medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Today, November 3, is the feast of:


Papulus/Papoul (French) (?) is a poorly documented saint of the vicinity of Toulouse, where his cult is first attested from 817.  He has two legendary Vitae, one of the thirteenth century and one of the early fourteenth (by the famous Dominican Bernard Gui): these make him an Antiochene who follows St. Peter to Rome, is sent with St. Saturninus of Toulouse to evangelize in an area recognizable as the early medieval Visigothic kingdom, who during Saturninus' apostolate in Spain is martyred by decapitation at a place not very distant from Toulouse, who then partakes of the grand French tradition of cephalophory by picking up his head and putting it down at a nearby fountain. Buried there, he became the saint of an abbey named for him.


Germanus, Theophilus, and Cyrillus (?) This group of martyrs of Caesarea in Cappadocia is part of the common fund of early saints shared by the fourth-century Syriac Martyrology and the (ps-)HM, in both of which they are entered for today. Nothing further is known about them. Their entry in the (ps.-)HM adds the names of others who may have crept in from other commemorations. Florus of Lyon appears to have had a copy that was particularly messy at this point: he omitted Cyrillus but added a Caesarius (presumably in origin Caesarius of Terracina, celebrated on November 1) and a Vitalis (presumably in origin Vitalis of tomorrow's pair of Vitalis and Agricola). Ado and Usuard retained the group as named by Florus and specified that they suffered in the Decian persecution.


Libertinus/Libertine (English) (?) is the very shadowy protobishop of Agrigento. He shares with St. Peregrinus venerated at Agrigento - but in a very secondary fashion - a legendary Passio from that city (BHL 4909; thought to be sixth- or seventh-century in origin) that places their martyrdom in the persecution of Valerian.  Even less credibly, the late seventh- or early eighth-century Encomium of St. Peter's supposed disciple St. Marcian of Syracuse (BHG 1030) makes Peregrinus the latter worthy's own disciple and thus has both Peregrinus and Libertinus (whom this Encomium names as Peregrinus' companion in martyrdom) put to death in the first century. Modern guesses as to the persecution in which Libertinus may actually have perished range from that of Decius to that of Diocletian.


Valentine of Viterbo (d. c304)  According to very early tradition, Valentine was a priest, martyred under Maximian.


The "Innumerable Martyrs of Saragossa" (d. c304) Prudentius names eighteen martyrs of Diocletian's persecution at Zaragoza, according to the Roman Martyrology, an "innumerable multitude" of Christians were martyred. The city prefect, Dacian, published an edict banishing all the Christians from his city; as they were leaving he had his soldiers slaughter them.


Acepsimas of Cyrrhus (5th century) was a hermit who lived in a cave near Antioch for sixty years.


Clydog/Clitaucus (6th century?) was a British king who ruled in Ewyas (the area of Hereford and Monmouth). His legend, recorded about six centuries later, tells that one of the king's jealous comrades killed Clydog because they were both in love with the same woman. He is regarded as a martyr, but some modern scholars think that is a mistranslation of "Merthir Clitauc" (the place Clydog was buried) as "martyrium" of Clydog when the word "merthir" simply meant "shrine."


Sylvia/Silvia of Rome (d. c572) was the mother of Gregory the Great, honored with a chapel dedicated to her on the site of her home on the Coelian Hill. After the death of her husband, she lived near St. Andrew's monastery (founded by Gregory in the family palace). According to tradition, Silvia normally brought her son fruits and vegetables from her own garden. Because she was mistakenly identified in later tradition as a Sicilian, Silvia is especially venerated on that island, most notably in Palermo where she is a patron saint of the city. The very little we know about her comes from Gregory’s writings. 


