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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world


The Martyrdom of *Valentinus (bishop and martyr of Terni, S00434; see as well, martyr of Rome, S00433) is written in Latin, perhaps in Terni, central Italy, at an uncertain date, by the early 8th c. at the latest. It narrates the bishop of Terni, Valentinus’ healing of the son of an orator called Crato in Rome, the conversion of Crato and all his household, together with his Greek students *Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius (martyrs of Terni, 001549); Valentinus’ arrest, beating and beheading; his burial near Terni in a tomb provided by Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius; their arrest, beheading and burial next to Valentinus.

Evidence ID

E02517

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom

Martyrdom of Valentinus (BHL 8460)

Summary:

§ 1: Prologue quoting Ps. 11:9 and praising the bishop of Terni (
Interamna) Valentinus.

§ 2: The aristocrats from Athens Proculus, Ephebus (
Efibus) and Apollonius, learned men (scolastici viri), stay in Rome to learn Latin studies with Crato, an orator in both languages. The only son of Crato, a young student named Cerimon, is injured: as he bends his back, his head becomes stuck between his knees. No physician in Rome is able to help, but a certain Fonteius, tribunicius, tells that his brother suffered from the same injury and has been cured by the bishop Valentinus of Terni. The boy is asked to come but he refuses to leave Valentinus. Thus Crato sends noble friends to ask Valentinus to come to Rome; he is welcomed and asked for a cure by Crato’s son.

§ 3-5: Valentinus tells Crato that his son can be healed if he wants it. Crato offers Valentinus' wealth but Valentinus replies that he has to believe in Christ instead of worshipping useless gods made of wood or metal. If Crato believes in God and renounces the idols, his son will be healed. He should give the wealth promised to the poor so that they may pray for his son, since Valentinus will accept no reward other than faith. Valentinus further preaches at length to Crato, quoting a number of episodes from the Old and the New Testament demonstrating that his faith is needed for his son to be healed. Crato falls at Valentinus’ feet and states his faith in God. However, Valentinus requires him to demonstrate his faith through deeds: he should renounce idols and be washed in the font to be purified from all sins. Crato wonders how water can wash sins away, Valentinus explains that by invoking the Trinity, the water receives the Holy Spirit that forgives all sins. Crato remarks that they have spent a long time discussing while his son is in danger of death. However Valentinus insists: Crato has to believe in things unseen and unheard of, for his son to be healed; he mentions wonders performed by Jesus Christ (birth from a virgin, walking over water, commanding wind and storms, being crucified, dying, being buried and resurrected on the third day, ascending to heaven, coming again for judgement) and tells Crato to believe and be baptised. Valentinus asks Crato to promise that he will convert with all his household if his son is healed. Crato calls his wife and all his household, all prostrate at Valentinus’ feet and promise to believe in Christ if the boy is healed. Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius are also present and agree as well to believe.

§ 8: Valentinus orders a room to be prepared, and all to stay silent day and night. He stays in the closed room alone with the boy, who has been totally paralysed for three years. Valentinus takes him off the bed and places him on the goatskin (
cilicium) on which he usually prays. After praying for a long time, in the middle of the night, a light appears, so strong that those outside think that there is a fire in the room. After an hour the boy comes out fully healed and praises God. His parents rejoice and want to enter the room but Valentinus refuses to open before ending his prayers and hymns.

§
§ 9-10: At dawn, Valentinus finally opens the door; Crato, his wife and all his household believe and are baptised. Cerimon stays with Valentinus and refuses to leave him. Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius abandon the study of human wisdom and devote their lives to the Lord instead. Through them, many learned men convert to Christianity, among them the son of the urban prefect Abundius, who proclaims his faith publicly. This upsets the whole senate, the bishop Valentinus is arrested, beaten for a long time with sticks and compelled to sacrifice. However he refuses and is put into custody. As Valentinus does not yield and thus comforts Christians, he is taken out of prison in the middle of the night and beheaded on the order of the urban prefect Furius Placidus [an alternative reading gives furiosus Placidus and could be understood as ‘the furious Placidus’]. Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius take Valentinus’ body and bring it to his church in Terni at night and bury him in a fine tomb not far away from the city in a land that they have bought. They keep daily vigils praising God there, are arrested by pagans and handed to the proconsul Lucentius (alternative reading: Leontius). Lucentius, knowing that they are loved by many, orders them to be brought before his tribunal at night. As he fails to convince them, he orders them to be beheaded and flees. The martyrs are buried by Abundius not far from Valentinus’ body.

