medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today, July 3, is the feast of:


Thomas the Apostle (d. 1st century).  Today's well known saint is a rather well travelled one.  According to Origen (so Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica, 3. 1), Thomas evangelized Parthia.  According to the Acts of Thomas (seemingly Syrian in origin) and to the late antique tradition of the church of Edessa, Thomas was the apostle of India and was martyred there.  St. Gregory of Tours, who had at least one Syrian informant, knew this version of events. Fourth-century Christians believed that Thomas evangelized Edessa in Syria (today's Sanliurfa in Turkey). 

   And in 1258, so the story goes in his Translatio Ortonam (BHL 8149), the commander of a Venetian flotilla operating in the Aegean on behalf of Manfred, king of Sicily, found Thomas' relics on Chios, whither they had been brought from Edessa by Christians fleeing the Muslim capture and sack of that city.  (As the Crusader county of Edessa had reverted to Muslim rule in 1144, the refugee monk who is said to have been the Venetian commander's informant must have been extraordinarily aged at the time of their encounter.)  On September 6 of the same year, the commander's ship landed in the Regno at the port of Ortona in today's Chieti province of Abruzzo, where Thomas's remains were solemnly deposited in the local cathedral.  They have been there ever since, less the piece of an elbow that was "returned" in 1953 to Cranganore (now Kodungallur) in India. He is also celebrated on December 21.

   Ortona's originally thirteenth-century cathedral (now a co-cathedral of the archdiocese of Lanciano - Ortona) is dedicated to Thomas.  Here is  Thomas’ current resting place:

   At left (at right, St. Philip) in the mosaics (c1143) of the chiesa di Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (a.k.a. chiesa della Martorana) in Palermo:   Detail view (Thomas; greatly expandable):

   b) Thomas' martyrdom as depicted in an illumination in the (c1285-1290) Livre d'images de Madame Marie (Paris, BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition

        française 16251, fol. 71v):

   c) Thomas' martyrdom as depicted on an earlier fifteenth-century altar in the Filialkirche St. Thomas in Obere Fellach (Kärnten):

   d) In the St. Anthony Altar (c1500) in Xanten's cathedral of St. Victor:

         The altar (wings opened):

Some portrayals of the Doubting (or the Incredulity) of St. Thomas:

   a) In a full-page illumination in the tenth-century Benedictional of St Æthelwold (London, BL, Add. MS 49598, fol. 56b):

   b) In an eleventh-century capital in the église Saint-Pierre at Rucqueville (Calvados) in Normandy:

   c) In a later eleventh-century relief in the eleventh-/twelfth-century monastery cloister of San Domingo at Silos (Burgos), Castilla y León: ,

   d) On a walrus ivory plaque (c1140) now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York:

   e) In the center of the relief of Jesus and the Apostles (1167) over the main entrance to Pistoia's chiesa di San Bartolomeo in Pantano:

      A distance view showing more of the piece as a whole:

   f) In an illumination in a (1178-1180) Coptic-language Gospels from Damietta (Paris, BnF, ms. Copte 13, fol. 278v):

   g) In a later panel (dated variously to c1240 and to perhaps the fifteenth century) at the bottom of the Thomas the Apostle window at Chartres'

       cathedral of Notre-Dame:

   h) In a fresco (1260-1263) in the nave of the church of the Holy Apostles in the Patriarchate of Peć at Peć:

   i) In an illumination from 1268 by Toros Roslin in the Malatia Gospel (Yerevan, Matenadaran Ms. 10675):

   j) In an illumination in the (c1285-1290) Livre d'images de Madame Marie (Paris, BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition française 16251, fol. 47v): 

   k) In a late thirteenth- or earlier fourteenth-century wall painting in the church of St Denys in Rotherfield (E. Sussex):

   Deriving from Thomas' Doubting is his role in various stories of the Assumption of the BVM in which, in the miraculous absence or blindness of the other apostles, he both is allowed to witness the Virgin's ascent and receives from her as tangible proof the cincture that she was wearing and that previously had been given her by the apostles.  Herewith, mostly from Tuscany, where in the city of Prato veneration of an object believed to be the Sacra Cintola in its entirety is at least as old as the thirteenth century (the Holy Belt of the Theotokos in the Vatopaidi monastery on Mt. Athos is likewise said to be entire, whereas the Virgin's Belt at Le Puy is said to be only a piece of this sacred article), some visuals of Thomas either receiving this relic or else passing it on to the priest who in legend erects a chapel to house it:

   a) In a tracery light (c1326-1350) in the east window of St Mary, Beckley (Oxon), shown in the fourth image on this page from the Corpus

      Vitrearum Medii Aevi (image greatly expandable):

   b) In two sculpted panels from an exterior pulpit (1358-60) by Niccolò di Cecco del Mercia and his son on Prato's cathedral (the predecessor of

       Donatello's exterior pulpit on the same building), now in the Museo dell'Opera del duomo in Prato: ,

   c) In a manuscript illumination in a (c1414) breviary for the Use of Paris (Châteauroux, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 2, fol. 282v):

      The scene underneath is a Dormition of the BVM:

   d) In an altar painted by the Florentine Benozzo Gozzoli in c1451 for the high altar of the church of San Fortunato in Montefalco (PG) in Umbria and now in the Pinacoteca Vaticana:

   e) In a panel painting from c1458 by Filippo Lippi, now in Prato's Museo civico:


Hyacinth of Caesarea (d. c115) The story goes that Hyacinth was a chamberlain of Emperor Trajan. When his Christian faith was discovered, he was imprisoned and the only food offered him was meat from sacrifices; he starved to death since he refused to eat.