Wenefrida/Winifred/Winefride/Gwenfrewi, virgin and martyr (c650) The life of Winifred is largely hidden in legend. She may have been born in Wales, the niece (daughter of his sister) of St. Beuno. A prince or chieftain from Hawarden named Caradog tried to seduce her and, when she fled, beheaded her. He was promptly swallowed by the earth. A fountain with red-streaked pebbles sprang up where her head touched the ground, known for its healing qualities. Her uncle Beuno raised her from the dead and she went on a pilgrimage to Rome, then came home to be a hermit and finally she convened and presided over a synod of all the British churches which introduced the idea of the communal monastic life to Britain, founding and becoming the abbess at Holywell (or perhaps Gwytherin in Clwyd; accounts vary). The pilgrimage and cures at Holywell survived the Reformation and still continue today. Holywell became one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the British Isles. The center of her cult was Shrewsbury Abbey; the translation of her relics is the subject of Ellis Peters' novel, A Morbid Taste for Bones. Her relics were taken from Gwytherin to Shrewsbury by Prior Robert Pennant, who wrote one of the best versions of her life (he does not appear to have been quite the monster depicted by Ellis Peters) but her reliquary at Gwytherin was still being venerated in the eighteenth century. A fragment of it survives at Holywell. Some of the Gunpowder conspirators went there on pilgrimage (unsuccessful), and James II went there to pray for a son (successful).

   Her feast has been on November 3 in the Sarum Calendar since about 1415.


Domnus of Vienne (d. 657)  Domnus was bishop of Vienne, and especially famous for ransoming war captives.


Rumwald/Rumwold (7th century)  A rather odd legendary figure. Rumwald is supposed to have been a Northumbrian prince, the son of King Alcfrid of Northumbria and St. Cyneburga, who was born, proclaimed his faith at his baptism (performed by a bishop) then preached a sermon on the Trinity to his parents, gave directions for his burial, and then died at the age of 3 days. The cult flourished in Mercia and Wessex.


Hubert of Liege (d. 727) was probably born in c655 in Aquitaine. Hubert was a courtier in the service of Pepin of Heristal (the Carolingian mayor of the palace).  Legend reports that Hubert had been married and fathered a son. He was only converted to the religious life when, while hunting on Good Friday, he saw a stag carrying a glowing crucifix in its antlers and threatened him with Hell if he did not reform his life. He became a missionary in Brabant and the Ardennes. It is certain that Hubert became bishop of Maastricht in 705, and because of the danger of raids moved his see to Liege, which he is credited for founding, in 717. Hubert is accounted among the "four holy marshals" who are particularly close to God and can be called on for help, and is honoured as the apostle of the Ardennes. With St. Eustace, he is the patron saint of hunters and is invoked against rabies.

   In Brabant (and perhaps also in other parts of the south of the Netherlands and in Belgium) you can buy St. Hubertus-bread (or in dialect: Upkes (one Upke, two Upkes) on the 3rd of November. A Catholic priest blesses this bread before it goes to the shop. The story is that you will not get rabies for a whole year when you ate this bread on Hubertus day. It's a sweet bread and it's nice with butter and sugar.


Pirmin/ Pirminus; in German very often Pirmin, bishop (d. 753) was probably a Spaniard who took refuge across the Pyrenees from the Moors. He was one of the earliest and most successful missionaries in Alsace and the southern Rhine region. He may also possibly have come from Aquitaine. Pirmin is responsible for organizing the church in the region between the Black Forest and the Vogesen, where he founded numerous monasteries, including Reichenau (the oldest Benedictine house in Germany), Murbach, and Hornbach. He had been exiled to the area for political reasons. In 711 Pirmin rebuilt the monastery of Dissentis (Switzerland).

   According to his early ninth-century Vita prima (BHL 6855), Pirmin was the founder of the abbey of Mittelzell on the Reichenau in the Bodensee / Lake Constance, of the abbey of Murbach in Alsace, and lastly of the abbey of Hornbach in Rheinland-Pfalz, where he died and where the Vita was written, as well as of numerous other monasteries in Francia, Alemannia, and Bavaria; he is also the eponym of today's Pirmasens in Rheinland-Pfalz.

   Still according to this Vita, he was previously bishop of/at a castellum Meltis where he delivered his Sunday sermon utraque lingua, Romana scilicet et Francorumque ("in both tongues, the Roman one and that of the Franks"), a datum that implies a location somewhere in the Romance/Frankish border zone.  Thus, though it ordinarily signifies Meaux, Meltis here may refer instead to today's Medelsheim (Lkr. Saarpfalz) in Rheinland-Pfalz, not far from Hornbach.  The customary view of Pirmin's episcopacy today is that he was at that time a chorepiscopus (regional bishop).

