia, two specially constructed statues are used to roll dice to see who will be saint for the coming year. A gilded wooden halo is then attached to the statue of the winner until the beginning of Lent the following year.  "They were notorious drunkards, womanizers and gamblers," said Father Sergio Estaban, who has been responsible for the ritual for the past eight years. "That's their problem right off the bat. They set the tone for the parish, I'm afraid."

   The annual balanceo de los dados, or "rolling of the dice," has been a Valencia fixture for centuries. A festival has sprung up around the event, replete with high-stakes wagers on whether Fruminius or Piniolo will take the "prize" for the coming year. Violence is not uncommon. But the final straw came in 2003, when a riot broke out in which 23 people were hospitalized following Piniolo's upset win over the heavily-favored Fruminius.

   "That's when we really decided to take another look at this arrangement," said Cardinal Bernquist. "I mean, come on. Saints should not inspire assault and battery. I don't care how much money the church stood to win."

   The de-sanctification marks one of the first times that a saint whose historical authenticity is not in question has been removed from the Vatican's list.


Jeremiah (d. c590 BCE) One of the greater prophets, legend reports that at the age of 55 Jeremiah was stoned to death by his fellow Jews in captivity in Egypt (?). His cult is mostly active in Venice, where some of his relics are kept.


Joseph the Worker (d. 1st century) is the foster-father of Jesus, whose principal feast is on March 19. Today's feast is a creation of 1955, replacing that of Philip and James (who now are celebrated on 3. May) in the RM.


James the Less, apostle and martyr (1st century) The parentage of S. James is so confused that it is impossible to decide with anything approaching to certainty who was his father, and what was his relationship to our Blessed Lord. Modernly, his feast has been moved to May 3 in the RM.


Philip, apostle and martyr (1st century) was born at Bethsaida, a town near the Sea of Tiberias, the city of SS. Andrew and Peter. Of his parents and way of life the Gospel history takes no notice, though probably he was a fisherman. MOdernly, his feast has been moved to May 3.


Andeolus/Andéol(French) (d. 208, supposedly) is the legendary evangelist of the Vivarais. According to his Passio; earliest witnesses are of the tenth century) he was a subdeacon sent to Gaul by St. Polycarp of Smyrna in a mission headed by St. Benignus of Dijon. He was on his way to Carpentras when in the persecution of Septimius Severus he was arrested at a place called Bergoiata, was tried before the emperor himself, who had been on his way to Valence, and was found guilty. After various torments he was dispatched on this day in the presence of the emperor, who ordered that Andeolus be killed by having his head sliced and re-shaped in the form of a cross. His corpse was thrown into the Rhone, whence it was recovered by a pagan matron who, instructed as to his holiness by a miracle, became Christian and gave him a decent burial.


Maurus, venerated at Gallipoli (d. 284, supposedly) A saint of this name was venerated in Greek-speaking communities in and near Gallipoli on Italy's Salentine Peninsula (the heel of the Italian boot) from at least 1149 until well into the eighteenth century. His Greek Acta sstates that Maurus was a well-born Libyan Christian who was orphaned while still young, travelled to Rome, and was there promptly marytred under an official named Celerinus. Comrades of his from Libya placed his body in a container and attempted to sail home with it. Celerinus pursued them to a place in what the Acta imply was later the theme of Langobardia. Here he caught up with them and slew them but was unsuccessful in his attempt to burn Maurus' remains; setting off on an intended return to Rome, he and all his minions were drowned off Gallipoli (at this point, the Acta note the parallel with Pharoah's pursuit of the Israelites). Well-born citizens of Gallipoli buried the bodies of Maurus and of his companions and celebrated his feast on 1. May.

   A Greek-rite monastery dedicated to him at the locality of San Mauro alla Serra in today's Sannicola, near Gallipoli, is documented from 1149 to 1331. There were also cave churches honoring him at Oria and at Presicce. The church of the monastery, which at one time had considerable holdings on the Salentine Peninsula, remained in use in the early modern period; richly frescoed, it has recently been restored without and within.


Hypolistus (d. c303, supposedly) This saint is the dedicatee of the originally twelfth-century church of Sant'Ippolisto at Atripalda in Campania. That structure was built over a late antique Christian hypogeum known medievally as the specus martyrum ('cave of the martyrs') where saints are first known to have been venerated from 357, when the site was part of a necropolis for ancient Abellinum. Hypolistus was one of the saints venerated there. He has a legendary Passio that makes him a priest of Antioch who preached the gospel wondrously at Abellinum and who was martyred under Diocletian. He is not included in the RM.