Dathus (d. 190) According to legend, Dathus became bishop of Ravenna after a dove miraculously appeared over his head. Skeptics doubt his existence.


Irenaeus of Chiusi and Mustiola (d. 275) According to legend, Irenaeus was a Tuscan deacon. He and a companion were executed for burying executed Christians. Turcius, a Roman officer, first tortured Irenaeus to death in front of Mustiola, then had her beaten to death with clubs; martyrdoms took place in Chiusi.


Anatolius (d. c283) was an Alexandrian, well known as a philosopher and head of the Aristotelian school there. He moved to Palestine and became assistant to the bishop of Caesarea; from 269 until his death he was bishop of Laodicea (Syria). He was highly regarded as both a philosopher and a mathematician. He is the patron of mathematicians.


Eulogius of Constantinople & Companions (d. 363-370) This group of 22 martyrs were killed at Constantinople during the reign of Valens because of their opposition to Arianism.


Heliodorus of Altino (d. c405) We know about Heliodorus chiefly through the writings of St. Jerome. Seemingly a former army officer, he was one of a group of studious Christians in Aquileia (including St. Chromatius and the translator Rufinus) whom Jerome met when he was staying there in the early 370s. Having accompanied Jerome to Syria and Palestine and there getting a taste of the ascetic life, he returned to the upper Adriatic to engage in pastoral work and to look after a niece and nephew who were dependent upon him. Jerome rebuked him at some length for giving up the monastic life, but later acknowledged that he was a very good pastor. He participated in the anti-Arian council of Aquileia as bishop of Altinum, today's Altino in the Veneto. Jerome's Letter 60, addressed to him, is an elaborate funerary oration in consolation for the loss of his nephew Nepotianus. Heliodorus and Chromatius supported Jerome's work of Bible translating and are thanked in prefatory letters addressed to them jointly. According to Venetian tradition, enshrined e.g. in not the awfully believable Acta of St. Liberal of Altino, Heliodorus retired to an island in the lagoon. In the later Middle Ages it was believed that he had brought from Jerusalem various relics belonging to the diocese of Altino, including an arm of St. James whose hand later wound up in the possession of the German emperors. After the Lombard invasion, the seat of the diocese of Altino in exile was on Torcello, once the most populous of Venice's islands. A sarcophagus said to hold His relics is still displayed in Torcello's former cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta; he himself is depicted, in the act of blessing, in the thirteenth-century apse mosaic above the main altar (view is expandable): . Detail (Heliodorus):


Anatolios (d. 458) This Anatolios, also born in Egypt, was a patriarch of Constantinople. Only his public career, largely dealing with the way he received his see, is known; Baronius condemned him for ambition and conniving at heresy (but the Bollandists claim him to be innocent of such charges).


Germanus of Man (d. c475) has been thoroughly confused through the centuries with the more famous Germanus of Auxerre. Germanus of Man was a native of Brittany, born in c410. He lived for a time in Ireland, went from there to Wales, and finally returned to Ireland where he became bishop of Man in c466.


Leo II, pope (d. 683) succeeded his fellow Sicilian, pope St. Agatho, and was in office for slightly less than a year. He was elected to the papacy probably in January 681, although he didn't receive imperial approval until July 682. He seems to have been good to the poor and was known as a good preacher and musician, eloquent in both Latin and Greek. During his brief papacy he confirmed the acts of the Third Council of Constantinople (condemning the monothelites and Pope Honorius I for his monothelite beliefs). He dedicated to St. Stephen the diaconal church in Rome's Greek quarter into which pope St. Zachary in the following century placed a relic of St. George and which in time became San Giorgio in Velabro. He also renovated the church of Santa Bibiana on the Esquiline and brought there from the catacombs of Generosa the relics of the martyrs Simplicius, Faustinus, and Beatrice. Leo was removed from the universal calendar in 1960.


Rumold or Rombaut, martyr (c775) - converted the region of Mechelen/Malines (Belgium).


Raymund Gayrard of Toulouse (d. 1118) was a native of Toulouse who devoted himself to religion when his wife died. He remained a layman, spending his time and money caring for the needy (even Jews). He founded an almshouse for 13 poor people, built two stone bridges, and was eventually ordained and became a canon at Saint-Sernin. His cult was approved in 1652.


Basil of Novgorod (d. 1352) became archbishop of Novgorod in 1331, a time of princely disagreements and faction-fighting within

the city - so Basil got plenty of opportunity to act as a mediator. He also expended his cathedral funds for rebuilding after two fires devastated Novgorod. Basil finished his life by visiting plague-stricken Pskov to comfort, organize relief, etc. He himself sickened and died shortly after his return to Novgorod.


Bernardino Realino (1616) - known largely due to miraculous relic of his blood, that did not coagulate for many years after his death.






Happy reading,

Terri Morgan


Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. - Anon


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