medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today, May 17, is the feast of:


Torpes (about 65) Torpes was the name of a Christian at Pisa, in the reign of Nero, who was cast to wild beasts, but a lion would not be goaded on to slay him, and a leopard that was let loose upon him licked his feet. He was then decapitated.


Victor of Rome (?) is recorded for today in the (pseudo-) Hieronymian Martyrology as a martyr of the Via Salaria, where according to the seventh-century Itinerarium Salisburgense pilgrims to Rome would find his tomb. Prior to 2001 he and Adrio of Alexandria shared the same entry in the RM, as they also do in the (ps.-)HM. Joining them in that entry was a St. Basilla, now thought to be a garble in the (ps.-)HM for the name of the cemetery where Victor was laid to rest.


Heraclius and Paul (?) are recorded for today in the (pseudo-) Hieronymian Martyrology as martyrs of a place called Nividunum or Nivedunum, thought by some to have been in Moesia near the mouths of the Danube.  The early RM, following some sixteenth-century edition of Usuard, "corrected" the toponym to Noviodunum, probably in the belief that either Nevers or Nyon in today's France was meant. The fourth-century Syriac Martyrology enters them for 18 May and makes them martyrs of Bithynia. Various Greek synaxaries record them under May 15 along with a Benedimos and make all three martryrs of Athens. 

   Heraclius and companions in flames as depicted at right in a May calendar scene in the frescoes (betw. c1312 and 1321/1322) in the monastery church of the Theotokos at Gračanica in, depending on one's view of the matter, either Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija or the Republic of Kosovo:


Restituta (d. c304 or c250) According to her passio, Restituta was martyred in North Africa. A vita written in the 10th century gives further details: A judge, named Proclus ordered her to be placed in an old boat filled with pitch and other combustibles, and sent adrift. She was accordingly bound in the boat, the pitch was lighted, the wind blew off shore, and the fiery boat containing the martyr, was carried rapidly out to sea. The ship then landed with her corpse on the island of Ischia near Naples. A cult of Restituta developed at an early age in Campania, Corsica, and Sardinia. Her Passio is attributed to the tenth-century Neapolitan hagiographer Peter the Subdeacon: this records how she miraculously escaped execution at sea by her African persecutors and died peacefully at sea, while the vessel containing her corpse was guided angelically to Ischia, where she was buried and her cult instituted. Her cult spread widely in the Beneventan cultural area.

   Whether the Restituta of Cagliari, until relatively recently celebrated on May  17 in that city and elsewhere in Sardinia, is in origin the same saint as Restituta of Teniza or of Carthage is unclear. Cagliari's cripta di Santa Restituta contains Christian funerary inscriptions from late antiquity and seems - though the original inscription is lost - to have housed relics of a saint Restituta since perhaps the sixth century.  Its marble cult statue dedicated to her is also late antique. This Restituta may have been a local saint not identified with Restituta of Teniza, etc. until the eleventh- century arrival of in Sardinia Benedictines from Montecassino (though if she is the Restituta who in his Vita antiqua  [BHL 2748-49; variously dated from the late fourth to the seventh century] is the mother of of St. Eusebius of Vercelli, then she too is said to have been of African origin). The cult statue is variously said to be Coptic in style or of Coptic manufacture.  Some views of it in its present position in the crypt: ,


Aemilianus I of Vercelli (d. 506) was, by later reckoning, the eleventh bishop of the diocese of Vercelli in today's Piedmont and the first of its three sainted bishops to bear his name. He was canonized by his seventh-century successor St. Aemilianus II. In the later twelfth century either bishop Lambert or bishop St. Albert translated his remains to a place near the high altar of Vercelli's cathedral of Sant'Eusebio and, setting the date of this translation (17 May) as his feast day, renewed his cult, which had fallen into oblivion.


Madron/Madern (d. c545) was a hermit from Cornwall and a disciple of S. Kieran of Pieran, connected in some way with Brittany. Nothing else seems to be known about him except that a fair number of English churches are named after him. Madron, Cornwall has a chapel complete with holy well on the site of his hermitage; it still draws pilgrims.


Cathan (6th or 7th century) It's not clear whether this is one person or two. Cathan is supposed to have been a bishop on the Isle of Bute (Scotland) and is buried at Kingarth or Tamlacht (near Derry, Ireland).


Maeldubh/Maildulf of Malmesbury (d. 673) Maeldubh was an Irish monk. He went to England, where he became a hermit. Over time, he converted his hermitage into a school, then into the abby of Malmesbury. His companion Aldhelm became first abbot.


