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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


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


The Lives of the Fathers of Mérida written in Latin in 633/660, in Mérida (southern Spain) tells a story about a man who went at night to the church of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) and witnessed there the Lauds celebrated by the saints. After the office, he saw them go to the adjoining basilica of *John, the Baptist (S00020).

Evidence ID

E03511

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives

Lives of the Fathers of Mérida, 4.9

[1] Quidam uiro religioso iterum intente ad officium eclesiasticum recurrenti quadam nocte, dum in lecto suo intempeste noctis sopore depressus iaceret, uisum est ei quod signum ad matutinum dedissent. [2] Qui statim consurgens omni festinatione ad eclesiam, ne ei tempus sacri officii preteriret, occurrit cursu que rapidissimo properans anelabundus illic peruenit. [3] At ubi ingressus est eclesiam sancte Marie, que sancta Iherusalem nunc usque uocatur, audiuit uoces mire modum modulationis canentium respiciens que ad corum uidit stantem multitudinem sanctorum. [4] Qui nimio pauore concussus atque in tremore uersus sese in angulum baselice silenter contulit atque tacite contemplans, sollicite abscultans audiuit consueto ordine omne ab eis officium esse conpletum. [5] Quo expleto, paulo aduc ante gallorum cantu cum laudibus peruenerunt ad eclesiam sancte Marie ad baselicolam sancti Iohannis, in qua babtisterium est; que nimium contigua antefate baselice, pariete tantum interposito, utreque unius tecti tegmine conteguntur.

'1. Once a certain devout man, thinking over the office of the church while he lay in bed, was overcome by sleep in the stillness of the night. He dreamt that the sign for Lauds had been given 2. and rising at once, he went with all haste to the church. In order not to miss the time of the sacred office, he sped on his way running and arrived there breathless. 3. When he entered the Church of St Mary which is now called Holy Jerusalem, he heard the voices of men singing with wonderful modulation and looking towards the choir he saw a multitude of saints standing there. 4. Struck with the extremes of terror and trembling, he took himself off silently into a comer of the basilica. Carefully hidden and looking on in silence, he heard the whole office performed by them in its customary order. 5. When they had finished their office shortly before cock-crow, they went singing praises from the church of St Mary to the little basilica of St John where the baptistery is. This is hard fast by the church of St Mary: there is merely a wall between them, and both are covered by the same roof.'

Further on, the man witnesses the meeting of the saints with the black giants whom they asked to go to the episcopal palace and deal Bishop Fidelis a serious wound so that he can go to heaven. The giants obey but return twice saying they were not able to enter the cell of the bishop; they are allowed to do that by the Lord only third time. They enter and hurt Fidelis. At dawn, a man who witnessed it all went to the bishop, and told him this story. Fidelis admits that these things were not hidden from him. Shortly after he fells ill, see E03509.

Text: Maya Sánchez 1992, 41-44 (text numbering from Garvin 1945, as used by Fear). Translation: Fear 1997: 69-70.

Liturgical Activities

Procession
Chant and religious singing

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)
Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops
Other lay individuals/ people

Source

The Lives of the Fathers of Mérida (Vitas Sanctorum Patrum Emeretensium) is a complex hagiographical work composed c. 633/650. The last bishop mentioned in the text is bishop Renovatus who died in 633. J. Garvin (1946) thought the Lives were composed during the episcopacy of Renovatus' successor, Bishop Stephen (633-638). A.T. Fear (1997, xxxi) following Diaz y Diaz (1981) preferred to date the work slightly later, to the middle of the 7th century, The Lives consist of five parts, the first three recount miraculous stories that took place in Mérida, in imitation of the Dialogues of Gregory the Great (written probably 593/594). The last two tell the history of the bishops of Mérida from the second half of the 6th century: Paul, Fidelis, Masona, and Renovatus. The author of the Lives identifies himself as a deacon of the church of Saint Eulalia.

The edition of Maya Sánchez from 1992 is based on ten manuscripts, the earliest of the 10th c. (Maya Sánchez 1992: x–xxxi).


Discussion

The basilica of Mary was a cathedral church of Mérida. The title of 'Jerusalem' or 'Holy Jerusalem' given to the major church of the city is also known from Seville. The Second Council of Seville in 619 was held in the church of Jerusalem (Vives 1963, 162). For possible Jerusalem churches in Tarragona and Toledo see Férotin 1904, 56, n. 2.


Bibliography

Editions:
Garvin, J.N., The Vitas Sanctorum Patrum Emeretensium (Washington, 1946).

Maya Sánchez, A.,
Vitas sanctorum patrum Emeretensium (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 116; Turnhout, 1992).

English translation:
Fear. A.T., Lives of the Visigothic Fathers (Translated Texts for Historians 26; Liverpool, 1997), 45-105.

Further reading:
Diaz y Diaz, M.D., "Passionnaires, légendiers et compilations hagiographiques dans le haut Moyen Age espagnol," in: Hagiographie, Cultures, et Sociétés, IVe-XIIe siècles. Actes du colloque organisé à Nanterre et à Paris, 2-5 mai 1979 (Paris, 1981), 49-61.

Ferotin, M.,
Le Liber ordinum en usage de l'église wisigothique et mozarabe d'Espagne du cinquième au onzième siècle (Paris; Firmin-Didot, 1904).

Vives, J.,
Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos (Barcelona: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1963).


Record Created By

Marta Szada

Date Last Modified

06/11/2019

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00020John the BaptistIohannesCertain
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristMariaCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Marta Szada, Cult of Saints, E03511 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E03511