Isidora the Simple (d. c365) is a very early example of the "fool for Christ's sake" type of holiness. She was a nun at Tabennesi, despised by her community. When it became apparent how holy she was, she fled to the desert to avoid honor.


Amator/Amate (d. 418) Amator’s Vita, which was written about 1-1/2 centuries after his death and is regarded as unreliable, tells that he was the only son of an influential Auxerre family. He was betrothed against his will to a girl named Martha, but at his wedding the celebrating bishop "accidentally" (doubtless nudged by the Holy Spirit) read the rite for ordination of a deacon instead of the wedding rite, which mistake was only noticed by the bride and groom. Amator convinced his fiancee to give up the marriage idea - she became a nun; he became a priest and later bishop of Auxerre.  He was a zealous missionary, church-builder, and miracle worker, credited with healing powers.


Orientius/Oriens of Auch (d. earlier 5th century). Orientius has a not altogether credible Vita prima that has been variously dated from the early sixth century to sometime in the Carolingian period and upon which his later Vitae depend. This makes him a born at Huescar, in the marches of Aragaon. He sold his property, gave the price to the poor, and retired as a hermit to the valley of Lavedan. Then he became bishop of today's Auch (Gers) in southeastern France, in his lifetime Auscis in Novempopulonia. He was learned in theology, converted pagans at Auch, and destroyed a pagan temple that was a haunt of of devils. Auch at this time belonged to the Visigothic kingdom and Orientius is said to have served as an envoy from the Gothic king of Toulouse to Aetius, who received him respectfully while his subordinate, Litorius, refused to meet with Aetius. When the Goths later capture the Roman force Litorius paid with his life while Orientius was able to secure the release of the others. He is customarily identified with the late antique Christian poet Orientius, the author of a moral-didactic poem called Commonitorium whose 518 elegiac distichs include an often-cited passage on the woes of Gaul under barbarian rule.


Brioc (6th century) was born to an aristocratic Welsh family, educated at Auxerre, after which he returned to Britain. He converted to Christianity, and then converted his parents, worked miracles, founded a monastery, and apparently made his way to both Britanny (with 168 disciples) and Cornwall during his life. His later legends reflect his mobility, such as the tale that he set out with 168 monks in a ship, which was attacked by the devil posing as an enormous sea monster. He is credited with founding a monastery near Treguier and the monastery later named Saint-Brieuc. Thanks to his legendary alms giving, he is the patron saint of purse-makers.

   His full name Briomaglus > Brimael, which enters in composition of the parish's name of Plonivel (Finistère) in the southeast of Breton Cornouaille: it's the oldest attestation of saint Brimael/Brioc's cult in Brittany.


Sigismund of Burgundy (d. 524) was the son of the Arian Vandal ruler of Burgundy Gundebald, born in 480. He became king of the Burgundians in 515. At the instigation of St. Avitus, bishop of Vienne, he had recently converted to catholic Christianity and proved to be a staunch supporter of religion, founding the great monastery of Agaunun (St. Maurice) in Switzerland. But he remained a bit too vandalous for ecclesiastical tastes – his second wife accused his son by his first marriage, Sigeric, of conspiring against him; in a rage, Sigismund ordered Sigeric strangled. Afterwards, he was sorry and did a lot of penance, retiring to a monastery and giving including many gifts to churches. After being defeated in battle by the Franks, he escaped and went to be a hermit, but was found, and he and his family were taken to Orleans, where they were all drowned on the orders of King Chlodomir.


Marculf/Marcoul (d. c558) was born at Bayeux in 490. After giving up royal service, he did missionary work at Coutances, and then became a hermit. He founded a monastery of hermit-monks modeled on the Egyptian practice at Nanteuil, on land he was given by King Childebert I. The monastery was later re-named St-Marcoul. His relics have been enshrined at Corbigny since 898. Marculf's grave became one of the most-visited pilgrimage sites in France, famed for the miracles worked there. He was especially invoked for help with skin diseases; according to popular belief, the French kings' "royal touch" to cure scrofula came through this saint. 