   Pirmin is considered the apostle of parts of Alsace and today's southwestern Germany.  A brief manual for the use of new converts, the Dicta abbatis Pirminii de singulis libris canonicis scarapsus, still widely attributed to Pirmin, is the earliest witness of the Apostles' Creed as it is known today.

   To judge from said Vita Pirmins cult at Hornbach began shortly after his death.  His feast on this day at Reichenau is first attested from the early ninth century.  Here's Pirmin (lower left) depicted as Reichenau's founder in a late tenth-century manuscript from that abbey (Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek, Cod. Aug. perg. 205, fol. 72r): . Pilgrimage to Pirmin's tomb at Hornbach ceased with that abbey's dissolution in 1558.  Hornbach's last abbot brought Pirmin's relics to Speyer.  From there they went on to Innsbruck in 1587 (aliter, 1576).  They now repose there in a modern reliquary in Innsbruck's Jesuitenkirche zur Heiligsten Dreifaltigkeit (Jesuit church of the Most Holy Trinity):


Joannicius the Great (d. 846) is an iconophile saint from the period of Byzantine second iconoclasm. He has two contemporary Bioi (BHG 935 and 936) and a later one attributed to Symeon Metaphrastes (BHG 937). According to these sources he was Bithynian who in his youth had been a swineherd and who later was a soldier who took part in campaigns against the Bulgars.  In about 795, at the age of forty, he left the world and entered the first of several monasteries he would inhabit on Mount Olympus in Bithynia.  In about 806 he made his profession and received the tonsure.  J. would at times interrupt his monastic existence by becoming for a while a wandering hermit; miracles are ascribed to him and he is said to have had the gift of prophecy.  Among the dignitaries who are reported to have visit him are St. Theodore the Stoudite and the patriarch St. Methodius.

   Joannicius as depicted in the frescoes (1230s) in the narthex of the church of the Ascension in the Mileševa monastery near Prijepolje (Zlatibor dist.) in southern Serbia: and

   Joannicius as depicted in a perhaps late thirteenth-century fresco in the ex-chiesa abbaziale di San Mauro at San Mauro sulla Serra in Sannicola on Apulia's Salentine peninsula: and

   Joannicius as depicted in a fresco (betw. c1338-1346) of the church of St. Demetrius in the Patriarchate of Peć at Peć in, depending on one's view of the matter, either the Republic of Kosovo or Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija: , and

   Joannicius as depicted in a November calendar portrait in the (betw. 1335-1350) frescoes in the narthex of the church of the Holy Ascension at the Visoki Dečani monastery near Peć:

   Joannicius as depicted in the mid-fourteenth-century frescoes of the arch between the intermediate and the western bay in the church of the Holy Apostles in the Patriarchate of Peć at Peć:

   Joannicius as depicted in a fresco (c1408) in the monastery church of St. Stephen at Koporin in Velika Plana (Podunavlje dist.) in central Serbia:


Hermengaudius/Armengol (d. 1035) was bishop of Urgell (in the Pyrenees) 1010-1035. He built the cathedral in Urgell and formed a chapter of canons following the Augustinian Rule.


Amicus (d. c1045) was a priest at Camerino (Italy) who became a hermit and then a monk. He spent the last years of his life at Fonte Avellana, where he died at the reputed age of 120.


Berard/Berardus, bishop of the Marsi (c1079-1130) was born at today's Colli di Montebove and was commemorated both civically and ecclesiastically this spring at Pescina, where Berard's relics are located and where he is the subject of an annual patronal feast at the beginning of every May. His day of birth into the next world is today, the date fixed by the Life written, probably between 1140 and 1150, by his student and protégé, John, bishop of Segni (Johannes Signiensis, Giovanni Signino).