Text: D’Angelo 2015, 232-242 (paragraph numbers from the
Acta Sanctorum edition). Summary: M. Pignot.
Liturgical Activities

Chant and religious singing
Other liturgical acts and ceremonies

Cult Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Non Liturgical Activity

Distribution of alms
Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Vigils
Prayer/supplication/invocation
Composing and translating saint-related texts

Miracles

Miracle during lifetime
Specialised miracle-working
Healing diseases and disabilities
Miraculous sound, smell, light

Relics

Bodily relic - entire body
Transfer, translation and deposition of relics

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Children
Ecclesiastics - bishops
Pagans
Aristocrats
Officials
Physicians
Other lay individuals/ people

Theorising on Sanctity

Considerations about the veneration of saints

Source

Epic martyrdoms
The Martyrdom of Valentinus is an anonymous literary account of martyrdom written long after the great persecutions of Christians that provide the background of the narrative. It is part of a widely spread literary genre, that scholars often designate as "epic" Martyrdoms (or Passiones), to be distinguished from earlier, short and more plausible accounts, apparently based on the genuine transcripts of the judicial proceedings against the martyrs.

These texts narrate the martyrdom of local saints, either to promote a new cult or to give further impulse to existing devotion. They follow widespread stereotypes mirroring the early authentic trials of martyrs, but with a much greater degree of detail and in a novelistic style. Thus they narrate how the protagonists are repeatedly questioned and tortured under the order of officials or monarchs, because they refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods but profess the Christian faith. They frequently refer to miracles performed by the martyrs and recreate dialogues between the protagonists. The narrative generally ends with the death of the martyrs (often by beheading) and their burial. These texts are literary creations bearing a degree of freedom in the narration of supposedly historical events, often displaying clear signs of anachronism. For these reasons, they have been generally dismissed as historical evidence and often remain little known. However, since most certainly date from within the period circa 400-800, often providing unique references to cult, they are an essential source to shed light on the rise of the cult of saints.

The Martyrdom of Valentinus
The earliest version of the Martyrdom is BHL 8460 (while BHL 8460b only records a difference in the beginning and BHL 8461 is a later reworking). It is preserved in more than 100 manuscripts (see the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta [bhlms.fltr.ucl.ac.be] and, more recently, D’Angelo 2012, 180-193 and D’Angelo 2015, 226-231, providing the latest editions, with lists of manuscripts and a discussion of the transmission). The earliest are from the 9th to 10th centuries: Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria, 1576, f. 117v-120v; Brussels, KBR, 7984, f. 48r-51r; Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, P.113.Sup, f. 55r-58r; Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale, XV. AA.12, f. 74r-75v; Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Arch. Cap. S. Pietro A. 2, f. 183r-185r; Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Reg. lat. 516, f. 69r-71v.


Discussion

It should be highlighted that the Martyrdom is quite peculiar within the genre of late antique martyrdom accounts. It is particularly vague about cult of Valentinus, for instance not providing any information about the time of persecution and his feast day, and only giving a generic description of his burial. Moreover, the emphasis of the narrative is on the triumph of Christian learning, in a monastic context, over traditional pagan learning, rather than on trials and tortures endured by the martyrs (see Paoli 2012, 163-172). D’Angelo has recently suggested – with arguments open to debate – that the narrative should be situated in the 340s because of the mention of the prefect Furius Placidus (according to a peculiar manuscript reading); this would explain why the officials act in secret and why the focus is on the clash between pagan and Christian wisdom. It remains to be demonstrated, however, that this depiction of secret persecutions reflects in any way a fourth-century historical setting, while it certainly informs us on the hagiographer's own context of writing and agenda.