Aredius/Aridius or Arigius (Latin)/in French: Arige/Arège/Arey/Ariez/Érige of Gap (d. early 7th century) was a bishop of today's Gap (Hautes-Alpes) whose presence is attested at two later sixth-century synods and who appears in the correspondence of pope St. Gregory the Great as a trusted opponent of simony and of the ordination of laymen as priests. According to his seventh-century Vita (BHL 669), he was the first-born son of Frankish nobles who in today's Chalon-sur-Saône dedicated him to the church at the age of two. Various miracles are reported of him. Aredius' eleventh-century Vita (BHL 670) has him dying after the murder (in 607) of bishop St. Desiderius of Vienne.

   In the originally "romanesque" chapelle Saint-Érige at Auron (Alpes-Maritimes) there is a fresco which illustrates the miracle (already in Aredius' Vita prima) wherein a bear that had killed an ox pulling his cart when he was returning from Rome with many relics came to Aredius' funeral, let itself be yoked to the cart bearing the body, drew it, and returned annually for the saint's feast:


Kellach/Ceallach, bishop of Killala (7th century) was the son of Eoghan Beul, son of Ceallach, son of Oilioll Molt.  His brother's name was Muireadhach of Cuchongilt.


Asaph (d. early 7th century)  The North Welsh Bishop Asaph is mostly known through late Vitae of St. Kentigern, whose disciple Asaph was.  Asaph was of course a model of obedience, including bringing live coals to his master without burning himself. He was mostly active in Flintshire, using Llanasa as his center, but was chosen as bishop of Llanelwy (now known as St. Asaph).


Evermar (about 700) Evermar, a native of Friesland, born of noble parents, came in the days of Pepin of Herstal on pilgrimage through Belgium to visit the tomb of S. Servais at Maestricht, and those of other saints in that part - and was murdered by brigands.


John (early ninth century) At a young age he became a disciple of St. Gregory of Dekapolis and accepted monastic tonsure from him at a monastery in Thessalonica. When the emperor Leo V the Armenian (813-820) renewed the persecution against Orthodox Christians because they venerated the holy icons, St. Gregory of Dekapolis, St. Joseph the Hymnographer and his disciple St. John went from Thessalonica to Constantinople, to raise opposition to the Iconoclast heresy. In spite of persecution, Sts. Gregory and John fearlessly defended Orthodoxy for several years, and preached the veneration of icons. After many hardships St. Gregory died (around 820), and soon after, his faithful disciple John also departed to the Lord. St. Joseph the Hymnographer transferred the relics of Sts. Gregory and John and placed them in the church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.


Theodard, Archbishop of Narbonne (c893) As a young lawyer Theodard caught the attention of Archbishop Sigebold of Narbonne. He became archdeacon, and succeeded Sigebold as archbishop. Theodard did a great deal of restoration after Muslim raids and sold church treasure and gave up his own income to relieve a famine. But he is chiefly known through an event, which we cannot fail to regard with the strongest reprobation. At his time at Toulouse it was the custom on Christmas Day, on Good Friday, and on the Feast of the Assumption, for a Jew to have his cheeks rudely boxed publicly before the cathedral doors, as part of the religious ceremonial. The Jews complained to the king, Carloman. Theodard then produced a document, which was unquestionably a forgery, and which pruported to be a charter of Charlemagne requiring the perpetuation of the offensive ceremony, because the Jews of Toulouse had invited into the country the forces of Abdelraman, which he had just succeeded in defeating.


Bertha of Vald'Or and Gombert (10th century) Gombert founded a convent at Rheims. He lived chastely with a woman named Bertha (who was married to somebody else). But Bertha's husband was murdered, so she founded the convent of Val d'Or at Avenay where she became abbess - but relatives of her husband murdered her, apparently became she was too generous.  To keep things even more complicated, one source also has an entry for a Bertha of Avenay who supposedly founded the convent of Avenay - but in c680.


Benedict of Skalka (d. 1002) was a hermit on Mt. Zobor near Nitra (Slovakia), famous for his prayer and asceticism. He was killed by "marauders" in 1012 and formally canonized in 1083.


Aldebrand/Hildebrand (d. 1219) Aldebrand, born near Cesena, became provost of Rimini. In that office he preached so strongly against licentiousness that he had to flee for his life. In 1170 he became bishop of Fossombrone.