Rasso/Ratho (d. 953) Rasso was count of Andechs (Bavaria). He was an impressive warrior against the Magyars, but in middle age he retired to make a pilgrimage to both the Holy Land and Rome, and on his return founded and entered the monastery of Worth (now Grafrath). Those suffering with hernias seek his intercession.


Nicodemus of Mammola/-of Kellárana/Cellerana (d. c1010) was a Greek-speaking Calabrian who founded a monastic community that recorded his memory in a late eleventh-century Bios. According to this account, he was born at a place in the Saline near today's Gioa Tauro; his pious parents saw to his Christian education. He entered religion at the lavra of St. Fantinus the Younger in the mountainous region then called the Mercurion (thought to lie along the headwaters of the river Lao), where for some years he lived as an ascete and perfected himself in obedience, humility, and charity. Muslim raids, presumably the ones that led to the breakup of Fantinus' community, caused Nicodemus to retreat to an elevated location in the wilderness at a place called Kellárana (located by various scholars in areas as far apart as the Cilento in what is now southern Campania and the Locride in extreme southern Calabria). There he lived in extreme simplicity, erected an oratory to St. Michael the Archangel, attracted disciples whom he trained, and performed numerous miracles affecting people of different social rank and from various places in Calabria. After his death on March 25 his miracles continued. 

   In 1501 his community moved from Kellárana to a dependency at today's Mammola, where his relics were deposited in the local church. A succession of pilgrimage churches at Mammola has led to today's very popular sanctuary. Remains of a monastery in the hills above Mammola are thought by some to be those of his originally tenth-century establishment. His current liturgical feast at Mammola is a moveable one, set for the first Sunday after the anniversary of inauguration of the present sanctuary in 1884.


Bruno of Wurzburg (d. 1045) was a son of Duke Conrad of Carinthia and was fast-tracked to ecclesiastical preferment, being named bisop of Wurzburg in 1033 at about age 28. He built several churches and a cathedral there. He spent his private fortune building the cathedral of St. Kilian and other churches in his dioces. He was a scholar and a writer who also served as advisor to Emperor Conrad II. He accompanied his kinsman, Conrad II, to Italy. After receiving a warning in a vision from Ambrose of Milan, Bruno persuaded Conrad to abandon the siege of Milan and to make terms with the inhabitants. Bruno was traveling with Emperor Henry III when he met his death - when a gallery collapsed while he was dining with Emperor Henry III in the building in which Henry's entourage was lodging.


Silaus of Lucca (d. 1100) was an Irish monk and abbot. He spent the end of his life in Italy, where he became known as "father of the poor." There are many legends about him. Apparently he won an impressive following, and was formally canonized in 1183.


Walter of Mondsee (Blessed) (d. 1158) In 1145 Walter succeeded the murdered St. Conrad as abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Mondsee in Upper Austria. He is said to have been exemplary in his virtues. He was buried in the chapel of St. Peter in the abbey church. The abbey flourished in the twelfth and fifteenth centuries and again in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.  It was dissolved in 1791. Its baroque church dedicated to St. Michael is now a parish church of considerable splendor (the wedding scene in the movie The Sound of Music was filmed there). Walter reposes in its reliquary shrine along with some bejewelled catacomb saints brought to Mondsee in the early modern period.


Andrew Abellon, Dominican (1450) - Prior of the royal monastery of Mary Magdalen located in Saint- Maximin, Provencal.


Paschal Baylon (1592) The Huguenots were ravaging France. Paschal was frequently endangered by the heretics. At Orleans he was surrounded by a mob of furious Calvinists, who asked him if he believed in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. When he boldly confessed his faith, they set on him with stones, and he had great difficulty in escaping.

   As San Pascual Bailon, he also appears in many retablos throughout Mexico and Guatemala (such as Olintepeque, near Quezaltenango, where Guatemalans honor the memory of San Pascual Bailon; and where, according to legend, Prince Quiche Tecum Uman died during the battle that gave them freedom from their ruler Pedro de Alvarado). In the time-honored tradition of San Ysidrio Labrador (who prayed while the fields were plowed) and the knight who tarried before the Virgin's altar while she did his jousting for him, San Pascual is recalled for praying while the angels did his baking and cooking. In retablos, San Pascual Bailon is portrayed cheerily kneeling in prayer before a vision of a moonstrance, while all around him pots boil atop stoves and breads bake in ovens, in a traditional Mexican-tiled kitchen. Often cats add to the coziness; a still life of chiles, fruits, and dressed meats fill in any otherwise unused space; and other details of local color - broom, hanging pots, firewood - complete the scene. San Pascual Bailon is the patron of cooks; he can be called upon to prevent cattle plague; and (for better or for worse) he can fortell a death three days in advance.







Happy reading,

Terri Morgan


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