The precise date of composition of the
Martyrdom remains uncertain however; it can only be securely situated before the early 8th century, when it is borrowed by Bede in his martyrology (E05526). It is generally dated to the 5th or 6th century following Lanzoni’s guess (Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2241; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 90). More recently, Lanéry, following Fiocchi Nicolai, argues that it should rather be dated to the 6th or 7th century, as the character and cult of Valentinus would have developed on the basis of the Roman priest and martyr Valentinus (S00433), a companion of Marius and Martha in their martyrdom account (E02093), which Lanéry dates from the middle of the 6th century. Nevertheless, the precise connections between the two saints called Valentinus and the chronology of the diffusion of their cult have long been debated and remain uncertain, as summarised and discussed for instance by Giordani and Angelelli. It should also be noted that there is little evidence to determine a secure terminus post quem despite the arguments put forward by D’Angelo. In fact D’Angelo points only to loose parallels with redaction C of the Acts of Sylvester (E03229), and despite what he argued, the debate over baptism in the Martyrdom shows nothing more than broad common themes regarding salvation through faith in early Christianity. The debate over faith may indeed reflect late antique concerns, but it offers no straightforward proof of knowledge of Augustine’s anti-Pelagian polemics of the 5th century. Finally, Paoli, following D’Angelo’s arguments and further emphasising possible borrowings from Cassian and Gregory the Great, suggests dating the Martyrdom between the late 6th and early 8th century.


Bibliography

Edition (BHL 8460):
D’Angelo, E., Terni medievale. La città, la Chiesa, i santi, l'agiografia (Spoleto, 2015), 232-242.

Further reading:
Bassetti, M., and Menestó, E. (eds.), San Valentino e il suo culto tra Medioevo ed età contemporanea: uno ‘status quaestionis’. Atti delle Giornate di studio (Terni, 9-11 dicembre 2010) (Spoleto, 2012), especially the following essays:
Del Lungo, S., “’In suburbano empto terrae spatio’: forma del territorio, senatori e martiri tra la Lucania, Roma e l’Umbria meridionale dalla Tarda Antichità all’Alto Medioevo,” 13-125;
Angelelli, C., “Roma o ‘Interamna Nahars’’? Le più antiche testimonianze del culto di san Valentino e il problema della “priorità”,
127-158;
Paoli, E., “La ‘Passio sancti Valentini’ (BHL 8460),” 159-177;
D’Angelo, E., “La Passio sancti Valentini martyris (BHL 8460-8460b). Un ‘martirio occulto’ d’età postcostantiniana?”, 179-222.

D’Angelo, E., Terni medievale. La città, la Chiesa, i santi, l'agiografia (Spoleto, 2015), 119-139 and 226-231.

Fiocchi Nicolai, V., “Il culto di S. Valentino tra Terni e Roma: una messa a punto,” in: Binazzi, G. (ed.),
L’Umbria meridionale fra tardo-antico e altomedioevo. Atti del Convegno di studio (Acquasparta, 6-7 maggio 1989) (Perugia-Rome, 1991), 165-178.

Giordani, R., “Gli studi di archeologia cristiana in Umbria: la situazione attuale e possibili prospettive,” in:
Umbria cristiana. Dalla diffusione del culto al culto dei santi (ecc. IV-X). Atti del XV Congresso internazionale di studi sull’alto medioevo. Spoleto, 23-28 ottobre 2000 (Spoleto, 2001), 271-286.

Lanéry, C., "Hagiographie d'Italie (300-550). I. Les Passions latines composées en Italie,” in: Philippart, G. (ed.),
Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. V (Turnhout, 2010), 15-369, at 300-301.

Lanzoni, F.,
Le diocesi d’Italia dalle origini al principio del secolo vii, 2 vols. (Faenza, 1927), I, 407.

Passarelli, G. (ed.),
Il santo patrono nella città medievale: il culto di s. Valentino nella storia di Terni (Atti del Convegno di Studio. Terni, 9-12 Febbraio 1974) (Rome, 1982).


Record Created By

Matthieu Pignot

Date Last Modified

22/05/2019

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00433Valentinus, priest and martyr of RomeValentinusUncertain
S00434Valentinus, bishop and martyr of Terni (Interamna)ValentinusCertain
S01549Proculus, Ephebus, Apollonius, martyrs of Terni in central ItalyProculus, Ephebus, ApolloniusCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Matthieu Pignot, Cult of Saints, E02517 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E02517