Mafalda of Portugal (d. 1257) The Portuguese princess Mafalda, after her diplomatic marriage was annulled (when she was about nine), went off and became a Cistercian nun at Arouca. She used her private fortune to rebuild Oporto cathedral, build a bridge, and found a hostel and hospital. When she felt that her last hour was approaching she directed that she should be laid on ashes. After her death, her body shone with a wonderful radiance and when it was exposed in 1617 it was as flexible and fresh as though the holy woman had only just died. Her cult was confirmed in 1793.


Vivald (blessed) (d. 1320) Vivald was born in Gimignano (Italy) in the mid-13th century. He lived as a hermit, highly venerated by the populace, and sought for his counsel by rich and poor. He was beatified in 1908.


Pellegrino Laziosi (d. c1345) The Servite friar Pellegrino (sometimes called St. Peregrine) was a penitent and a healing thaumaturge in his native Forlì in the Romagna who came to be considered a saint in his lifetime. Pellegrino grew up to be a strong supporter of the (anti-papal and therefore ineligible for canonization) Ghibelline party. But he got over it, struck with remorse when he assaulted St. Philip Benizi and Philip had the fortitude to turn the other cheek.  He joined Philip's Servite order, working as a zealous friar for the rest of his life. His cult was immediate after death and was spread by members of his Order. He has a Vita from 1484 written by the humanist Nicolò Borghese that is thought to derive from a now lost earlier account then preserved at the Servite convent in Forlì and that seems to have given at least as much attention to his spirituality as to his miracles. One of the special penances he decided on was to stand whenever it was not necessary to sit. It is said that St. Peregrine did not sit for thirty years, which caused him to develop varicose veins and then cancer on his leg and foot. The sores became painful and doctors prepared to amputate his foot, but the night before the surgery was scheduled to take place Peregrine dragged himself to the foot of a crucifix and spent many hours in prayer. When he fell asleep he received a vision of Christ touching his foot. In the morning his foot was completely healed. He is therefore considered the patron saint of those suffering from cancer, AIDS and other chronic diseases. He was canonized in 1726.  Along with the BVM, he is a principal patron of the city of Forlì and of the diocese of Forlì-Bertinoro. The greater recognition given to him in modern times probably has a lot to do with the diocese's celebration of yesterday's St. Mercurialis now falling in October (rather than immediately before Pellegrino's day). He was laid to rest in a loculus in Forlì's originally twelfth- or thirteenth-century chiesa di Santa Maria dei Servi, the church where his remains still reside.


Panacea (d. 1383) Panacea, from Quarona (near Novara, Italy), was born in 1378. Her mother died soon afterwards, and Panacea was plagued with a classic evil stepmother. The stepmother tormented little Panacea, annoyed by the child's habit of praying for several hours every day. Finally stepmom murdered the five-year-old with a spindle, while she was praying. She was Beatified in 1867.


John the New of Ioannina (1526) He was born in Ioannina. When his poor parents died, the young John went to Constantinople and there continued his trade, for he was a craftsman. The Turks had occupied Constantinople not long before this, and many Christians had, out of fear, denied Christ and accepted Islam. St John had his workshop right in the midst of these men who had become Turks. The more inflamed St John became with love for Christ, the more outwardly apparent this became to these apostates. He began to dispute with them about the Faith, and to reprimand them for their betrayal of Christ. They dragged him before the judge and falsely accused him of having earlier accepted Islam and having returned to Christianity. For this he was tortured - beaten and flogged with iron flails - and then cast into prison. On the second day, which was Easter Day, they brought him out for further torture, and John emerged full of joy and singing: 'Christ is risen from the dead!' He spoke courageously to his torturers, saying: 'Do what you will to me, and send me as quickly as possible from this transient life into life eternal. I am Christ's servant; I follow Christ, and I die for Christ that I may live with Him!' After that, John was bound in chains and taken to the place of burning. Seeing the great flames prepared for him, John ran forward and leapt into them. But his torturers, seeing how he sought death in the fire, pulled him out of it and sentenced him to be beheaded. When they had cut off his head, they threw it and his body into the fire. Later, Christians gathered the ashes and some of his precious and wonderworking relics and buried them in the Great Church in Constantinople. Thus he died a martyr's death and received the glorious wreath of martyrdom on April 18th, 1526. (From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich  (Birmingham UK: Lazarica Press, 1985).





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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