   Berard was a son of Berard IV, count of the Marsi, and thus belonged to a family that had furnished not only several bishops of the Marsi but also at least two abbots of Montecassino as well as the famous brothers Atto, bishop of Chieti and Transmundus, abbot of San Clemente di Casauria and bishop of Valva. He studied at Montecassino during the abbacy of his kinsman Oderisius II and was called to Rome by Paschal II, under whom he filled various offices; one of these, an ecclesiastical governorship with the rank of count, led to his being briefly held prisoner in a well at Palestrina by a local lord who felt threatened by him.  Paschal made him bishop of the Marsi (today's diocese of Avezzano) in about 1110; if, as some think, he had some years earlier been created cardinal deacon of Sant'Angelo in Pescheria, he gave that upon assumption of his bishopric.

   Berard was a notable reformer and at the same time celebrated for his sanctity. He was canonized in 1802.


Malachy/Maol Maodoc Ua Morgair (d. 1148) was the most notable leader of the Irish Church's reform movement of the early twelfth century. He was educated at Armagh, and was ordained there in 1119. After a term as vicar of Armagh, Malachy returned to the monastic life at Lismore, then served as abbot of Bangor, only to be elected bishop of Connor and Down in 1124, then in 1129 became abbot and archbishop of Armagh, the first non-hereditary archbishop of Armagh for generations (not without difficulties, including armed conflict). He resigned that office in 1137. Malachy played a central role in bringing Irish church practices in tandem with Rome, and also introduced the Cistercians and canons regular to Ireland. He was a close friend of Bernard of Clairvaux, and died in the abbot's arms. Bernard pronounced Malachy a saint in his requiem mass; he was canonized by Clement III in 1190 (the first canonized Irishman). He is the supposed author of a hilariously bad set of prophecies regarding the popes from his days to the end of time; according to the prophecies, there are only two more popes to come. (See Nov 2)


Alpais/Aupes/Alpaide (French) of Cudot (blessed) (d. 1211) was the daughter of a peasant family from the area of Orleans. She fell ill, perhaps with leprosy while still a child, and was cured thanks to a vision - but stricken with paralysis. So she took to her bed for the rest of her life, and won fame for her patience and gentleness as well as her ability to live on nothing but the Eucharist and the juice of small morsels of food that she chewed and then spat outAlpais was already famous in her lifetime: our earliest account of her is a sketch sub anno 1180 by the Auxerrois chronicler Robert of Saint-Marien (d. 1212), a Premonstratensian.  Cistercians especially promoted her cult: the earliest form of her Vita (BHL 306; several versions) was written by a priest of the nearby priory of Les Escharlis who had conversed with her; the likewise Cistercian Ralph of Coggeshall, writing in the 1220s, devoted to Alpais several pages of his Chronicon Anglicanum.

   She was famous for miracles and ecstasies. The archbishop William of Sens arranged for a church to be built next to her lodging. She had an informal cult for centuries, which was confirmed in 1874.  Alpais' cult was confirmed papally in 1874 at the level of Beata.  Relics said to be hers are kept in Cudot's originally twelfth-century église Notre-Dame (restored in the later nineteenth century after her formal beatification).  Some views of this structure are here, starting at about a third of the way down the page (s.v. Pélerinage de sainte Alpais):

   Alpais as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493, Beloit College copy, fol. CCVv):


Ida of Toggenburg, matron (1226) - although the great Bollandist scholar Delehaye says that all we know about Ida is that she was buried at Fischingen and her anniversary was kept there on this day, she was the subject of an interesting 'romance' with the 'happy ending' of her living in a cave for 17 years before telling her husband she really did not want to see him, upon which she joined a nunnery at Fischingen.


Simon Ballachi of Rimini (1319 or 1329) was born in Sant'Archangelo (Italy) in c1250, the son of the count of Ballachi. He became a Dominican lay brother at age 27 who acted as gardener. He walked through the streets of Rimini holding a cross and calling the children to catechism. He spent his life in ascetic practices and self-abnegation, even practicing self-discipline with an iron chain tied around his body.  His cult was approved in 1820.








Happy reading,

Terri Morgan


“The nice thing about studying history is that you can always find people who are a lot weirder than you are.” – Delia Sherman


********************************************************************** To join the list, send the message: join medieval-religion YOUR NAME to: [log in to unmask] To send a message to the list, address it to: [log in to unmask] To leave the list, send the message: leave medieval-religion to: [log in to unmask] In order to report problems or to contact the list's owners, write to: [log in to unmask] For further information, visit our web site: